An Indigenous drum group has started the first of many summer events designed to teach residents about the scraping and stretching of deer hides.
The first “Deer in the City” cultural event began on Saturday outside the Prince Albert Arts Centre at the Downtown Street Fair. The group collectively acquired some portable stretching frames set up for stringing out and stretching out the hide of a Mule Deer on it.
Leading the charge was organizer and activist Jennifer Lenny, who said they wanted to give people an opportunity to explore this aspect of Indigenous culture.
“A few years ago, somebody that I knew in Ottawa did some deer hide scraping in the city, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea,” Lenny said. “My thought was, ‘why not do that here in Prince Albert?’”
Lenny is part of a women and two-spirit drum group called the Spirit Strong Singers. They applied for the funding through the City of Prince Albert and the Prince Albert Municipal Cultural Action Plan to help sponsor the supplies and hide scraping.
“The hides were donated by local hunters,” Lenny explained. “We are showing both processes, scraping the fur off as well as scraping the flesh.”
Lenny said it can be really hard for people to access cultural activities, especially ones like hide scrapping, which typically only happen at camps and not in urban areas. Lack of transportation and funding for extended visits to rural locations make it difficult, so the Spirit Strong Singers decided to bring the practice to Prince Albert.
“That’s what I hope people take away—to understand what processing hides is like, and to develop an appreciation for the work that goes into the end products of things like moccasins or mukluks,” Lenny explained. “It’s started by scraping fur off and eventually that hide is tanned or it’s turned into rawhide, into drums, rattles, or other art pieces. I think it’s beneficial to learn what that process actually involves, and why not do that right here in the heart of the city where people can see what it’s all about?”
The Spirit Strong Singers plan to hold “Dear in the City” events throughout the summer, includes one in Kinsmen Park to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Tuesday. They’ll also hold events on July 23 and Aug. 21 in Kinsmen Park, July 24 on the riverbank, and Aug. 20 during the downtown sidewalk sale.
Lenny said the group wanted to make good use of the parks Prince Albert has, while giving residents a glimpse at something they don’t normally see.
“There are lots of other opportunities for people to explore some Indigenous culture with hide scraping.”