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The Subarctic A vast area – approximately 2,000,000 square miles that includes most of interior Alaska and Canada. The Region Mobility and adaptability have always been essential to survival. Survival is dependent upon the abundance and seasonal migration patterns of animals. The Environment Predominant features are barren tundra to the north and dense forests to the south. There are also areas of open woodlands and swamps, mountains, river valleys, and lakes. Winters are long and bitterly cold, with limited daylight, heavy snowfalls and piercing winds. Summer is short, humid and warm. The Lifestyle Food resources can be unpredictable and so an integral relationship between humans and animals developed. Animals provide food and raw materials in the form of hides for shelter and clothing, bone and horn for tools, sinew for thread and bowstrings – and nearly all other materials were obtained from the forests. The lifestyle encouraged self-reliance. The People Children learn very early, the skills necessary for survival in such extreme climates. Change has come quickly to traditional life, the ramifications still being experienced today. A strong mixture of utilitarian and ceremonial items have been made for centuries, to promote survival of the people and the culture. Subarctic Artists Many traditional artforms continue to be made today in the subarctic region. Beadwork traditions are strong and are often used to decorate ceremonial clothing as well as items for everyday use. Subarctic Artforms Some individuals became accomplished for particular techniques and materials – and their efforts and artistry are continuously sought by other members of the community. Contact with outside cultures brought tremendous change in goods and raw materials. Beaded pouches show both floral and geometric patterns… Colors were often obtained through ability rather than choice… Beaded Hat & Gloves Wood and Bark People relied on the forests for building shelters: Log houses, pole frames covered with skin or bark …and for transportation: Sleds, Toboggans, Snowshoes, Canoes …for hunting and fishing equipment: …for dishes, ladles, and serving utensils Innovations often meant survival. Some artforms are familiar variations, others are new and unique… Skindressing Among the Chippewa, a complete set of winter clothes for an individual could take as many as 11 caribou hides Acquiring, processing, and tanning animal hides is arduous work, requiring many hours: De-hairing (for summer clothes) Repeated scraping, soaking, stretching and rubbing with animal fat and brains Smoking over a smoldering fire for waterproofing Clothing is adaptable to the environment for survival. Quill and Hair Embroidery Quills include porcupine and split bird quills Hair included moose and caribou Colors were used in their natural state or dyed using plant and mineral sources Moosehair Embroidery and Tufting Beads, quillwork, and moosehair embroidery adorned just about everything… Beads adorned all clothing items, including moccasins and mukluks. Varied climates produced a variety of footwear from simple moccasin styles, to complicated boots. Beaded items.. Birchbark working is common. Birchbark is often embellished with embroidery, beadwork, and quillwork… Traditions continue… Quill and beadwork traditions continue to be paramount in subarctic tribes today.
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