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The Urban Hide Camp was originally conceived in order to fulfill three main goals: to re-create meaning for Indigenous peoples in an urbanized space, to re-story urban places as Indigenous space, and to provide opportunities for Indigenous people to engage with hide tanning in urban spaces where access to land-based activities and knowledge is often limited. In 2016, Dene Nahjo delivered its first Urban Hide Camp in Somba K’e Park, in downtown Yellowknife, NT on the traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Over the past few years, the camp has evolved into a celebration of Indigenous art and culture where people can engage with the beautiful art of hide tanning.
The camp is not fixed to one location, and we welcome invitations to deliver the camp in a diversity of spaces. Dene Nahjo asserts that urban spaces are Indigenous spaces, and the discursive separation of indigeneity and land from urban areas is a colonial imposition that removes and erases Indigenous peoples from towns and cities. Indigenous peoples live and thrive in towns, cities and hubs, as the Urban Hide Camp makes visible.
The public is welcome to attend the camp to engage with hide tanning by watching hide tanning demonstrations, helping to process the community hides, or bringing their own hides to get help from our instructors and Elders. Thousands of people have passed through Dene Nahjo's Urban Hide Tanning Camp, including many students and hide tanning learners.
One of the most clear barriers to land-based practices like hide tanning practice is the lack of readily available tools or instruction for creating tools. Historically, tools used for hide tanning practices were passed down through family lines. Often, these tools were crafted by family members and each family would have developed unique tools reflective of their region and/or lineage. Access to instruction, tools, and tool-making training are necessary and vital for re-learning Indigenous practices such as hide tanning. Hide tanning is a unique and meaningful practice, and so Dene Nahjo has chosen to support the instruction and dissemination of this knowledge through hide camps and tool-making workshops.
Dene Nahjo started delivering the Hide Tanning Mentorship Program in 2019 to provide a more immersive learning opportunity for hide tanners. We deliver this program in partnership with an Indigenous organization or community. It is usually a two-week program where participants stay together in a camp on the land and work on hides together. Participants learn to identify and collect the materials required for tanning hides.