Activities & Projects

From the Land Came our Moccasins

Recommended by Cirriculum Services Canada

Level: Grade 6

Preparation: Print images if needed; print Group Assignments 1-6 and Worksheet 1

Duration: 60 min. introduction and Group Assignments; 60 minute presentations; 20 minute worksheet = 140 min.

Materials: None

  • describe characteristics of pre-contact Northern Athapaskan peoples, including their close relationship with the natural environment
  • analyse the effect of interaction between First Nations people and Europeans on clothing, specifically footwear
  • use a variety of resources and tools to investigate the process of making Northern Athapaskan moccasins

Begin: Have a discussion about clothing that the students are wearing. How is their clothing made? For example, what is necessary to make a pair of pants or a shirt? (Elicit: fabric made, fabric chosen, pattern made, pattern pieces cut, pieces sewn with thread, on a machine, closures (buttons etc.) and decorations added).

Review points from the mind map created in Activity 1 that relate to the Dene environment vis-à-vis clothing: animals, climate, and clothing. Print or project images of moose and caribou in the Materials from the Land section of the exhibition Tradition and Innovation: Northern Athapaskan Footwear. Explain that these are the animals the Dene used to make clothing, including moccasins.

Print or project the image of Gwich’in hunter in summer clothing, 1847 in “The Way it Was”: Traditional Summer Clothing section. Before European contact, men, women and children dressed in two-piece outfits which consisted of long sleeved shirts and dresses, and a combination moccasin-trouser. Read this page with the class and discover why the moccasin-trouser was such a practical style for people living in this environment.

The moccasin as a separate entity became popular after Métis people and the fur trade brought new clothing fashions to the North in the 19th century. Print or project images of moccasins from the final section, A Diversity of Styles: Sewing for Children to show students examples of moccasins from post-contact times.

Learn: During the following Group Assignment, students will learn that traditionally, animals were hunted and skinned by men. Women cleaned, scraped, brain-tanned and finally smoked the skin, when it was ready to be made into clothing. Women stitched the moccasins by making holes with an awl, then forcing sinew through the holes. Prior to contact with Europeans, porcupine quills, seeds and feathers were used for decoration.

Divide the students into 6 groups. Each group will use the web exhibition to learn about a stage in the process of making traditional moccasins: skin preparation, tanning, smoking, decorating, sinew preparation and sewing. Each group will use Group Assignments 1 - 6: From the Land came our Moccasins to get instructions about where to go in the exhibition for information, and to summarize their findings. The group will present their findings to the class. Encourage them to read the quote(s) during their presentations.

Apply: Assign Worksheet 1: From Moose to Moccasins to confirm that the students have learned the sequence.

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