Forms of Transportation
The Métis used dogs, horses and oxen to pull a variety of carts, wagons, toboggans and sleighs. Horses, obtained by trading were also used for riding and hunting. In the winter, dogs pulled toboggans made from willow frames and covered with a west rawhide that was shaped over the frame and left to freeze. In the spring when the rawhide thawed, it was cut up for mending snowshoes and other uses.
Horses were also used to pull toboggans and the elaborate and showy carioles which were used for pleasure only. The runners of the cariole were made from birch wood that had been carefully chosen, cut, boiled and shaped. The frame was also made of birch wood, usually carved; and the edges were trimmed with bright ribbons or wool woven into a braid. When the seat had been fitted in, fur robes were laid over it. With the horse's harness polished and decorated with bells and ribbons, it made a very handsome rig.
The Métis made snowshoes from young peeled saplings that were boiled to make them pliable for shaping. Once shaped, the wood was notched and tied with rawhide thongs. The inside of the frame was made by the women with wet rawhide, which became taut when dry. The snowshoes were secured to the feet with rawhide thongs. Métis also explored Canada's waterways through the use of the York boat.
Red River Cart
The most famous of Métis vehicles was the Red River Cart. It was made entirely of wood and its various parts were bound together with wet rawhide, which became as hard as iron when it dried. The wheels were dish-shaped so that their broad rims did not cut deeply into the soil. Resting on the axle was a box on which the goods to be transported were carried. The cart would be used as a barge when rivers had to be crossed simply by removing the wheels, attaching them under the axle and box and encasing everything in buffalo skins so that it floated like a raft.
The cart carried a load of about one thousand pounds. Oxen could pull this weight for a distance of twenty miles a day. Being entirely made from such readily obtained materials as rawhide and wood, it was easily repaired but they were tremendously noisy. The sound of a thousand wooden carts rumbling over the prairies was deafening. Many of Canada's highways have been built over old Red River Cart trails.
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