Activities & Projects

‘So Good a Worker’

Recommended by Cirriculum Services Canada

Level: Grade 6

Preparation: Print ‘So Good a Worker’: The Story of Klin-ni-go-ne-dja-e and Worksheet 2 – Long Ago, Yesterday and Today, and Worksheet 3 – ‘So Good a Worker’

Duration:60 min.

Materials:Coloured pencils or markers

  • demonstrate that moccasin-making and decorating are living traditions of the Dene
  • produce two-dimensional works of art that communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas

Begin: Print or project the quotes the students have encountered in this unit so far. Ask the students to pick out some of the themes that are reflected in the quotes (relationship with the land, traditional clothing made from available materials, good workmanship highly valued, and mutually agreeable trade).

Have some students read ‘So Good a Worker’: The Story of Klin-ni-go-ne-dja-e out loud to the class.

Learn: Discuss the story. What connections can be made to the themes reflected in the quotes? How did Klin-ni-go-ne-dja-e’s actions demonstrate her relationship to the land? How did she capitalize on the materials available to her? How does the story reflect the importance the Northern Athapaskans place on a woman’s ability to make well-made, beautiful clothing?

Athapaskan women have adapted and evolved their footwear patterns from moccasin-trousers, to moccasins, to mukluks. Project the section Diversity of Styles: Athapaskan Winter Footwear in the 20th Century to see mukluks, which have been a popular form of footwear with Northern Athapaskans. Indeed, it is a style that has been copied and adapted in other parts of the world as well.

Project the section Individual Expression and read about how sewing continues to be highly valued in Dene society. The moccasins pictured in this section were made within the past forty years. Many were winners or honorable mentions in a competition sponsored by the Bata Shoe Museum in 1987 called The Decorated Moccasin. To be eligible for the competition, the entries had to be tanned in the traditional way, and sewn with sinew. There were several categories for decorating the tops, or ‘uppers’ of the moccasins: Beading, Quillwork, Embroidery, and Moose hair tufting, for example.

Summarize the impact of change on Dene footwear by assigning students to work in small groups and access Sections “The Way it Was” – Traditional Summer Clothing, New Materials, Changing Styles; and Stepping into Womanhood – Embroidery, Stepping into Womanhood – Beading and Stepping into Womanhood – Moose hair tufting. Ask them to fill in Worksheet 2 – Long Ago, Yesterday and Today together, using the Ideas List, and adding any other ideas they have independently. Some of the ideas may apply to more than one heading, hence the triple Venn diagram has been used as the graphic organizer.

Discuss the findings as a whole class. Which skills have been preserved? What has been adopted from European culture? What is completely new?

Apply: Assign Worksheet 3 – ‘So Good a Worker’. Ask students to design their own moccasins ‘upper’, using The Decorated Moccasin honorable mentions or winners as inspiration. Note that many of the designs are floral, reflecting the close relationship the Dene women still have with the land.

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