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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 10, 2002 - Issue 67


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Gwich'in Clothing Made to 19th Century Order


Women from five N.W.T. communities have finished a labor of love ... and culture.

They've been sewing five traditional Gwich'in tunics over the last year and a half.

Some of the women have travelled far; many of them spent weeks away from home. They're from Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Yellowknife.

They've been in Tsiigehtchic for the last week to finish the 19th-century male tunics.

Project co-ordinator and fashion designer Karen Wright-Fraser says there were plenty of bumps along the way.

"We grossly underestimated the time it would take," she says. "So twice we ran out of funding. And we thought we'd be done so we had two extra workshops."

Wright-Fraser says they had to combine porcupine-quill work and bead work. Quill work is time-consuming, and many of the women had to learn from scratch.

"It's really good," says Aklavik's Audrey Snowshoe, who took the quill workshop and helped see the project through.

"I feel really good about it. I keep saying don't worry, don't worry, I think we'll get it done. Not right down to the smallest detail but almost everything."

The tunics are made out of the same pattern with similar quill and bead work.

But each one is decorated in different colors to represent the different communities.

Each Gwich'in community will receive one. The fifth will be displayed at the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

The Gwich'in
The overview of the Gwich'in people which is presented here is based primarily on published historical and ethnohistorical accounts and suffers greatly by the absence of any significant amount of traditional knowledge.

Yellowknife, NWT Map
Maps by Travel

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