In the old days, before the Innu were settled in government built villages, they used to clothe themselves in caribou skins. Caribou skin coats, mittens, leggings, moccasins, and hoods, provided warm protection from even the most bitter northerly winds.

Two types of skin coats were made – one with the fur left on the outside, the other with the fur removed entirely. This second type of coat was worn by men, and was often painted with beautiful motifs such as “double curves.” Sometimes, the motifs were inspired by dreams. In general, they were a way of showing respect to the animal masters.

In the old days, before the Innu were settled in government built villages, they used to clothe themselves in caribou skins. Caribou skin coats, mittens, leggings, moccasins, and hoods, provided warm protection from even the most bitter northerly winds.

Two types of skin coats were made – one with the fur left on the outside, the other with the fur removed entirely. This second type of coat was worn by men, and was often painted with beautiful motifs such as “double curves.” Sometimes, the motifs were inspired by dreams. In general, they were a way of showing respect to the animal masters.

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.

Caribou skin coat - pishakanakup

Caribou skin coat - pishakanakup

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


Listen to Matinen (Selma) Michelin, an Elder from Sheshatshiu talk about caribou coats

I remember people in Davis Inlet wearing caribou clothing in the past. These are the only people who I can remember seeing with caribou clothing. Our grandfather, Meshkana [the late Sam Rich who died in 1957], was still alive when we went to Davis Inlet; he was still wearing a caribou fur coat. We used to go with him when he went ice fishing, and he would catch lots of rock cod. We met up with his family at Sango Bay. Davis Inlet Innu were still wearing caribou fur coats while some dressed up the way we dress nowadays.

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


Listen to the late Tshishennish Pasteen recall the ways his mother and aunt used to make painted coats

Some were fur and some were not. The fur ones were the Elders’ favourites. They didn’t have trousers, only flaps, like a diaper, no underwear. Also, the leggings went all the way down here...The women were very skilled in painting the designs. The women today would know how to make them too if they tried. They used mikuanapui (ink), unaman (ochre), and shiship-nimanimish, uakua (fish eggs). They used a lot of different things for pain.

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

• Examine the importance of the caribou to Innu culture
• Appreciate the artisanship involved in the making of an Innu caribou skin coat


Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans