The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment’s NWT Arts Program held the 3rd annual Sealebration Workshop from February 28-March 1, 2022 in Inuvik, NT. This workshop was open to Indigenous artists, registered in the NWT Arts Program, who work with seal. There was no cost to participate, and all materials and supplies were provided to the artists.

Eight Indigenous artists from three communities (Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Yellowknife) took part in this five-day workshop. Participants included:

Elizabeth Arey, Tuktoyaktuk
Cathy Cockney, Inuvik
Taalrumiq Christina King, Tuktoyaktuk
Inuk Trennert, Yellowknife
Eliza Firth, Inuvik
Eliana Joe, Inuvik
Eleanor Elias, Inuvik
Peggy Day, Inuvik

The workshop was held at the Midnight Sun Recreating Complex and was instructed by Master furrier, Panagiotis (Panos) Panagiotidis, from Fur Canada. Panos has taught at the Fur School of Kastoria in Greece and has three decades of experience in the fur trade, in Europe and now in Canada. The workshop curriculum focused on skin grading, blocking, pattern design, and using a fur sewing machine and an industrial sewing machine.

NWT Arts also presented their eight workshop video series NWT Arts Workshop Series: Selling Your Art. This workshop series was developed to help NWT Artists to learn about the different ways that are available to sell their artwork. Participants learned about pricing artwork, the importance of creating an artist portfolio, marketing, and how to sell their artwork.

An industrial sewing machine and a fur sewing machine were purchased using the project budget. These two machines, as well as the tools below were gifted to the Town of Inuvik. They will be housed in the new facility currently under construction in Chief Jim Koe Park, the Inuvik Welcome Centre. The Inuvik Welcome Centre will be a combination space of both a covered, but open-air wood & beam promenade adjacent to an enclosed visitor reception building that is set to have visual and digital displays for visitor and residents. Also included in this space is a small multi-purpose community room to be used for workshops, meetings, and presentations. These two machines will become part of the offering to community residents, artists and crafters to use, access, and demonstrate throughout the year.

The Town of Inuvik received:
• Techew fur sewing machine
• Jukki industrial sewing machine
• French curve ruler
• Metallic ruler in inuvik –
• Dress Making shears
• Chalk x 3 black, grey, red
• Tracer
• Fur comb
• Blocking plyer
• Round staple remover
• Variety of needles/threads
• Jacquard fabrics

Each participant received a sewing kit that contained:
• French curve ruler
• Metallic ruler
• Dress Making shears
• Furrier knife w blades
• Professional grade needles for hand sewing
• Chalk x3 black, grey, red
• Tracer
• Fur comb

NWT Arts was also able to donate a sewing kit to the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation (TCC) who has a fur sewing machine for artists in the community to use.

At the end of the workshop, each participant filled out an NWT Arts Workshop Survey. The feedback was incredibly positive. The only negative comments were that the workshop wasn’t long enough and that it went by too quickly.

Participant feedback from Taalrumiq Christina King:
“It was wonderful, educational, and life-changing in regards to my work. I learned so much that I look forward to putting into practice.”

Canada’s First Nations have been harvesting fur for 4,000 years. Artwork: Tom Sewid.

A fresh opportunity is coming soon for future designers to receive a holistic education on working with fur, against a backdrop of its cultural and historical importance to British Columbia’s Indigenous First Nations.

The Learning Hub of Education and Design School will be held in Alert Bay on the ‘Namgis Indigenous First Nations Traditional Territory of Vancouver Island. It’s a product of a partnership among BC’s First Nations, Pacific Balance Marine Management Inc., and Nanaimo-based FurCanada. The ultimate aim of this partnership is to re-establish sealing and the fur trade as an important player in the economy of BC, where commercial sealing ended in the early 1970s. The Learning Hub executive would like to thank the ‘Namgis First Nations for sponsoring this program.

Pacific Balance Marine Management Inc. is a First Nations group pushing for a license to sell pinniped products, including furs, human and pet food, and seal oil. FurCanada, which will organise the Learning Hub, is a fur manufacturing company in Nanaimo specialising in luxurious home décor, including blankets, pillows, floor coverings, garments, furniture and accessories. It is also known for its museum-quality taxidermy mounts.

FurCanada CEO and president Calvin Kania had hoped to welcome the inaugural batch of students this March, but Covid-19 has pushed the launch back to at least November. Once the green light is given to proceed, 25 students will engage in 10 days of intensive study, with all materials, tools, machinery, accommodation, meals, transportation, field trips and instructors covered by a nominal fee of $500 per head. Prior experience will not be a factor in the selection process, but prospective participants must demonstrate a genuine interest in learning about fur, including its history.

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“Harvesting and trading fur and other gifts of nature is our inherent right since ancient times, not a privilege to be bartered or revoked!”

As Indigenous trappers and traditional trapline holders, we can no longer remain silent about self-appointed “animal rights” activists who think they have a right to spread lies about the fur trade and call on politicians to ban the production or sale of fur products.

The latest example of this vicious and misleading campaigning is a recent call by animal activists for the Canadian Government to ban mink farming, after mink on two BC farms tested positive for COVID-19.  While mink farming is not a tradition in our culture, we oppose this attack on small family-run farms and on rural communities where the majority of Indigenous harvesters live.  And we are not naïve: we understand that this attack on mink farming is just the latest weapon in an orchestrated plan to turn the public against any use of fur – a campaign that directly attacks our culture and inherent rights as Indigenous First Nations peoples of Canada. We call this for what it is: Cultural Genocide.

The fur trade played a central role in Canada’s history, it’s the most important part of our Cultural Identity; our people were harvesting and trading furs long before Europeans ever set foot on our eastern shores. The harvesting and sale of fur still provides income for many First Nations communities throughout Canada. Beavers, muskrats, and other furbearing animals also provide nutritious food for many hunters and their families. The respectful harvesting of fur and food from abundant wildlife populations is central to our relationship with the land – a relationship that the federal and provincial governments are legally mandated to protect.

Let us be crystal clear: the goal of animal activists – including those now calling for a ban on mink farming –is to destroy all markets for fur, to further their own ideological agenda. In doing so, they are directly attacking our right to responsibly harvest and trade nature’s gifts, which is our inherent right, a right recognized by Supreme Court of Canada and by the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

It is doubly unfortunate that animal activists seek to mislead the public and the government about fur at a time when Canadians seek to live in better harmony with nature.  Furs are sustainably produced, long-lasting, and biodegradable, natural clothing material. It is the Honest Fabric.  By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are generally made from petroleum, a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and polluting resource.

Indigenous people have respected and protected the survival of the animal populations upon which we depend since time immemorial. Our message today to self-appointed “animal rights” extremists and their celebrity cheerleaders is this: Your misguided attacks on the fur trade are not “progressive”; they are attacks on indigenous people. Your uninformed and misguided truths must stop NOW! 

We take this opportunity to remind the Government of Canada, and their provincial and municipal counterparts, that fur trapping, trading, displaying and selling fur is our Inherent Right, not a privilege to be bartered or trifled with. You are responsible for protecting these rights!

Furthermore, you cannot make any changes in policy or legislation concerning the responsible harvesting, production, displaying, selling or bartering fur products without full consultation and consent from Indigenous people, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

We will no longer remain silent while self-appointed urban activists attack our cultural traditions and livelihoods.  It is time you showed some respect for Indigenous fur harvesters and our fur trade partners.

We call on all Canadians to say “No!” to the lies and cultural discrimination and “No” to Intolerance from the anti-fur groups.  It’s time to take a stand.   Fur trappers of the Coast Salish, Haida, Cree, Metis, Dene, Inuit to name a few, come from Indigenous Communities across Canada.

We ask Canadians to support Indigenous fur trappers / harvesters by buying and wearing Canadian Fur. 

Thank you.

Signed by Indigenous Fur Trappers & Supporters.

– Chief Roy Jones – Haida Gwaii First Nations

  Tel: 778 840 7897  Email: cheexial@gmail.com

– Chief Brian Wadhams – Trapper Namgis First Nations

   Tel: 250 974 4904 Email: brianwadhams@hotmail.com

– Karen Dunstan – Lytton First Nation Member, Trapper & Director, BC Trappers Assoc.

  Email: karen.m.dunstan@gmail.com

– Thomas Sewid Kwakwaka’wakw/Cree Pacific Balance Marine Management   

Email: tom.sewid@gmail.com