Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fish Skin Bag Process

According to Hickman (1987) A very skilled Athabascan women would cut off the fish head and tail, cut the stomach open and clean it out, peel the skin up from the stomach towards the back of the fish, then peeled the skin from the head towards the tail cutting off the fins when they were reached and removing the skin right off the fish.  Then she would soak the skin in water, to make it easier to scrape the scales and fish tissue off the skin, using a tool made out of bone or seashell.  The fish was repaired where the fins were cut off by using grass to sew the opening together using a seal esophagus, which was specifically taken from between the stomach and throat, as a patch.  They used a baby boys' urine, that wasn’t weaned from his mother, to soak the fish skin and if stronger fish skin was needed they used a boys' urine at the time his voice was changing.  The longer the fish skin was soaked the softer it got.  It could be soaked anywhere from half a day to overnight.  Then it was washed with Naptha soap and rinsed out and soaked with aspen shavings, they believed this made the fish skin stronger.  At this time the skin can be dyed.  Although, it was rarely done because it was a lot of work and the coloring was faint.  She would sew the fish skins together using sinew or grass.  To strengthen the fish skin bag a strip of tanned caribou hide was sewn between two layers of fish skin.  Depending on what supplies the seamstress had collected through the seasons; she would decorate the bag with dyed fish skin, reindeer hair and sewed them on in patterns.  The final step was to put sand or dry grass in it to keep the shape while the bag is drying.  Like I said it was a long process to make a fish skin bag.   

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