She may not be from Hay River originally, but Liz Pope has fond memories of the community and is now looking to come back for a special cause.
“I recently posted it on Facebook, but it’s not a new idea,” she told The Hub of her proposal to donate her $3,000 worth of residential school personal education credits toward a moosehide tanning workshop on the Hay River Reserve. “It would be great to see it actually happen.”
Despite being born in Ontario and having returned there, Pope said she basically grew up in the NWT and called the reserve home for many years. Seeing a gap in traditional knowledge on her own home Gull Bay Reserve, Ont., she decided she wanted to try out something of a “culture exchange,” in which people from Ontario could come to Hay River to learn skills like tanning.
“Two years ago, I was working at the school and the reserve put on a tanning workshop for Aboriginal Day,” she explained. “We went down with the kids, and it was great. But I didn’t finish my hide, and I think I would like to. In Northern Ontario, I don’t know where to access that sort of thing.”
So Pope took to social media, posting her idea on both the K’atlodeeche First Nation page and a community page for Fort Good Hope. She said the response has been incredible, with people figuratively lining up to take part.
Perhaps more surprising, Pope found that many of the people she knows in Ontario would like to come to the North to learn with her.
“Here, when hunters get a moose, they bring the hide to the dump,” she said. “They don’t know what to do with it, so they just throw it away.”
With the price for a whole hide running somewhere between $1,500 and $1,700, Pope said she sees a potential for something of a cottage industry to spring up.
“If a group of young women and young men, whomever, it doesn’t matter, learned how to tan and perfected it, there could really be some opportunity there,” she said.
The First Nation has put on similar programs before and CEO Scotty Edgerton said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of doing so again.
“I think the biggest thing is getting the hide to work with,” he said. “That’s the most expensive part.”
But Pope is undeterred. Several people from First Nation have contacted her wanting to be involved and she means to go ahead with the plan.
“I’ve got the idea and I’ve got some money,” she said. “I guess now I’m just trying to get the hype up to see if we can actually do this.”