Cree Embroidered Caribou Moccasins

In the Lake Winnipeg area lived the swampy Cree division of the Western Woods Cree and the Cree Métis. Women originally designed all Cree embroideries and often the design was taken directly from nature and drawn onto the hide with porcupine quills dipped in berry juice.

In the 19th century mission schools run by Ursuline and Grey nuns would teach young Indian girls embroidery skills as part of their general education. Existing European fabrics and tapestries inspired many of the motifs they were taught to embroider.

These slippers are made of soft white caribou hide that has been carefully tanned, then bleached by hanging it outside in late winter when the sun reflected off the snow. 19th century inventories of the Hudson’s Bay trading posts show gradually increasing stocks of silk thread carried for sale to native communities. William Sinclair, a director of the company and of mixed English and Native descent, purchased at the Norway House Trading post ‘two lists of coloured thread, two lists of white stitching thread, and ten skeins of coloured silk thread’ all for his wife.

-The British Antique Dealers’ Association

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