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Moosehide tanning pilot looks to support traditional arts and crafts

Press Release

June 9, 2022

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is running a pilot project to determine if commercially preparing moosehides to be traditionally tanned in the Northwest Territories (NWT) is a viable business practice, benefitting NWT tanners and artisans.

As the market for Indigenous fine crafts continues to grow and more NWT artists are focusing on emerging opportunities, the demand for traditionally tanned hide has increased, surpassing available territorial supply. The GNWT department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) concluded that a pilot project involving Indigenous tanners would be the best way to identify the feasibility of a new approach to make traditionally tanned hides more accessible for NWT artisans.

Traditionally tanning a moosehide is an intensive process taking upwards of 40 hours over the course of several weeks to complete. As a result, there are fewer hide tanners today and those who do tan their own hides typically do not sell them, instead keeping them for their own use. If locally sourced tanned hide is not available, artisans have no other choice but to purchase from retail stores outside the NWT, without being able to gauge the quality. As well, traditionally tanned hides also use the brains or spinal fluid of the animal, requiring careful harvesting of the remains.

For this pilot project, there are three traditional and experienced tanners in the communities of Fort Simpson, Fort Good Hope, and Lutsel K’e receiving two differently prepared hides each. The hides have been shipped from Winnipeg directly to the tanners who will be fairly paid for their time and expertise to continue to work on the hides in their various states. They will finish them this summer, and then provide feedback on the process.

The costs for this project will come out of ITI’s fur budget.  The project aims to increase traditionally tanned hides available at an affordable price point to NWT artisans through the Hide and Fur Program (HFP), one of the programs under the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur (GMVF) program.

Quote

“Traditional materials and activities are highly valued in the Northwest Territories. Working with Indigenous tanners who can provide invaluable information on the time and effort it takes to complete a traditionally tanned moosehide will only enhance the quality of the Hide and Fur Program, and further solidify the NWT’s preservation and promotion of the historical and authentic practices of Indigenous communities across the territory.”

– Caroline Wawzonek, Minister of Industry Tourism and Investment

Quick facts

  • This pilot project falls under the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur (GMVF) Program.
  • The Hide Procurement Program is managed by Environment and Natural Resources with a mandate to procure caribou and moosehides for traditional artisans.
  • The Hide and Fur Program (HFP) provides furs and hides at affordable prices for NWT artisans.
  • The NWT Arts Strategy includes an action item from the departments of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Environment and Natural Resources to increase access and availability of fur and hide for NWT artists.

Related links

For media requests, please contact:

Jacqueline McKinnon

Senior Strategic Advisor, Communications

Department of Industry Tourism and Investment

Government of the Northwest Territories

[email protected]

(867) 767-9202 x 63039

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