FORT MCMURRAY: Grade 8 and 9 students from Father Mercredi Community High School and Holy Trinity High School spent a week scraping, stretching and preparing moose hides for tanning. The students were part of a program organized by the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) and Moose Hide Factory, and held on the Fort McMurray #468 First Nation.
“It is something that is inside them. It is part of them," said Kayla Aikins, the Indigenous liaison with Father Mercredi Community High School. "You see that part of them come alive when they are out here on the land. It is different than what you see in schools. It is beautiful and it empowers them.”
The students also took part in other activities when they weren't learning about the moose hide tanning process that creates leather. This include beading, chopping wood, and learning about foods and medicines that can be harvested locally.
Students took on leadership roles during the week-long program that ran from Nov. 29 to Dec.3. This included keeping the fires going, serving food and looking after elders who were supervising the camp.
Macy Miniely, 12, said the week-long learning experience was a new experience for her.
“It was cool. You got to learn how to do the hide and it was fun. I helped with everything and did all the stuff they did," she said. "Scraping the hide the first day was a lot of work, your arms were sore the next day."
Moose hide tanning workshops have also been organized for high school students by the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre and Pawâmiw Creative. More camps are being planned for the new year after organizers declared an October camp to be a success.
ATC hopes to soon include a program that will let high school students earn credits from the hands-on experience.
“What we are trying to do for them is create the experience and understand Indigenous history, understand the importance of it because it was lost," said Angela Woods, the education and support services coordinator with ATC.
"We are trying to bring back that authentic experience for them so they can bring it forth in their practices and their learnings, and share that with their friends and families."