caribou skin coat - pishakanakup

In the old days, before the Innu were settled in government built villages, they used to clothe themselves in caribou skins. Caribou skin coats, mittens, leggings, moccasins, and hoods, provided warm protection from even the most bitter northerly winds.

Two types of skin coats were made – one with the fur left on the outside, the other with the fur removed entirely. This second type of coat was worn by men, and was often painted with beautiful motifs such as “double curves.” Sometimes, the motifs were inspired by dreams. In general, they were a way of showing respect to the animal masters.

Dorothy Burnham has studied the history, design (cut), and decoration of these painted coats in great detail. She believes that their style may have been based on European jackets worn by both French and English traders and other newcomers to Innu territory. She notes “the earliest coats that have survived probably date from about 1700 and the latest from about 1930.”

Audio Listen to Matinen (Selma) Michelin, an Elder from Sheshatshiu talk about caribou coats

Audio Listen to the late Tshishennish Pasteen recall the ways his mother and aunt used to make painted coats

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