MNBC Culture Series: Gertrude Nome (Issue#1)

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An MNBC Culture Series: Honouring our past and creating our future

Heritage, culture, and language constitute the backbone of Métis, and other Aboriginal, communities across Canada. A strong and vibrant culture is directly related to healthy people and a strong sense of pride. It is crucial to promote culture, heritage and language as these are said to define who we are and shape the way we think. The traditional cultures of our Ancestors, shaped by nature, still exert a strong influence on generations today, from spirituality to political attitudes. Culture, heritage, and language, are all part of daily life (i.e. family and community, food, art, songs, dance, spirituality, values, history, and land use activities) and they all interact with one another to make up our unique way-of-life.

To honour the richness and uniqueness of Métis culture, heritage, and language, we are beginning a feature showcasing various Métis artists, story-tellers, writers, harvesters, and knowledge holders. We hope that you can relate to their intriguing, fascinating, and inspiring stories. Perhaps they will even bring up some good childhood (or current) memories for you.

The Art of Tanning Hides – Gertrude Nome

Gertrude Nome was raised on a farm in Peace River Crossing, Alberta, and didn’t grow up knowing the art and tradition of tanning hides. She was an avid beader, however, and this inspired her to find a new medium to continue her crafty beading work.  Both her, and her husband Alex, self-taught themselves this almost forgotten art. The technique of hide tanning is very time consuming and takes a great deal of physical strength. The long painstaking process of removing flesh and fur from the animals hide and then stretching it over a homemade frame is seldom done by Métis people today.

First you have to harvest a moose. Gertrude’s brother, Leo, was the hunter in the family and he was the one who harvested the moose for her. The meat and edible parts of the moose were used for sustenance purposes and the hide was removed from the animal and soaked for a few days to loosen the flesh and hair for easy removal.  Gertrude used galvanized tubs to soak the hide and make it pliable and soft for her crafts. The tools she used to prepare the hide were all hand-made from the bones of the animal that was being transformed to leather. Not wasting any part of the animal that was harvested for her. Once the hides were ready, she made beautiful children's vests, moccasins, mukluks, mitts and ornamental knickknacks for her family and friends. She created her own stunning designs on her pieces from embroidery threads and traditional seed beads.

Brenda Nome has fond memories of her parents working on the hide all day. She remembers them only taking short breaks, just long enough for meals that would carry them forward to the next step in the tanning process and achieving the end result of creating hides to use for her beautiful creations and art. Brenda and the rest of her family cherish these precious pieces of clothing, art, and various projects that were given to them, and they will be proudly passed down to future generation in their family.

Unfortunately Gertrude and her husband Alex have passed so they can no longer pass on the tradition to Métis people. However, Brenda and her children fondly remember her art and creations and proudly carry some of her knowledge with them.