37 years ago this month, the Mi’kmaq band council in the central Newfoundland town of Glenwood began operating a smoke tannery. A Gander Beacon article about the official opening is transcribed below. It was published on Oct. 5, 1983 on pages 1 and 6. Neither the writer nor photographer are named.
Indian Band Council officially opens tannery
The Glenwood Indian Band Council held the official opening of their Traditional Smoke Tannery last week and is proud of the fact that it is the only one of its kind in the whole world.
Among the special guests attending the ceremonies were Mrs. Hazel Newhook, MHA for Gander; Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians; and Bob Stares, manager of Canadian Employment Immigration Commission (CEIC) at Gander.
Mrs. Newhook cut the rawhide strip which was used instead of the traditional ribbon to officially open the facilities. She was assisted by Larry Jeddore, chief of the Glenwood Indian Band Council, and Bob Stares, manager of CEIC. Despite the wet weather conditions at the time, everyone enjoyed the tour of the tannery, especially watching the employees dehair moose hide in preparation for tanning. The smoke house was in operation at the time and a display of handcrafted products were on display so the guests could see first-hand the type of items that will be possible from tanned moose and caribou hide.
After a tour of the facilities guests were treated to a luncheon-style buffet, including cold roast moose meat, turkey, salads and desserts, which was prepared by the women of the Indian Band Council.
Mrs. Newhook was the guest speaker at the luncheon and congratulated the Band Council on their success of such a unique venture also in securing government funding through CEIC for buildings, equipment and training purposes. She said the provincial government helped in a small way through the Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth by collecting moose and caribou hides from all across the province and making them available to the tannery free of cost. She also expressed a desire to obtain a couple of leather products that she is interested in, and says she looks forward to being able to purchase those in future from the tannery. In her closing remarks she explained that the key to the success of the industry would be in marketing the finished product and wished the Indian Band Council best wishes in their plans for expansion to include a craft shop.
Mr. Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, added humor to the celebrations when his remarks included a joke which involved Chief Larry Jeddore. On a more sober note he congratulated the Band Council on their success thus far explaining this was a historic occasion but as such was not unique to the Micmac Indians of Newfoundland. He went on to explain that Buchans mines and the town itself was founded by a Micmac Indian, M. Mitchell. In elaborating on the contribution of the Micmac Indians to the province of Newfoundland, Mr. White said every able-bodied Micmac in the province offered themselves in service for their country during World War I, and those who were too old for service during the Second World War saw their sons follow suit. He also commented on the role the Micmacs played in the forest industry when conditions in the woods were so bad that the white men refused to work, he said, “burnt beans and sour bologna didn’t daunt the Micmac, because he loved the forest…, it was his home!”
Mr. White also said that this new industry is crucial to the town of Glenwood right now, especially since Bowater has left the area in such a state. He said the Band Council will not leave the area to find work but will strive to promote this industry, and will make a contribution by staying here. However, says Mr. White, the viability of this operation is in jeopardy unless the provincial and federal governments support the Indian people as they do the Newfoundland fishermen. He says they need a chance to prove what they’ve undertaken here, and they need to be encouraged to strengthen their communications while playing a leading role in the economy of this province.
Roger John, representing the Atlantic Regional Indian Arts and Crafts Association, spoke briefly at the luncheon wishing the Indian Band Council good luck for their future success. He says, “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here!” He explained that the next step would revolve around the retail end of the industry. He said this needs a serious look because “we’re taking the leading role by the fact that this has never been done before and we have no data base to draw information from. It will take six months to one year to work out a production system and already there are buyer offers from outside the province.” Saskatchewan has approached the council with an offer to buy 200,000 square feet of tanned leather, but, he says, revenue is necessary to make the whole thing a success and he hopes that funding agencies will recognize the potential of this project. He suggested that governments stand by the program for at least another year and help it develop the way it could.
Mr. Bob Stares, manager of CEIC in Gander, was the last speaker at the luncheon and he congratulated the Band Council on their efforts thus far and wished them every success in the future. He says he was glad to have shared in the venture and looks forward to watching them grow into a viable industry.