Game Bag

This game bag, used to carry pelts of small mammals, is made from woven rawhide, known as babiche, and smoked caribou hide

Written by Amelia Fay

July 15, 2019

A bag with tassels

This game bag, used to carry pelts of small mammals, is made from woven rawhide, known as babiche, and smoked caribou hide. The fine netting allows snow and moisture to escape, which prevents the bag from getting soaked as game is loaded into it to be carried along traplines and through hunting grounds.

Many game bags are nicely decorated with painted babiche, yarn tassels, and, sometimes, embroidery and beadwork. Like many artifacts in the HBC Collection, we do not know who made this bag, but we know who collected it, roughly where they obtained it, and when they did so.

Captain Frederick Mayhew gathered items including clothing, tools, and archaeological pieces, which he likely collected on his journey down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic as part of a Hudson’s Bay Company brigade in 1913.

During this trip, Mayhew visited Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan, Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution, Fort Simpson, and Fort Good Hope. He wrote about the weather, what he ate on a given day, the objects he collected, and the people he met during his travels.

In 1961, his widow donated the 209 objects Mayhew collected, along with his journals and maps, to the HBC Collection.

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Amelia Fay is the curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the August-September 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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