by Jake Cardinal
(ANNews) – In order to promote the revitalization of Nehiyaw (Cree) culture, the Acimowin Opaspiw Society (AOS), in partnership with the Government of Canada, is holding their first ever introductory hide-fleshing and scraping class, from July 4 – 7, 2023 in Kihcikaw Askiy (Edmonton, Alberta).
The class will guide students through the different stages of processing animal hides, from the building of the frames to the creation of raw hide, which can be used for drum-making, rattle making, clothing, etc. The class will be taught by Jayroy Makokis and is open to anyone aged 16 + and interested.
“I didn’t grow up with my culture,” said Makokis. “I started reconnecting with my ways when I was about 20. I was a new father and I wanted to get out of a toxic lifestyle… and I set goals for myself when I started my reconnecting journey.”
One of those goals was to become a drum-maker, said Makokis, who from there began learning how to make drums with commercial hides until he eventually set more goals: to become a hunter, to feed his family with food from the land, and use those hides for his drums. In fact, the hides being used in the class will be from animals that Makosis hunted himself.
On how he learned the craft, Makokis said that while he did it mainly on his own—save for some advice here and there from an Elder—his family’s history provided him the path. “My great-grandmother was the last person in my family to work hides. She was a master hide tanner. She did what I did, but she went that extra step to tan it.”
“I didn’t have a teacher to show me how to do this kind of stuff. I just kind of looked at pictures of my great-grandmother, how it was strung up, and then I just started going and let blood memory take its course. Sure enough, hide after hide, you just get better and better.”
“This helps me,” said Makokis. “It’s a form of therapy and I think it’ll help other people.”
In addition to this, AOS Cree translator, Neil Redcrow, will be present to provide Cree terminology for the techniques and steps involved.
“With tanning and hide-scraping, it’s kind of an art that was lost that’s making a huge comeback… Seeing people’s reactions to doing them actually doing this, living with their ancestors, how we used to live—they’re kind of getting a taste of that. People are always so amazed when they’re actually doing it,” said Redcrow.
“And at the same time, they’ll be learning the Cree terminology. So, there’s a couple different levels of learning they’ll be partaking in.”
“A lot of people, after they’ve done these kind courses—not everybody—but some of them, they’ll take it upon themselves to start doing this kind of stuff. It’s a growing art… we’re bringing back our culture.”
The class will take place July 4 – 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 14141A Fox Drive, Edmonton, Alberta. Registrants must be 16+ and have their own transportation.
Limited spaces are available. To register contact: [email protected]