the Furs: Cleaning the Pelt
fur trade followed the seasons. Trapping and hunting were carried
on in the winter because the fur is thickest and in the best (or
prime) condition. There were many different kinds of traps,
including snares, which would trap the animal in a wire noose, and
baited traps, which would attract the animal with food or another
substance. The deadfall trap, which dropped a heavy weight onto
the animal to kill it, was commonly used by First Nations people
for beavers. Traps had to be checked often to ensure that other
animals would not eat the captured prey.
Once skin was
removed from the animal, they had to be prepared. In North America,
Aboriginal women usually did the work. They either stretched the
furs out on a frame or pegged them to the ground.
- First, the
inside of the skin had to be scraped clean of meat and fat.
- Then it was
smeared with a mixture such as cooked brains or liver.
- After one
to three days, the skin was washed and rubbed with a tight rope
until it was dry and soft.
Aboriginal woman could tan an average of about twenty buffalo
robes per winter.
The women also
had another job. There are two types of fur: The first layer
on the outside is rough and is called guard hair. It protects
the inner (ground) layer and is waterproof. The ground layer is
soft and feels like velvet. Aboriginal women pulled the
long guard hairs out of the pelt, leaving only the softer ground
traders preferred furs that Aboriginal people had worn. This
was because while they were wearing them the guard hairs fell
out, leaving only the valuable ground hair behind.