An animal’s horn was fashioned as “a bottle” to hold a product which the Indian prized very, very highly – the castoreum of the beaver, a very peculiar, musk-smelling material from a pair of glands of the beaver. The trapper smeared some of the oil of it on the trap to mask the man-smell or sprinkled some on the ground around the trap because animals were lured to it; the beaver being a defenseless pray and much relished by predators – if they could catch him.
One bone tool used here was the harpoon used for spearing beavers in their houses in the winter or launching at them as they emerged. A handle four or five feet long was lashed to the head. Several bone or horn implements were used in curing hides. These are the fat-scraper, the hair-scraper, the bone awl and the skin-scraper.
The fat scraper was a rather dished piece of bone like the shoulder blade of the caribou, thinned at the edge. Used with the hollow side uppermost, the fat blood and shreds of flesh were lifted off and deposited in a bark vessel close by.
The hair scraper was made from the tibia, a bone in the foreleg of a deer or moose. The end was rounded and sometimes toothed, because moose hair is firmly seated in the skin and resists scraping. Some scrapers were made of a bear’s bone. Sometimes a piece of buckskin wrapped around the handhold helped the grip. The Crees today fasten a thong of leather that passes around the arm to brace the implement for greater strength.
A splinter of bone, with a hole drilled in the larger end, was the woman’s needle until the traders came. Her steel needle, which replaced it, was a treasure to be carefully kept in the skin bag along with her medicines.
For making holes in birch bark or skin, awls were used. Any smallish animal bones that has a knob on the end like the smaller leg bone of a caribou or bear. The knobbed end would protect the palm of the user. The shaft of the bone, sharpened to a point, made the hole.
A curious bone artifact is used when trapping beaver in the old way, by means of nets in winter. The hunter first finds the beaver’s underwater trail to the food supply by listening carefully through the ice with a caribou horn. The hunter then cuts a hole in the ice and hung the net across the trail under water. A stick is set upright nearby to which a little rattle or bell is fastened. The side ropes of the net are fastened to the stick. Then the hunter breaks in the roof of the beaver lodge. If the harpoon does not capture the animal, it dashes off down its trail to become caught in the net. The sound of the rattle or bells will tell the hunter that his prey is caught.
A piece of bone known as a mas is an essential part of a “set”. The side strings of the net are passed through the hole in the mas before being attached to the upright stick. When the strings are pulled up the lower end of the net is caught up to form a sort of bag by which the animal can be brought up. The mas is frequently carved into some form of lucky or symbolical shape.