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  • Mary Kay wringing moisture out of moosehide, Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories
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Mary Kay wringing moisture out of moosehide, Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, 1990.
Photograph by Tessa Macintosh.
NWT Archives/G-1995-001: 6915

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  • Women scraping a moosehide in Ndilo (Rainbow Valley, Yellowknife)
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Women scraping a moosehide in Ndilo (Rainbow Valley, Yellowknife),
Northwest Territories, circa 1980.
Photograph by Tessa Macintosh.
NWT Archives/G-1995-001: 3629

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  • Tanned hides are finished by smoking
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Tanned hides are finished by smoking. This colours the hide a rich reddish-brown colour and makes it more resistant to moisture. For smoking, the hide is sewn into a bag and suspended over a fire of rotten wood and dried cones.
Photography by Ray Webber.
© Bata Shoe Museum

Clothing Materials

Preparing and Tanning the Hide

“First of all, you go out and kill your moose (the most important thing). Then you start skinning out the moose. In skinning, you have to be very careful not to cut holes in the hide as the fewer holes you have the better... The next thing you do is cut the head open, take out the brains, put them in a tight container, and set this aside in a warm place. Allow time for the brains to rot. They will turn green in about two weeks. The acid produced is an essential item for tanning...Bring the hide home and start cleaning it..” Poldine Carlo. Nulato: An Indian Life on the Yukon. 1978:50

Every hide tanner had her own particular “recipe” for tanning, but each included the following steps: stretching, removal of hair and flesh, washing, drying, application of animal brain, and scraping to thin, smooth and soften the hide. A final, optional, step was to smoke the hide over a fire of rotten wood and dry pine cones. This would colour the hide a rich, reddish brown as well as making it resistant to water.