Antique Iroquois Snowshoes

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Antique Native American Snowshoes - Algonquin/Iroquois style
c. 1900 – 20th century
Wood, Babiche, Metal (nails)
37”l x 11 1/16”w x 2 5/16”h
© Vintage Winter

A wonderful set of snowshoes in the Huron/ Algonquin shape with what appears to be either caribou, moose or young deer hide lacing.  You will notice that the bibiche is outer wrapped only on the mid section and does not appear on the tails or tips, suggesting the snowshoes were crafted for transportation in not only winter but spring and fall as well.  True winter snowshoes, like those seen in the far northern tribes have outer bibiche throughout.  The lacing on these snowshoes is not only utilitarian but decorative in its nature.  While not as dramatic as the Attikamek designs the inner lacing showcases the advanced skill and artistic nature of the weaver.  The snowshoe tips/front end/nose are slightly bent up, classic of Huron/ Algonquin design as well as the incorporation of a long tail and both toe and heel bars.  Red Pom Poms on the outer frame, are in this case, made from yarn or wool, a long ago tradition with roots both in utilitarianism as well as ceremonial purposes.  Many First Nation peoples would affix hair from their prey in hopes to, if down wind from the animal, confuse them with the lingering hair smell.  The Pom Poms were also said to be an important feature for prominent Chiefs and hunters seeking a spiritual and respectful relationship with the hunted animal and the earth.  In some references, the color of the tuft/pom designated one tribe from another.  Most native snowshoes were crafted by both sexes; typically reserving the tanning, hide preparation and weaving for the women and the falling of the trees, splitting wood and snowshoe frame construction for the men.  In this case the lacing appears to be woven by a skilled Native American/ First Nation; many of whom were later employed by modernized snowshoe manufacturers.  The size of the snowshoes suggest they were designed for a traditionally framed male or larger female.  The toe holes aft of the toe cord is in a size that befits a larger foot as well as the length and width of the shoe.  Overall a wonderful set of snowshoes with untold stories to tell.


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