The Huron-Wendat Craft Industry from the 19th Century to Today
Linda Sioui, Conseil de la Nation huronne-wendat. 2007
In the early 19th century my ancestors, the Huron-Wendat, were faced with a series of situations that threatened our way of life and even our very survival. Living in Lorette, a few kilometres northwest of Québec City, the Huron-Wendat found themselves cut off from their traditional hunting grounds by the residents of Valcartier and the surrounding area. Several years later the population of the Huron-Wendat increased significantly. Then the Irish and French Canadians settled at Stoneham and Tewkesbury, with the result that the Huron-Wendat had to travel even farther from their homes to feed themselves as they always had, by hunting and fishing. They also farmed, raising a little corn and potatoes. But their crops and the game and fish they caught were often not enough to feed the many people in the community. Later on as well, Parc des Laurentides and the private hunting and fishing clubs (Tourilli and Triton) were created.
Around this time the village of Lorette (later called "Huron Village" and today, Wendake) became a tourist centre visited by people from all over Québec. These visitors came in search of the exotic. The people in the community began making moccasins, mittens, snowshoes, ash baskets and souvenirs for sale to the visitors. Over time the Huron-Wendat women refined their techniques and began specializing in the production of a wide range of embroidered items using moosehair dyed in a variety of colours. Sometimes stitched on animal hides, sometimes on red or black fabric, and even on birchbark, these moosehair- embroidered items became more and more elaborate. Around the mid-19th century, the craft industry of the Huron-Wendat grew rapidly, thanks in part to the initiative and entrepreneurship of Marguerite "Lawinonkié" Vincent and Paul "Hudawathont" Picard. Once again, the families living in the community could ensure their livelihood. In fact, the Huron-Wendat brand name did so well that today Wendake is famous for numerous products that my people adapted to modern needs, while nevertheless preserving our knowledge of traditional techniques that are a fundamental part of our identity.