How to make snowshoes

To make snowshoes, he said one must know how to choose a nice straight birch tree.  It must not be too crooked a tree.  Just a little is not a problem.  He told us the way he learned to make snow shoes and to use good birch trees.  Not all birch trees are good for making snowshoes.  For a sled, it is a birch that has no knots in the tree.  But even if there are a few it will be good just the same.  In the past we had no tools, thus we used only a crooked knife.  It was long time to make a sled.  It was not a large crooked knife.  In the past all Indians made their snowshoes and sleds. They did not succeed at first but, with practice, they succeeded.  It was information that they got as children, to make what they needed so that they learned to manage for themselves.  It is in this way that they learn.  (He said that this way they had had their instruction. 209-230)

Occasionally they had to search far to find a birch because there was not one close to where they were.  Sometimes they took larch to make sleds.  I have seen Nitshikuniulnuatsh use this kind of wood.  One dose not see much birch because it is an area where there are not many trees. (232-238)

In the past Indians made large snowshoes to be used when there was a great deal of snow.  But in spring if they were too large, they were too heavy and they changed the snowshoes for lighter ones which were called shikunasham (spring snowshoes).  They were smaller.  It was like that that Indians used to make their snowshoes. (240-245)

For lacing snowshoes.  When the caribou skin is too thin it is not good.  For the mesh they do not take the skin from the middle of the body of the animal; they take the skin from the buttocks of the animal because at this place it is thicker.  It is the same thing for a moose.  It is in autumn that the caribou skin is better particularly in the males because it is thicker at this time.  In the spring it is thinner.  In winter adult males have a beautiful thick skin.  Small moose also have a very thin skin.  When they make their snowshoes in spring with caribou skin they have very good snowshoes.

In the past there were no caribou but before there were moose the Indians used beaver skin.  They said that it was good.  I have already seen because my brother had a pair.  When he went out with the engineers, they had Nitshikun folks there.  He traded with them.  The snowshoes were great.  The beaver is red.  That is what the Nitshikun hunters catch.  Before that there were no moose only a few caribou. (249-278)

In the past the Indians made their own clothes and the women elders made beautiful clothes.  They could make beautiful things in the territory; today we no longer see them.  Today they still do it but it is not as beautiful as in the past. (280-286)

He remembered that in the past when he saw elders in the territory, he said that they worked well in everything they undertook, as for example how to dry meat.  In the past when the elders went into the territory, their meat was very good.  They could do everything in the territory.  Their snowshoes were also very good.  Those were our ancestors, nuhtshimiulnuatsh (people living in the territory).  Today, there are still people who can make them but they are no longer as good as formerly.  Even the way of making snowshoes is not the same.  He told that long ago he had seen people lacing snowshoes.  They laced them a certain way and the snowshoes were truly very beautiful.  Today one no longer sees this type of snowshoe there.  They are still very good but they are not able to make them as before. (287-303)

He said that one does not take pithtushkui (what is called birch paper) but one takes ilnishkui (hard birch).  He said that there are beautiful supple birch on the banks of streams and they are better for making snowshoes.  Hard birch is too easy to break. (776-780) He said that there is beautiful birch for making snowshoes at Lac Poisson Blanc.

At E pishaiatsh (between streams) and shikapishiutsh (water flow without source) there were beautiful birch. (786-787).

Birch that is hard when shaped works very well.  When soaked in hot water it becomes supple and it bends more easily and the two sides take equal shapes (790-792).  If one shapes it when it is still stiff, it takes a bad shape and one cannot re-bend it to begin again.  When one curves it when it is only slightly supple, one must fasten it and you also put nails in and if it is not tightly attached it will take a poor shape.  One must put in nails so that it will not move. (790-798).