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Babiche Bag

Curated Submission
Lutselk’e, Northwest Territories
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
53 x 33
Materials & techniques
Caribou hide, moose hide thread, yarn; Sewn, beaded, quillwork
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 2006.003.001
A Dene bag made of netted caribou-hide babiche, decorated with ribbon appliqué, wool tassels, and ochre. Babiche is a cording or lacing made from hide or sinew, a popular Dene craft in Canada. Cut into long narrow strips, babiche was often used for fishing or harpoon lines, lacing or netting for snowshoes, or cordage. Knotted together, babiche was used to make flexible bags that could expand and accommodate objects in a variety of shapes and sizes. Dene travel frequently, especially during the hunt; they traditionally used these expandable bags to carry dried fish and dried meat and other supplies. Although these bags were intended for daily use and were used until they were worn out, the makers of these bags often incorporated beautifully decorated beading and quillwork, fringes, and coloured patterns in the netting.
Babiche bags became popular as general-purpose bags with traders and prospectors in the Northwest Territories in the early part of the 20th century. Trappers spent most of the year away from their families in the south and would bring presents home at the end of season. Matt Murphy, a trapper in the area east of Great Slave Lake, obtained this bag in Lutselk’e (formerly Snowdrift) on his way home to Peace River, Alberta, in 1926. The babiche bag reflects a traditional Dene craft and the custom of trade between Dene and fur traders. The traders grew to appreciate these objects for their practicality in the subarctic, as well as for their souvenir value as examples of Dene craftsmanship. 
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