Edmonton

Goodwill plans to preserve sealskin coat donated to Edmonton thrift store

A rare sealskin coat dropped off at Goodwill Alberta's location on Whyte Avenue last week will be preserved for its historical significance.

'This is something we have never come across at our locations,' marketing manager says

A sealskin coat was dropped off at Goodwill Industries of Alberta's Whyte Avenue thrift shop in Edmonton. (Goodwill Industries of Alberta)

A sealskin coat dropped off at Goodwill Alberta's location on Whyte Avenue last week will be preserved for its historical significance.

Staff have no idea who donated the coat or where it came from, but knew it was a significant item, said marketing manager Doug Roxburgh. The tag reads "Holman, N.W.T. Handmade by Eskimos."

"This is something we have never come across at our locations," Roxburgh said. "We've been in operation since 1963 as Goodwill Industries of Alberta."

Trained staff  research almost every product that comes in, he said, and recognized a one-of-a-kind item.

To learn more about the coat, Goodwill created a social media post asking for help.

"People had been reaching out, honestly, from Yukon, from the Northwest Territories, from Edmonton, from Calgary, basically from all over Western and Northern Canada, because this is one of those items that you do not see every day."

Some correspondents wanted to buy the coat, but Goodwill Alberta intends to preserve and showcase it.

Goodwill provides training and employment for people with disabilities, and is funded by revenue raised through its thrift stores.

"Sometimes the right thing to do is the right thing to do," Roxburgh said. "And while we're serving one group we can also serve the rest of our community, and the Inuit and Métis communities, and respect that culture."

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Roxburgh said he has been in contact with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a museum and archive in Yellowknife, N.W.T.

Holman Co-op in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., started making sealskin coats in the early 1960s, he said, and those made in the 1960s and 1970s had similar tags to the one Goodwill found.

While the coat may not be unique it is rare to find one in such good condition.

Roxburgh has also contacted the University of Calgary to see if they're interest in the coat for an exhibit.

In 2018, an Ontario couple donated a sealskin parka to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

That coat is being used to document the history of Ulukhaktok and the Holman Co-op, which still exists but no longer has a fur shop.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Travis McEwan

Videojournalist

Travis McEwan is an award-winning video journalist. Originally from Churchill, Man., he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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