Pikwakanagan's harvesters have accumulated years of trapping and hunting experience, but most importantly they have shared their experiences with many others, keeping this ancient skill alive here in our community for future generations.
Approximately 19 trap-lines are located inside Algonquin Park for trapping by the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan. Trappers and their helpers work these trap-lines. The average age of a trapper here is 50 years old.
This is the basics of trapping:
1. You have to maintain your harvest or next year there won't be any
2. Trapping is not a high paying career in fact it barely pays at all, so don't expect to get rich
3. The work all begins after the trapping is complete.
Our community has a number of trappers and one of them is Anthony (August) Commanda. Many trappers and hunters from Pikwakanagan learned the skills of the trade from this accomplished trapper and hunter.
Cliff explains that with the limited quotas and trapline numbers that the Ministry of Natural Resources permits, regional trappers could not make a living off of trapping the 19 fur bearing species. Trappers don’t make an hourly wage and must spend vast amounts of time setting, checking and preparing traps, as well as skinning and cleaning skins.
Dave Hall volunteered his time and tools to spend several hours demonstrating hide tanning skills to a school that visited the community to learn the art of hide tanning. The students learned about the tools and techniques of hide tanning and had the opportunity to work on a prepared hide. Dave supplied a deer hide previously stretched and tied onto a wooden frame. He then demonstrated the removal of the fur from the deer hide with the use of a scraper. He gave the students and teachers the opportunity to help scrape the hide clean. He then explained the entire procedure for tanning a hide to produce a soft and pliable skin.
To process a beaver pelt Ed begins by making a slit around each paw and the tail to deftly remove the pelt from the beaver. The skinless beaver is covered in a thin layer of fat. August explains, "You can tell how tough the winter was by how thick the layer of fat is. If they have a lot of fat, it has been a good winter with lots of food for the beaver."