Birch Bark Covering
The birch bark covering involves a lot more work than the hide. In the past, birch bark was gathered in the woods whenever the opportunity arose, not necessarily during the time of the construction of the dwelling. The covering requires four materials: Birch bark strips, tree roots, tree gum and fish oil. The men gathered the birch bark while the women produced the roots and tree gum.
Tree root preparation:
- Roots about half an inch in diameter are gathered.
- The roots are thrown into the fire. They are taken out and cut in half just before they burn.
- The roots are then cut into two more halves, producing four strips of string. The middle part of the root is removed – only the outside is used. Place the roots that are to be used in hot water.
To sew the birch bark together, make small holes along the edge of the bark. Two strips of “string” are used such that both pass through the same hole, but from opposite sides of the bark. After sewing the birch bark, there are always small openings in the stitches through rainwater may leak. Tree gum is applied to the stitches to fill in the holes.
Tree gum preparation:
- Gum is scraped off trees and placed in a container.
- The container is heated until the gum gets very hot and liquefies.
- The liquid is poured into a sack with small holes. The sack is twisted until pure gums leaks through the holes.
- The pure gum is poured into another container and boiled for a long time.
- After a while fish oil (preferably whitefish, pike or sturgeon) is mixed with the boiling tree gum.
- A certain amount of fish oil is needed in the mixture for it to do a good job of filling in the holes. If the mixture is wrong, it won't stick. So it is repeatedly tested. To do this, the mixture is spread onto a flat surface (birch bark) and dunked into cold water until it hardens. Once it hardens, a rock is rubbed against the mixture. If it comes off, it is not ready. This procedure is repeated until the mixture sticks to the flat surface after rubbing it with a rock. Once it is applied to the stitches, it never comes off.