Wahdoo Tehmi: Long-Ago People's Packsack


48 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-660-19248-9
DDC 745.53'1'08997207193




Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


The babiche bag was an expandable netted caribou thong bag that was
lightweight, easily compressible, and could hold various sizes of items
such as game, fish, and other resources. It was an ideal carryall for
mobile hunters and gatherers and was made from indigenous materials
including caribou, rawhide, porcupine quills, and sinew. After the
introduction of the fur trade, wool and ribbon pieces in various
patterns were added to the bags. By the 1930s, the use of these bags had
steadily declined, as had much of the knowledge about how to make them.

Wahdoo Tehmi is divided into three parts: the first provides a general
history of the babiche bag, the second describes the logistics of
setting up a babiche-making workshop, and the third illustrates the
making of the babiche bags. The authors’ objective is apparently to
revitalize Native interest in babiche bag making. Following a brief
introduction to the history and ethnography of babiche making, the
reader is shown several photographs of the bags and of Dene elders being
instructed in workshops about how to make them. While there are some
pictures of babiche bags from museum collections, these are
insufficiently presented or explained to make any educated comparisons
as to style or historical changes.

The volume appears to contribute little more than superficial
information about babiche bags. Certainly, the basics of how to make the
bags are provided, but this is not a step-by-step how-to book. The
untutored reader could not make babiche bags based on the descriptions
provided or use it as a scholarly resource. Although the cover of the
book describes Wahdoo Tehmi as an ethnology paper, which suggests that
it provides some ethnographic value, it is unclear how it fits that


Marie, Suzan, and Judy Thompson., “Wahdoo Tehmi: Long-Ago People's Packsack,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/14621.