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moosehide moccasins

Aboriginal hunters and trappers who lived by a traditional life of self-sufficiency in the northwest woodlands developed ways of drawing a number of products necessary for survival from the animals they hunted. Animals were a source of food, but their hides provided the raw material with which clothing could be fashioned.

beaver fur hat

Animal hides were treated and processed in a number of ways in order to produce the material needed to create clothing. The pelt of the animal first must be carefully removed from the carcass. The pelt, once removed, is cleaned and softened in water for a few days. The softened pelt is then strung into a large wood frame or hoop, or nailed to a flat surface, in order to stretch the pelt. Any fat, meat, or fur remaining on the hide is then scraped off, usually with a scraping tool that is made of animal bone or metal. The hide would then be mounted over a smouldering wood frame and cured to the desired consistency. Sometimes, fur was left on the hide if a thicker, warmer garment was needed. The entire process of preparing hides, usually undertaken by Aboriginal women, was a very labour intensive and time consuming process, but the result was a material that could be made into any number of garments.

beaver fur mitts

From prepared hides and furs came coats and jackets for the body, hats for the head, mitts for the hands, mukluks and moccasins for the feet, and any other clothing items that were needed. Often combinations of various hides and furs would be used together in or to fashion a complete garment. Bead and quill-work, as well as animal hair tufting, was sometimes incorporated into the designs of clothing items, making such clothing as much a work of art as a practical piece of outerwear.

Other clothing for northern Aboriginal Peoples was purchased from supply centres, and would be conventional garments found in areas further south, like shirts, jeans, winter boots and jackets, and other useful clothing items. Raw material for the making of clothing, like cottons and other fabrics, could also be purchased and used in the making of clothing.

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