My Sister Heather Nakehk’o Guest Blog entry.

 Blogger, Heather Nakehk’o, sister and moose hide enthusiast by nature (maiden name Peltz, for real!)

August 4-12, Liidlii Kue, Dehcho

A brief history of how and why I got involved in this project:

Just about 12 and half years ago Melaw and her mom “new granny” came down to Eugene, Oregon to await the birth of the first grandchild/nephew, K’a’.  They brought with them their sewing and graciously tried to show me how to bead a pair of slippers for K’a’.  I failed miserably on that pair, did not even get the bead work done.  2 years later when we moved home to the north, and  I was home with K’a’, “old” Granny decided to teach me how to do it properly. She made me re-stich bead work, “Eschia!  After every bead my girl!” She patiently watched as I SLOWLY assembled my first pair (that she drew and cut out for me) only to snatch it up half way through my first one and finish both in lightening speed.  I was so proud to finish my first pair by myself and bring it to her (she took them apart and made me do it again :).
I was so inspired by Melaw’s quest to pick up what she knew from her memories of her Granny and her mom and tan a complete hide by herself, and to provide herself with materials to work with that I couldn’t wait to help out, not just to satisfy my own interest (and need for moose hide), but for the opportunity for all of our kids to watch and the chance to be able to learn enough to pass on a piece of “Old” Granny and “New” Granny to the future.  It is for the same reasons I butter my kids noses on their birthdays, cook large meals regardless of how many people are home, clean my house really well just before and just after I take a vacation, or spend time in the garden (regardless of skill).  To pass on the traditions I remember most as a kid, no matter how large or small, to my kids, and in the process create our own.

July 2011

I travel to Blachford Lake Lodge for Dechinta with Melaw and our kids.  I am there to do whatever she needs, from watching the kids to helping with hides.
Our sister bond is tested (and strengthened) as she jumps from student to teacher and I learn how much hard work really goes into tanning hides and wrangling kids amid the pull of super interesting discussions and the chaos of the royal visit.

hide work done :  twisting and scraping the hides with stones, a log peeling tool, and dull ulus.  Removing hair from a rotting hide by literally washing it off, cutting and stringing up a hide on a frame, fleshing hide and doing whatever we could to lesson the smell of said rotting hide in time for royal visit.  We accomplished the latter by using LOTS of spruce boughs around the hide and washing it with Melaw’s body wash.  BTW the Duchess touched the stinky hide and we all laughed about it later as we knew that smell would not come off easy!
Dome smoked and flat smoked various hides.

I fell asleep late everyday and woke up early with my hands cramped in scraping position.

May 2012

Drove to Liidlii Kue to help Melaw on her new hide project.

Hide work done:  cut the hair off a hide our dad and brother got last fall.  Melaw already had the hide on the frame and had done the fleshing.  We scraped A LOT.  I helped her build (i.e. I held, she nailed and constructed) a post so she could begin fleshing a new hide.  As I was driving out of town the day she started fleshing, I did not help out with as I was not driving alone and the rest of my family would not have appreciated the smell all 7 hours home.

LOVED when the kids came over to check things out.  Minsis (our niece, age 4) proved to be the most interested in helping out.

August 2012

back to Lidlii Kue to continue helping out.

Hide work done:  flat smoked the “royal” hide.  This means the hair and flesh had been removed and the hide had dried out on the frame and was able to be put away until ready for smoking, it could also have been through the punching, twisting and softening stage, so long as the hide is dry when you put it away.

We “punched out” the hide our dad and brother got.  This means we soaked the hide in a mixture of brains, soap and rainwater overnight and then hung on a post and used a bone tool to punch the hide to loosen the really thick sections (one day).  This hide had been through this process with Melaw in Trout Lake, so it was getting really soft.  Once we punched it we hung it up and spent the next 3 days softening with dull scrapers (so as not to damage the hide) and stretching it.  By day two we recruited my twin sister to help and by day three Melaw’s friend Chris. Minsis came over to help us again too, mostly by bringing her cuteness and questions about all the tools and what they do and by observing, which is so important. The rain forced us into the basement one day to do this by the wood stove.  Once it was totally dry, we were really hoping that we would be able to bring it to the final smoking stage.  After much deliberation, and admiring of the softness of the hide, Melaw wisely decided to hold off and consult an elder.  My guess is that it probably will need one more soaking, punching, twisting, softening to be perfect.  It is going to be a beautiful hide.

We soaked and (Melaw punched out) the “holey” hide.  This was one of the hides started at Dechinta and worked on by many students in the Sahtu style.  We hung and started to soften this hide as well.  This one will take more soaking, punching, and softening, probably a lot more.  The hard thing about this hide is that since so many people were learning on this hide, and since it was scraped and fleshed on a post with a knife (Sahtu style), there are a lot of holes and the thickness varies a lot.  As frustrating as that is, it is also great for a novice like me to see two such different hides at the same stages.  I really got a grasp of what the hide should look like, feel like and how various tools will effect the results.

It has been really interesting to see Melaw learn new techniques as she has traveled with her hides to different regions and incorporate them into her work.  The most inspiring thing about this project for me though has been seeing the sparks of inspiration she has been lighting along they way. Many students from her time at Dechinta have at their own, often great, expense, made the trip to join Melaw along her journey with the hides.  In my time in Lidlli Kue, family and friends have come out to see what she is doing and to ask questions, check on progress, or get inspired to start their own hides again.
Just before I left to see Melaw, Tania Larsson, who had helped Melaw in Trout Lake and at Dechinta, had just returned from Lutselk’e with her first finished hide on her way to start school at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, NM.  It smelled and felt amazing and now Tania has the material she needs for school this year!  I am really looking forward to the next time we get to work on a hide together!

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Sambaa K’e Golo-Dheh Project: Blog post 2

Day 11 in Sambaa K’e.

Ehtsi came in for a visit and took the boys fishing, Ehxea caught his first fish a Pickeral.

We have continued to work hard at tanning our moose hides it has been rewarding seeing the hides transform with each soaking and each smoking. We all have callouses and multiple cuts to show for how much we put into these moose hides.

I actually had to get a tetnus shot for a gnarly cut I got on an old rusted machete I was using to dig the smoking pit deeper, 3 of the moose hides suffered burns in the first smoking.

Today I woke up early to sunshine! The weather has been teaching us patience and raining the past couple of days. We cannot smoke the hides while it is raining because it will make it damp inside the dome of smoke. It is also taking the damp hides longer to dry on the pole while it is raining.

First hide to be dome smoked this morning.

We laced up the sides of the dry moose hide and stuffed the holes with rags and covered the hide with a canvas and an old blanket. We made some nice coals in the smoke pit and put a layer of E-denitu over the coals. We are smoking this hide for the 2nd time we will smoke it until it turns a dark yellow or orange. This moose hide was over the smoke for 30 minutes.

Jasmine’s Moose hide on it’s 2nd smoking.

Jasmine then put her moose hide over the smoke for her 2nd smoking

 

Maggie scraping and softening my moose hide while it dries.

Tania and Jasmine’s moose hide have been smoked this morning and moved into the slew off the dock to soften. They were then folded and are now soaking for the 3rd time in moose brain water. While Helen and I are scraping and softening our damp moose hides.

The rain started again, good thing we got the 2 moose hides smoked before it started. I am praying for it to clear up later today or even tonight so that we can smoke Helen and I’s hides before this day is through.

 

Helen and Julia working of softening moose hide.

Helen and Julia scraping and softening, which I have to go do right after I post this. Pray for good weather for our last 4 days here.!

 

Golo-Dheh Project, Sambaa K’e Participants

May 21 & 22nd.

May 21st Monday.

My brother and his family left, before they peaced out I got some help building/constructing/nailing a post together.

My mama Heather and I made a very sturdy Post.

I made the post about 4ft high, i referenced the photo I tool while working with Jasmine.

So thankful Heather helped me finish scrape my 1st hide, I decided to start the second right away, I’m out of freezer space and since I wasn’t able to work last week (spring colds and snow storm) I need to kick these out by Monday may 28th. Boom back to work.

 

Tools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have had the opportunity to work hides using different methods and a this stage, taking the flesh off and scrapping the hair side is all very hard work. I started building the post at 10:30 am, had the hide on by 11-ish.

My Mama sharpening the bone tools for me.

This is the first time for me to use the post to flesh it took a while to find a comfortable hold on the hide I held the tool differently. What I found hard to get used to was not getting that thin membrane off the hide completely I kept trying to all day. What I liked about the post was I could stand, way more comfortable than sitting or kneeling on the pole across the hide. If I were working on a moose hide on my own I would use this method first i would take all the hair off, boy was it heavy trying to adjust the hide on the pole. If your unable to clean the whole thing you can soak it in clean water over night without having to worry about it drying too much as I do if it were on a frame.

Working the bone tool.

I did my best until 4pm, I put the hide back in some clean water for the night to work the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday May 22nd

I got two more moose hides that I need to get done by Monday the 28th. I got a lot of the one hide done yesterday and I pulled it out again this morning. With some help I got today i learned an effective technique in fleshing on the post as well as a super fast moose hair ‘shaving’ technique, so AWESOME. I been learning so much the past 22 days, I’m pretty stoked about starting on the 3rd hide tomorrow.  Accomplishments of the day are cleaning the hide on the post for my first time AND lacing it into the frame to dry.!!!!!!!  I’ll have help again tomorrow to clean the next hide.  YES.

*no photos today my camera was on some weird setting and all the photos I took where overexposed… ha.

 

In the last Few Days….

I haven’t blogged in the past few days, we have been busy, and traveling, and tanning. I decided to come down into northern BC to help a friend Jasmine Netsena prepare her moosehide to a dry raw state. I brought my boys with me and Lesley the talented documentary film maker on this mini adventure.

We left Simpson on Thursday, since the DehCho river just broke up the Liard ferry wasn’t in the river yet and we took a helicopter over to hop in my brothers truck to drive down. The truck has a slow leak in one of the tires so that put us back a bit. Once everything was set we headed south, saw a few hungry bears spring foraging, bison, and saw how the further south we drove the trees became a little more green with leaves.

Friday morning, we started to take the moose hair off the hide and prep it to be stretched on the frame.

It’s nice to get out of my home town for a couple of days, we are enjoying eating at restaurants and the new scenery. I will post some pics later once I have more time and find a wi-fi connection.

May 5th was a Long Long work day.

Hi, I was so exhausted last night to blog. So here I am a beautiful Sunday morning about to go meet my parents and kids on the Highway for a fire and tea…  and an update on what I did yesterday…

There is one thing i forgot about and that is trimming and slitting holes in the hide which was done when I pulled the hide out to rinse. I trimmed the legs down and any part that was kind of floppy to fit in the frame, slit a hole in the center neck and center bottom, and in all 4 corners than spaced slits evenly all around the hide. Here is my little drawing:

Moose Hide sketch.

This is definitely a  2 person job, dumped the soaking water out of the bin and moved the hind in the container with a wheel barrel to the frame. Found the center of the frames top pole and the center neck hole and tied up the hide, then the center of the frames bottom pole and the center bottom hole on the hide and tied it up.

The center and the middle balanced symmetrically.

Tied up the 4 corners then started lacing the hide on the sides not too tight yet. Laced the Top and the bottom. Once it is all laced up I began to tighten the lacing and stretch the hide in the frame.

Making an extra hole while lacing up the side of the hide.

All stretched in the frame with the 6th pole in place.

1pm on the frame starting to clean the membrane off the hide.

Moose leg bone tool used for this job. Demonstrated my Chris Hewitt.

I use a moose leg bone tool for this job. There has been tools developed that may be more efficient for this job, although I like using the bone tools, it is like my grandmothers are with me when I work. I think about them when I feel like it’s too hard, or when my muscles start to ache, I think of all the conditions of what it would have been like when my grandmothers used these tools and how quickly they got their work done, in the bush on a long long trail, in all seasons, with all their babies.

Scraping in the rain. My Dads awesome trap bungeed over my work area.

Falling rain and snow isn’t good for the hide so I gotta keep it dry. Isn’t this tarp shelter awesome???

Oh and this is proper form for this job, knee and hand on the hide while scraping. When scraping off the membrane I’m looking for the smooth white surface of the hide with little indents of where the veins were and pores in the skin. It looks clean.

The smooth white surface.

9:30pm done.

Throughout the day I moved the sitting pole down the frame until I didn’t need it. While the pole is out I re-stretched the hide and kept it tight on the frame.

Mahsi to my mom Celine, dad Jim Antoine and Chris Hewitt who helped out through out the day and got it done. Now to just let it dry to then flip is over and work the hair side.

I gotta go before I miss out on some hot bush tea.

peace.

m

May the 4th be with you.

There I am peeling poles in the rain.

Things I wanted to get done today:

1. Make a frame

2. cut more Moose hair.

I slept in a bit then there was a cook out at the band office, and a good visit with my cousin Naomi and her babies. So I didn’t get up the hill till after Ehxea was done school.

I started to peel the poles I got with Roland Yendo the other day but they were still pretty green not the best for a stretcher frame, green wood will bow when you stretch the hide up. Luckily my dad has a collection of different size dry tent poles in his yard that just needed to be peeled. really long poles need to be sawed down a bit. 6 poles are needed for this structure. 1 pole tied up between 2 trees about that high.

4 poles to make the frame. A 6th pole to sit on while working I’ll have flicks of that tomorrow. rain or shine.

FRAME:

4 Poles, they don’t necessarily need to be peeled.

Sawed the poles down to a bit.

Dene measurements, yo.

My dad Chief Jim Antoine helping me out today. I sawed the poles down a lot and evened them out. My dad then measured with the sawed off part of the pole to keep it square.

Mark it with an axe chop.

Pole Prep.

An axe is an excellent tool for all land based activities. The measurements are marked with an axe chop. When all the poles are marked and the frame is looking square, axe chopped where the 2 poles meet to flatten surfaces and secure the spot with nails and then wrapped it with rope.

See flat so they sit better together.

Nailed and tied with rope, Nifty little loop to lace through when putting the hide up.

 

Another Dene unit of measurement.

Tools.

Tied up the frame and leaned it up against the cross pole. To keep the frame and area dry we rigged up a tarp with bungee cords. Bungee cords are another awesome thing to have when working on the land.

It’s all set, be up and out there in the morning to stretch a moose hide and clean it up.

Rain or Shine.!

 

3rd Day

Work area with spruce bough floor down.

Started the day pulling out the moose hides to see which to start on and where to go from there. I have 5 green moose hides, one from last fall that my dad and brother Tumbah hunted, 2 from the Mouse brothers that I bought in March ( I will write more about this story later on), and 2 more from my Dad and his brothers when they were out this winter.

I took the 2 Mouse brother hides out and stored them in containers with clean water to soak with the help of Earl Moses.

The hide from last Fall is in the most need of preparing to a dry state. After rinsing, it was also stored in a container of clean water (I apologize for not including photos of all these things). I decided to stretch it out on a frame Saturday morning to have a whole day to work on it. I will build my frame tomorrow.

With that planned out, I took one of the Mouse brother hides out of the water and began cutting the hair off. I did this for a couple of reasons: 1st, this is how I was taught by my Moosehide mentors from Fort Good Hope, Mary Barneby and Judy Lafferty, 2nd I need to store these hide in a freezer for a couple of weeks and taking the hair off makes  a smaller lighter package.

Taking off the Moose hair.

Keeping the work area clean. I got these bio degradable trash bags at the Northern this morning do they really break down? All the hair that I remove goes in the bag.  I have the hide stretched out the the tarp to keep the water off the boughs and myself.

There are a few rules here, all the hair and moose bits that come off of the hide while your working it must be put out on the land with an offering, it does not go into the trash. All the water used in hide tanning is put on the land out of the way from where people walk. Keep the work area clean…

My tools.

My knives, file, work gloves and paper towel. Keep them sharp and clean.

My floor is so pretty.

Frame and continue work on taking off Moose hair tomorrow.

m.