M10620.1-2 | Moccasin

Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Huron-Wendat
1840-1900, 19th century
Tanned and smoked hide, silk ribbon, silk embroidery floss, metal buckle, cotton thread
9.1 x 9.2 x 27.8 cm
Gift of Messieurs Papineau
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Moccasins (230)
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Keys to History

The Huron-Wendat of the 19th century tanned and smoked the animal hides using traditional techniques. The process was described in the daily newspaper L'Opinion publique on May 8, 1879: "The four frames of the drying rack are set up in a square... Five to seven hides are stretched out there lengthwise: moose, buffaloe (sic), caribou, cow hides... [They are] scraped and turned this and that way, rolled, beaten... dipped, soaped, rinsed in a tub, a pail, a barrel, the river under watchful eyes and skilled hands..." After all the steps in treating and stretching the hides, decaying wood is placed in the bottom of barrels and set on fire. "As soon as there is thick smoke the hides are placed around the top of the barrels, raised so that they make a sort of chimney..."

  • What

    The different colours obtained during the smoking of the hides depended on the type of wood used by the tanner-smoker. For a nice chocolate-coloured hide, for example, the Huron-Wendat used decaying black walnut wood during the smoking.

  • Where

    A tanner is someone who specializes in the traditional art of preserving animal hides. His workshop is known as a tannery. The Huron-Wendat community had its own tanneries.

  • When

    It was in 1879 that the newspaper L'Opinion publique published the above description of smoking hides.

  • Who

    At this time the best-known tanners in Wendake were François Gros-Louis and Philippe Vincent. Élie Sioui (the Elder), was regarded as "the tribe's best smoker," according to some sources.