Posted on January 23, 2012



The best examples of the snowshoe makers art may well be seen among the Attikemek people and the Eastern Cree. The shoes are of such a stunning quality and artistry that nothing could be added or subtracted without jeopardizing perfection. The babiche (raw hide) is woven not merely neatly and precisely, but with patterns incorporated into the weave. Snowshoes thus created are intricate, infused with profound knowledge, and with amazing grace, allow a person to “fly upon the snow.”

The designs they weave into the lacing gives thanks; they praise the snow and weather, the trees and animals that gave the component parts, and acknowledge a spiritual world beyond our reckoning. With every impression of an indian craftsman’s masterpiece, a prayer falls upon the snow.*

*Text adaptations from  A SNOW WALKER’S COMPANION  Alexandra & Garrett Conover


Fancy Attikamek-Style Snowshoes, Fanciest of the Fancy

Toe Section Detail

Midsection Detail

 Perhaps the most beautiful of all snowshoe decorations (and certainly the most difficult to execute) are the woven patterns in the toe and tail sections and the double salvage cords in the midsection weave.

Fancy Attikemek- Style Snowshoes/ Woven Geometric Patterns with painted ends

Toe Section Detail

Fancy Attikemek-Style Snowshoes

Deer Bone Snowshoe Needle

Midsection Salvage Cord Detail

Midsection Harness-Hole with Toe-cord Wrapping

Athabascan-Style Snowshoes 11″ x 65″

  When the skin is frozen hard enough, a scraper will remove paper-thin shavings a foot or more in length. The skin must be frozen very solid for efficient scraping and temperatures slightly below freezing are not sufficiently cold. After the frozen skins have been thoroughly scraped, they are either thawed and used immediately or left in the frames to dry in the cold. Freeze-scraped skins are always cleaner and more desirable for any snowshoe or leather work.

Freeze-scraping a deer skin at 20 degrees below zero

 The shape of snowshoes varies greatly depending on the type of terrain they are meant to track, and on local styles. In the northern forests the Athabascans used this long, narrow style which allowed the wearer to move swiftly through the woods without catching his snowshoes in the underbrush.

The fine hexagonal lacing of the toe and tail sections is created by wetting the babiche (raw hide) so that it is flexible, and then lacing a triangular pattern. Trade beads are sometimes added to adorn this style of snowshoe.

Athabaskan-Snowshoes also called “Loucheux Snowshoes”

Toe Section Detail Showing Trade-bead Decoration

Mid Section Detail

Tail Section Detail

Tail Detail Pegged and Tied

Frosty Birches

Cree-Style Walking Shoe/ Painted Ends

Toe Section Detail/ Highlighted Woven Geometric Patterns

Snowshoe Extravaganza

Beaver Watching Weaver

Snowshoe Making Tools

Attikemek-Style Square-toe Snowshoes

Toe Section Weaving Detail

“Snowshoe Print”


Mistassini Cree Family Winter Hunting Camp 1979

The beavertail snowshoe with its tightly bent rounded tail is the most aesthetic and highly finished of the rounded snowshoe styles. To make a good pair requires the consummate skill of a master craftsman and as such these snowshoes are highly esteemed by their owners. Beavertail snowshoes among the Cree are regarded as special snowshoes with a spiritual significance. Rarely used as everyday snowshoes, they play an important part in the spiritual relationship between the hunter and the animal he seeks. Wearing the beautifully shaped and woven beavertails is just one of the ways the hunter pays respect to important game animals such as moose and caribou. 

When not in use, beavertail snowshoes are hung in a small the, usually a birch sapling cut for the purpose and placed in front of camp. The importance of the snowshoe within the traditional hunting culture of the Cree would be difficult to overemphasize, for without it, life in the frozen North would be impossible*

* Text and photo adaptations courtesy Henri Vaillancourt

Beavertail Snowshoe, 1992

Beavertail Snowshoe, 1995

Big Fancy Beavertails

Square-tail Beavertail Snowshoes, 1992

Old Beavertail Snowshoe at the Vilas County Historical Museum

Naskapi-Style Elbow Snowshoes

“Grandfather Pine” in the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness

 In the beginning, man did not exist. Then suddenly there was man, it is said. Who made man? We don’t know. When winter came, man made himself some snowshoes. “How am I going to do it?’ he wondered. He did not really know, but he cut down a birch tree and eventually made a frame. The following day he put in the bars and they were almost compete. “How will I do the lattice work?” he thought, for he had no woman to do it for him. He lay down in his tent to sleep and when he awoke in the morning he saw that his snowshoes had been partially laced. “Who could have laced my snowshoes while I was asleep? for there was no one around.

The next night he again lay down to sleep and in the morning he saw that a little more work had been done. “Now who has done this?” He looked up at the tent roof and saw a partridge fly away. “Ah! It must have been the partridge!” he thought. Again the next night the man went to sleep and at daybreak there were the snowshoes almost completely laced and again he glimpsed the partridge flying away. “I know what I shall do,” he said to himself. That evening he covered the top of the tent with a skin. Then he lay down to sleep. When he awoke the next morning the snowshoes were complete and were lying beside him. The partridge thought, I must fly away quickly,” but the tent top was blocked up and she could not escape.

The partridge was turned into a beautiful woman with long silky hair. The man and woman slept together, of course, and in time the had many children. We are their descendants.*

*A CHIPEWYAN CREATION STORY told to Father Emile Petitot (1838-1916) who recorded much of the oral history of the Makenzie River Athabascans.

Fancy Swallow-tail Snowshoe, 1992

Swallow Tail Snowshoes, 1995

Round Toe Snowshoe, 1995

“Dance of the Snowshoes”

Beaver’s New Shoes


~  Journey of Nishiyuu  ~



Quest for Unity for a Better Tomorrow, A Journey for Humanity, for Unity, Protection of Mother Earth and the Natural Kingdom, for Universal Balance and Harmony


From Northern Quebec, Six Youth, with one guide, are walking from Whapmagoostui, Qc to Ottawa, Ont and will arrive at Parliament Hill. This is to show to the People of the World, including other First Nations, that the Cree Nation of Quebec are keepers of their language, culture, tradition and more importantly, still carry the sacred laws of their ancestors. This Journey is to inspire all people to reclaim their roots and culture.


This Journey will re-establish and re-unite historical allies and restore traditional trade routes among the First Nations in hopes that this amplifies to all humanity to do the same. The time for unity is now.


Through unity and harmony, the Journey will revive the voices of “Anskuusheyuuch” (Ancestors). Their voices (through legends, stories of old, and life lessons) will be heard once more and with their guidance and strength, the Original Sacred Teachings will revive. This will create a powerful United Nations across Turtle Island and the World for a better future for all humanity.


“The Cree people have always been fierce warriors; they have always been the gatekeepers of the North. With many battles and disputes over the territory, we have never surrendered our land to no nation, not now, not ever. As foretold the 7th generation is rising with the guidance of the “Anskuusheyuuch”. In unity, in harmony and in peace, the Earth Walkers, the beings put here on earth (Nishiyuu), are there to protect all of Chisamanitou’s (Creator’s) creation.”




The Journey



























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