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The evolution of footwear in Canada (second part): Footwear among the Aboriginal peoples.

The indigenous peoples of Quebec, such as the First Nations and the Inuit, had traditional leatherworking techniques to make their shoes and other leather goods adapted to the climatic conditions and terrain of the region. These techniques varied according to specific groups and regions, but they shared some similarities in the use of natural resources and artisanal methods.

Here are some of the traditional leatherworking methods used by Indigenous peoples in Quebec to make their shoes:

1. Bark-tanned leather: Indigenous peoples used tree bark and other tannin-rich natural materials to tan leather. The tannins extracted from the barks acted as a tanning agent to make the leather more resistant, flexible and waterproof.

2. Seal and caribou leather: Depending on the region, Aboriginal peoples used different animal skins to make their shoes. The Inuit often used sealskins, while the peoples of the interior lands used caribou skins. These leathers were suited to local conditions and offered warmth and protection from the elements.

3. Deerskin moccasins and boots: Moccasins were light, flexible footwear made using the skins of deer or other animals. They were designed for maximum comfort and were often used for walking, hunting and other daily activities. Deerskin boots were also made for cold seasons and provided extra insulation.

4. Hand stitching: Indigenous peoples used hand stitching techniques to stitch the pieces of leather together to create tight-fitting shoes. Sinew (animal tendon) threads were often used as sewing threads for their strength and durability.

5. Traditional decorations and designs: Leather shoes made by indigenous peoples were often decorated with traditional designs and ornaments such as beads, fringes and painted designs.

Native American moccasins of the Huron tribe, Canada, 1790-1815. They are made from native tanned and dyed hide, silk ribbon, feathers, deer and moose hair and tiny metal tube fringe. The floral embroidery design is striking and very skillfully done.

These artisanal leatherworking methods were passed down from generation to generation within Indigenous communities, and they continued to be used to create functional and aesthetic footwear tailored to the specific needs of each group. Today, some of these traditional techniques are still preserved and practiced by indigenous artisans to maintain their cultural heritage and craftsmanship in leather shoemaking.

The importance of embroideries and designs:

Handmade embroideries have a long history and have been used by different cultures around the world for a variety of designs and reasons. In Quebec, handmade embroideries have also played an important role in the artistic and cultural expression of women over the years. Here are some common patterns and reasons associated with hand embroidery:

1. Clothing decoration: Embroideries have often been used to decorate traditional clothing worn by women. Embroidered designs could vary by region and community, and they were used to embellish dresses, blouses, skirts, and other pieces of clothing.

2. Cultural identification: Embroidered designs could also be used to identify a person's geographic or cultural origin. Some communities used specific designs in their embroidery to indicate their cultural identity, ethnic group or tribal affiliation.

3. Stories and traditions: Embroideries could tell stories and represent important elements of local culture and traditions. Some embroidered designs could have symbolic meanings and represent stories, beliefs, rituals or historical events.

4. Artistic Expressions: Embroidery provided an opportunity for women to express themselves artistically and show their creative talent. They used a variety of patterns, colors and techniques to create unique and aesthetically pleasing pieces.

5. Transfer of knowledge: The tradition of embroidery was often passed down from generation to generation, providing mothers with the opportunity to teach their daughters this art form and create an intergenerational bond.

6. Utility function: Besides the decorative aspect, some embroideries also had a utilitarian function, such as reinforcing certain parts of the garments or adding extra pockets.

It is important to note that the specific patterns and reasons associated with hand embroidery could vary by region and community. Each group could have its own distinct traditions and styles in embroidery, which contributed to the richness and cultural diversity of Quebec. Today, artisanal embroidery continues to be appreciated and practiced by artisans and artists to perpetuate these traditions and preserve Quebec's unique cultural heritage.

A historical point:

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In the 17th century, when European settlers began to explore and settle in New France, they were surprised by the footwear of the Indigenous peoples of Quebec, particularly those of the Huron-Wendat. The traditional shoes worn by the Huron-Wendat were called "moccasins". These moccasins were made using deer skins and were incredibly flexible and well suited to the varied natural environments of Quebec.

What amazed the European settlers was the quality and durability of the Huron-Wendat moccasins. Moccasins were designed to be comfortable and durable, making them ideal shoes for long walks and moving across different types of terrain. The deer hides used to make the moccasins were soft and breathable, which provided excellent fit and ventilation for wearers' feet.

European settlers quickly realized the usefulness and quality of Huron-Wendat moccasins, and they began to adopt this type of footwear for themselves. In fact, the widespread use of moccasins helped popularize this style of footwear among French settlers and French Canadians, and it became an iconic part of Quebec fashion.

Today, moccasins are still loved for their comfort and style, and they are worn by many people in Quebec and beyond. This anecdote illustrates how the shoes of the indigenous peoples of Quebec had a lasting impact on the fashion and culture of the region, and how they were integrated into the daily life of the inhabitants of New France and Quebec.

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