Traditional Tool Making

February 20, 2015 |  2 min read

One of the most obvious barriers to cultural resurgence in areas such as hide tanning practice is the lack of readily available tools or instruction.

Moose and caribou hide served highly important functions in the lives of northern Indigenous peoples, comprising everything from clothing and footwear, to bed rolls, boat skins, babiche (a type of very strong and durable string or rope) and more; moose and caribou hide continue to represent contemporary Indigenous cultural values and practices in modern contexts across the North.
Dene ancestries hold stories of deep respect and love for caribou and moose; visceral reciprocity in a relationship woven through time and built on great humility - a traditional economy between people, animals, and the land. In the past, it is said that powerful Dene people could transform into caribou, and caribou could also change into human form. Many stories of Dene people interacting with caribou people in countless ways have revealed that our reliance on the caribou for the survival of our peoples carries with it many responsibilities; responsibilities to our ancestors, our children and the ones who will come after them to ensure that our traditional cultural practices are kept alive, and that we maintain our respectful relationship with the animals.
Traditionally, tools used in hide tanning practices have been passed down through family lines; from an aunt, a mother or grandmother, a sister, a cousin. Usually, these tools were crafted by fathers, brothers, uncles, or grandfathers, and each family would have developed unique tools reflective of their lineage.
Access to instruction, tools, and tool-making training are necessary and vital to cultural resurgence in traditional Indigenous practices such as hide tanning. Knowing that hide tanning is a unique cultural practice worth revitalization, Dene Nahjo has chosen to support the instruction and dissemination of this beautiful cultural mainstay.