Pelt Stretcher

Pelt Stretcher

Stretched beaver skin, attached to round willow frame with string

People from Teslin looked forward to the yearly spring beaver hunt, especially after the long and cold winter months. Highly prized for food and fur, the beaver was hunted in the spring when their pelts were in prime condition and the ice was still strong enough to walk upon.

The Nisutlin River, a tributary of Teslin Lake, was a prime beaver habitat. Beaver pelts were an important trapping and trade item. They provided food and clothing for the Teslin peoples. The pelts from the animals had to be removed and tanned before they could be used in garments or other apparel. To remove the pelts, the hunter makes a slit down the length of the belly from head to the tail. Then an incision is made around each leg. The fur is then pulled off the animal in a rolling motion. To tan the pelt, the skin is soaked in a special solution and strung in a wooden frame. The pelt is stretched on the frame to dry and to be scraped of all remaining debris.

Beavers hunted for furs and food, made a nice meal. In fact, after a long and sometimes scarce winter, the fatty tail was considered quite the delicacy. Typically, they were hunted with spears and nets under the ice. In the spring hunters would chop holes in the ice near a beaver lodge. The holes would be baited and the hunters would wait. The hunters would have an opportunity to catch their prey when the unsuspecting beaver would feed on the bait. The trade of beaver fur only became prevalent after the non-Native traders created a market for them. By mid to late nineteenth century white traders demanded that the skins be prepared in a certain fashion. Beavers for instance, had to be stretched into ovals. This skin was prepared in the new oval style requested by the Non-Native traders.


George Johnston Museum, Teslin

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