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fleshing tool

Catalogue number: III-B-79

Name (English): fleshing tool

Name (French): instrument d'écharnage

Name (Innu): mitshikun

Culture: Barren Ground Innu

Institution: The Rooms, Provincial Museum Division

Place made: unknown

Maker: displayed as example of Naskapi skin preparing tools

Collector: unknown

Date Collected: unknown

Description: leshing tool consisting of carved humped handle cut at one end for attachment of blade and grooved at other end for carrying strap. Strap is a narrow skin thong (approximately 22 long) looped around groove and knotted at end. Bone blade (approx. 4 long, 1.75 wide) joined to handle by thonging.

Innu narrative: I learned how to use the scraper by watching my mother. My father made it for her. The scraper is made of a silver spoon and it is flattened then sharpened at the round edge. A knife is then used to make teeth around the flattened spoon. It is sharpened after a wooden handle is put on it, and a very strong string is used to attach the blade to the handle. The scraper is wrapped in a cloth so that it does not get dull - Shimun Michel.

The scraper is also used to clean the pelts of other animals such as beaver, otter, mink and martin. It is a very good tool to use for cleaning caribou hide and pelts - Manian (Ashini) Michel.

It's made out of wood. It's supposed to be for caribou hide - mishiue - Pinashue Benuen.

This is mishikun - Munik (Gregoire) Rich.

Other info: "Prior to the removal of flesh and fat from a fresh caribou skin, the frozen and often bloody skin was thawed out in warm water. It was then placed hair side down over a short post. A woman hacked off meat and fat with a fleshing tool, of which there are 11 examples in the collection, representing two basic types. The type 1 fleshing tools, seven in number, have large, bulbous wooden handles to provide added weight and driving power...Five specimens have spatulate-shaped steel blades with serrated edges inserted into the split distal end of the handle. The blades of two fleshers are lashed with strips of tanned caribou skin... another two are wrapped with cloth and lashed with babiche" - VanStone (1985:21-22).

"To remove the adherent particles on the flesh side of the skin a peculiar instrument has been devised. The tibia, or large bone of the hind leg of the reindeer, is used for this purpose...If the leg of a deer is not convenient a wooden handle shaped like the long handle of a mortising chisel is fashioned, and to it is affixed the metal point by means of stout lashings...Around the upper portion of the wooded shaft a notch or groove is cut, and in this is tied a stout thong in such manner as to form a lop to prevent the hand from slipping down the smooth bone when the blow is struck. The manner of using this instrument is peculiar and effective. The skin is thrown, with the flesh side up, over a stake 2 or 3 feet high driven firmly into the ground. A blow is given with the tool which separates the subcutaneous tissue, and by rightly directed blows this may be separated from the skin entire. The skin is then laid aside for further working" - Turner (1979[1894]:130).

References: Lucien M. Turner. 1979[1894]. Indians and Eskimos in the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula. Quebec: Presses COMEDITEX. James W. VanStone. 1985. Material Culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi: the William Duncan Strong Collection. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. Fieldiana, Anthropology New Series No.7.