Snowshoes

Snowshoes for winter travel were almost universal among Aboriginal people in Canada outside the Pacific and Arctic coasts.

The long, narrow (left) and bear paw snowshoes of the Eastern Woodland hunters were used for different snow conditions. Babiche is commonly used as lacework for snowshoes.
Nicolas Vincent
Portrait of Huron chief Nicolas Vincent (Tsaouenhohoui) wearing snowshoes by Philip J. Bainbrigge. \r\n
Snowshoe Dance
Ojibwa people performing the Snowshoe Dance, a celebration that took place at the first snowfall every year since time immemorial (artwork created in 1835). \r\n
Man strapping on snowshoes (1884)
Styles of snowshoes
Snowshoes take on various shapes and sizes, from the long and narrow (#1) to tear-shapes (#2, 3, 6, 7) to ovals (#4) and circles (#5).
Indigenous woman making snowshoes (c. 1928)

Snowshoes for winter travel were almost universal among Aboriginal people in Canada outside the Pacific and Arctic coasts. The Athapaskans of the West and Algonquians of the northeast made the most sophisticated snowshoes. Frames were generally made of durable, flexible ash wood, and lacing from deer, caribou and moose hide. The toe and tail sections of the shoe were laced with a light babiche and the central body with a heavy babiche for better weight suspension. The Indian-style moccasin is the traditional snowshoe footwear. Much Indian folklore centred on the snowshoe. The Ojibwa, for example, celebrated the first snowfall of the winter with a snowshoe dance. During the early historic period the snowshoe was as important as the canoe, the wagon or the railway in opening up the country.

See also snowshoeing.


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