Secrets of the smoke
Drying meat and tanning hide

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 04/99) - Once the hunter returns home with the game, the work of preparing the meat begins.

Rae elder Rosa Woodson said her husband just brought home two moose and a good portion of the kill went to making dried meat.

She slices the meat thin and strings it from a rack over a fire.

"We use a slow fire so it doesn't burn too hot," Woodson said.

"I hang it over the smoke for three days," she added, smiling and squinting from the smoke.

Caroline Bonnetrouge grew up in Tathlina Lake, but now lives near Fort Providence.

Bonnetrouge tans hide every year and says she just picked up the method from friends and community elders.

"I just learned from what other women told me," Bonnetrouge said. "My mom never taught me before I got married."

The job is a big one, she warns, and usually takes about three days.

"First to scrape all the meat off the hide," Bonnetrouge said. "Then you have to take of all the moose hair with a knife."

"We boil water with moose bones in it then you put (the hide) in the water," she said.

Soaking the hide and smearing it with bear fat, makes the hide softer, she said.

"After we boil it we smoke it -- you put bear grease on the hide and stretch it on the stick until it turns yellow. Then you put it in the water with a little bit of soap."

She says the weather has to be just right to tan hides.

"On a hot day, you have to work fast because it dries fast," she said. "You can't do it when it's raining, because it won't dry, unless you hang a tarp."

"Last summer I did five hides, but this summer I haven't done any," she said. "It's been too windy and rainy."