One chasuble vestment made from two caribou hides

The hide has been bleached white. The front and back of the chasuble is decorated with beadwork. The beadwork on the front consists of a band of red beads running the down the centre of the chasuble. Two bands of red beads branch off from the centre band at the chest and run diagonally over the shoulders. The design is repeated on the back but with a gold beaded cross in the centre of the back with lines of single gold beads radiating out from the cross. A single row of beads runs along the neckline and outside edge of the chasuble.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Jack Strain and his wife Anne came to Old Crow in 1965. Jack Strain wished to be confirmed in the Anglican Church. Anne wanted to give back to the church and inquired about something she could give as a gift. The rector Rev. K.E.A. Exham in Old Crow was a very tall man and required a proper chasuble, the vestment adorned by the presiding priest. After much discussion and studying pictures in church catalogues, the First Nations women of Old Crow felt they could make a chasuble from the materials of their sewing traditions. Anne agreed to cover all costs.

In the fall of 1966, the women tanned the hides of two caribou. These were cut according to an illustration of a chasuble in the Anglican Book Centre Catalogue. Two hides were required so that the vestment would fit their Rector's six foot five inch frame. The hides were lined with the two pieces of lining material available, one gold-coloured and the other purple. The gold-coloured material was used where the lining might show. The purple lining was reserved for the rest of the garment. Old Crow seamstresses are known for their beautiful beadwork patterns. This garment was to require extensive beadwork. Large areas of hide to be beaded are first sewn onto pieces of felt which are then attached to the hide. The ladies wanted to decorate both the front and back of the chasuble with four-inch wide bands of tiny red beads. A band extends vertically from the neckline to the hem. Two other bands radiate from each shoulder and cut diagonally to centre cross at chest level. The gold-coloured cross is beaded in the convergence of the red bands on the back of the garment.

The Old Crow woman that gathered to assemble the garment worked out of the rectory. While some woman worked on the floor lining the hides, other women worked in pairs to string red beads on double strands of thread which were long enough to reach from neckline to hem. These strings of beads were positioned on pieces of white felt, which had been cut to the desired shape, and laid out on the dining table. The strands were sewn to the felt with a tiny stitch between every two beads. The late Sarah Abel produced the cross and beams for the back. The Rev. Dr. Ellen Bruce, Martha Kendi, Myra Moses and many other women, worked all day, every day, for two weeks to complete the chasuble. The chasuble was dedicated by Bishop Henry Marsh and worn at the Christmas service in Old Crow on December 25, 1966. (information provided by Beth-Ann Exham, wife of Rev. Exham)


Old Log Church Museum, Whitehorse

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