Traditional art forms practiced today use a variety of natural raw materials - moose hair tufting, porcupine quill and fish scale fancy work. The hair, quill and scale can be
coloured by using natural dyes from bush land plants or, as is often the case, commercial dyes are used. They can be used for colourful designs on clothing, footwear, basketry and wall hangings and as accessories, such as necklaces and bracelets for dress wear. While in some cases manufactured beads have replaced quills and scales, authentic arts and crafts still include natural materials.
One of the essential raw materials for everything needed in the bush land is the tanned hide of moose, deer or caribou - moose being the most popular because it is thick, tough and durable. This hide is used to make so many things, from moccasin laces and
thonging to jackets and covers for drums and tent frames. It turns up in gun cases, knife sheaths, backpacks, baby rattles and many other things. The hide from a moose is stretched over a drum frame and secured there with
thonging or sinew, which also provides a handle for the drummer.
Birch bark is a similarly universal raw material. Birch bark baskets come in many styles and shapes. Some are for the storage of general supplies, others are for very specific things such as water, berries and other foods. Birch bark is also well known for its use in the construction of canoes.
Moccasins are ankle-high footwear made from hide. Among bush people this is the most common type of footwear; it is worn both summer and winter and for all occasions. The fancy work decorating the moccasins is different for men and women. Women's footwear usually has white or light colored fur trim, whereas men traditionally use beaver or muskrat fur.
Reprinted from Bush Land People with the permission of the author.
Copyright Terry Garvin 1992 to 2002.