The Dene Moose Hide Tanning Project
Principal Investigator: Irlbacher-Fox, Stephanie (5)
Licence Number: 14184
Organization: Fox Consulting
Licensed Year(s): 2007
Issued: Jun 22, 2007
Project Team: Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, PhD (Co-Principal Investigator, Fox Consulting), Denise Kurszewski, MEd (Co-Principal Investigator, Gwich'in Tribal Council), Elaine Alexie (Filmmaker, Independent)

Objective(s): This project aims to:1) revitalize the practice of moose hide tanning among Gwich'in and other Dene women; 2) document the tanning and associated processes (e.g. construction of tools, etc.); and 3) determine the social and material significance of tanning for Dene people.

Project Description: Tanning moose hide is a Dene cultural practice which continues from ancient times, practiced almost exclusively by Dene women. Today, tanned moose hide is prized as a material for ceremonial clothing, and is a marker of the continued vitality of indigenous knowledge and social practices, including bush skills, culture and values, tanning, and sewing. It creates positive social dynamics including knowledge sharing, pride in culture, self confidence, trust in others, and networking of hunters, tanners, and sewers.

The purpose of this project is to share and live the indigenous knowledge in order to increase the base and vitality of the knowledge in a way that will last a lifetime and pass that knowledge among Gwich'in women. This contrasts with the predominant "mining" approach to indigenous knowledge research, where the main product is a written document, rather than a lived experience. This also illustrates how research, rather than being 'taking' from people, contributes to positive knowledge sharing. This will also document techniques and wisdom of Dene women not previously researched.

A moose hide tanning camp will be set up at a Gwich'in Tribal Council camp on the Mackenzie River, approximately 8 miles south east of Inuvik, for two weeks in June. Travel to the camp will be by boat. Standard moose hide tanning equipment will be used in the tanning process. Researchers will take notes on observations and interviews, and subject to permission, tanning techniques will be filmed. If any minors are present, the consent of their guardians will be sought for participation in the study. Gwich'in filmmaker and cultural activist Elaine Alexie will be participating in the camp, developing a full length documentary.
Project activities will be performed from June 22 to July 22, 2007.