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Wrap-around moccasins

Public Submission
Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories
Materials & techniques
Moose hide, caribou hide, nylon, sinew
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, 971.002.002 a,b
These wrap-around moccasins are made from smoked moose and caribou hide. Partially hand sewn with sinew and partially machine sewn, they are a working pair of moccasins with little decoration. The vamp is edged with four colourful lines of nylon monofilament (fishing line), reminiscent of decorative horsehair ‘piping’ used in earlier times.

These moccasins were worn by the participant from Tsiigehtchic in the final leg of the Western Arctic Centennial Dog Sled Mail Run, held in the spring of 1970. As part of the Northwest Territories’ centennial celebrations, the mail run was made in relays from Fort Smith to Inuvik, with teams from 13 communities taking turns pulling the mail sled. It was a celebratory re-enactment of the historic mail deliveries through the Mackenzie River valley when mail was carried to settlements and fur trading posts by dog team toboggans. Often a runner on snowshoes would “break out the trail” ahead of the dogs.

Before the arrival of bush pilots in the 1920s to the 1940s, it was the tough dog sled runners and dogs who brought news from the outside world, carrying letters from community to community along with mail-order catalogues and newspapers. They provided an important link between people in the north.

The Centennial Mail Run set off March 15, 1970 from Fort Smith in the south and reached Inuvik in the Mackenzie Delta on April 12, after a month on the trail. Settlements on route held feasts and dances to honour the postal carriers and their dogs. Hundreds of special commemorative envelopes were carried bearing the official NWT Centennial postage stamp.

The Tsiigehtchic runner ran the mail sled from his community on the Arctic Red River to the finish line in Inuvik, a distance of 140 kilometres. At the request of community members, his moccasins and other clothing worn during the run were donated in 1971 to the Museum of the North, the forerunner of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
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