A traditional moose hide tanning camp is taking place within Winnipeg city limits this summer.
Peguis First Nation’s Land Based Education Program is holding the camp at Fort Gibraltar, a historic park near downtown Winnipeg, making the rare opportunity accessible to urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike.
“[The city] can be a desert of land-based experiences although all around us, in the cracks between the buildings, wildlife is flourishing,” says Carl Froese, the Land Based Education Coordinator for Peguis Consultation and Special Projects.
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO describes land-based education as a concept that “offer[s] significant benefits to Indigenous people by providing culturally relevant education, promoting opportunities for inter-generational knowledge transfer, and creating safe spaces for healing and learning.”
This all rings true for this particular camp as its stated goal is for “[f]uture generations to continue practicing the cultural arts that connect us to the land.”
Within three days, eager participants learn how to stretch, skin and smoke what Froese adamantly refers to as “the best leather in the world.
“While you’re making the best leather in the world, you can’t help but form a relationship to that animal and the land that that animal lives on,” he adds.
Learning this cultural art has been a long time coming for participant Tanis Tom.
She has been hunting moose since she was a small child but could never find someone to teach her how to transform the pelts into a textile.
“There’s not really anybody in our area who does it that I know of,” says Tom.
But for her, that just means an opportunity.
“Me and my family want to try to bring it back.”
She hopes to learn enough from the experience to teach her own camps, continuing the important cycle of knowledge transferring.
Froese encourages everyone interested in the process to come out and learn how.
“It’s an honour to those moose, and it’s an honour to those people who have been doing this art in this place forever.”
Another session is planned for later in August.