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  • Man in Snowshoes
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Man in Snowshoes,
Watson Smarch, Flat Creek Yukon, 1951
Photograph by Catherine McClellan
Canadian Museum of Civilization, S71-976

Clothing of the Athapaskans

Snowshoes - 'Big, Extra Feet'

“After years of using snowshoes every winter ... I never feel or notice them at all. They have become my big extra feet and I look upon them as a big help in walking, especially in deep snow... I have used snowshoes in all kinds of country, thick bush and open muskeg, uphill and down ... Camping under the stars on the bush trails in deep snow, the snowshoes are used as shovels to scoop out the snow to the ground, where beds are made for the night. I have used them for taking ice chips out of the holes I chisel through the ice when setting beaver traps...”
Tsetso, John. Trapping is My Life. 1970.

Snowshoes were an essential feature of Northern Athapaskan life, as they permitted winter travel and hunting in the deep powdery snow of the subarctic interior. Two major styles were made. One, with a light frame, rounded, up-turned toe, and matching rights and lefts, was used by Alaskan and most Yukon Athapaskans. The second snowshoe type, used mainly by groups in northern B.C. and the Northwest Territories, had a heavier frame, pointed, up-turned front end, and frames shaped for right and left feet.

Usually, the wooden frames were made by men and the babiche netting done by women. It was common in earlier times to stain the frames with ochre.