Beading on smoked moose hide. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Alaska Native culture

Smell of Smoked Moose Hide

Eleanor Yatlin scrapes moose hair off a moose hide. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
My mother, Eleanor Yatlin, scrapes moose hair off a moose hide. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

My aunt Rosie asked me to bead some glove and slipper tops for a potlatch. As I’m beading some glove tops, and I keep getting a whiff of smoked moose hide. The balcony door is open. It’s a crisp and fresh morning. The birds are singing. I can almost imagine being at fish camp, smelling wood smoke from our camp fire and beading while taking a break from chores.

Smoked moose hide is ideal for doing beadwork on because it doesn’t unravel and holds its form. My ancestors and family have been using it for clothing for centuries. It was used for survival along with other hides and furs. Our people were resourceful and didn’t waste.

Nowadays, we use them for mittens, vests, dresses, jewelry, slippers, picture frames and much more. If you’ve followed me, you know I love beading slippers. I bead on smoked moose hide slipper tops.

Resource: The Alaska Department of Fish & Game shared an article on Turning a Moose Hide Into Buckskin Brain-Tanning Alaska Big-Game Animal Skins at Home

People mostly buy them from places where they are commercially tanned. However, some people are starting to relearn how to process and tan them. It is a lot of work and you have to scrape it a lot. My late grandmothers used to work on them with help of family. Here my great aunt, Rose Ambrose, shares a short story on how people used to process smoked moose hide.

Youth work on cleaning a moose hide at the 2017 First Alaskans Institute Elders & Youth Conference. Melissa Shaginoff hosted this workshop. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Youth work on cleaning a moose hide at the 2017 First Alaskans Institute Elders & Youth Conference. Melissa Shaginoff hosted this workshop. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Artist Melissa Shaginoff (Athabascan/Paiute) has been demonstrating and teaching people how to tan moose hide. Check out Melissa’s website or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

I appreciate the hard work that goes into making smoked moose hide. If you understand the process and hundreds of hours that go into tanning moose hide, you will also understand the value of being able to use it but also the expense.

When preparing for Athabascan traditional memorial potlatches, families usually save up to buy a moose skin and distribute parts of it at the giveaway. The giveaway is a way for families to thank people who have helped them through the grieving process and who are special to the lost loved one. It is a precious gift to receive.

My mother, Eleanor Yatlin, holds a smoked moose hide at a potlatch. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
My mother, Eleanor Yatlin, holds a smoked moose hide at a potlatch. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
My relatives are cutting a moose hide at a potlatch during the giveaway. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
My relatives are cutting a moose hide at a potlatch during the giveaway. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

My friend, Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman, has a smoked moose hide vest. He wore it to the Smokehouse Gala and there was one woman who was sniffing his shoulder. He said, people do that all the time. I love the smoked smell. It brings back many great memories.

I attended the First Alaskan Institute's Smokehouse Gala in 2015. L-R: Me, Karla Booth, Tiffany Flowers and Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I attended the First Alaskan Institute’s Smokehouse Gala in 2015. L-R: Me, Karla Gatgyedm Hana’ax Booth, Tiffany Flowers and Dewey Kk’ołeyo Hoffman. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

4 thoughts on “Smell of Smoked Moose Hide”

  1. I enjoy your blog. It’s always a good thing when folks re-learn the old stuff. Thanks for posting such interesting items.

Leave a Reply