Curator of Cultural Anthropology
For the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of Treaty Number One, three Treaty medals from the Manitoba Museum will be on display at Lower Fort Garry. Although these medals were used by Canada to acknowledge promises made by the Crown to First Nations people in Treaty negotiations, they also reveal a history of First Nations protocols, diplomacy, and political advocacy at a difficult time.
The gift of medals to honour mutual obligations in Manitoba began with the fur trade. The first HBC Chief’s medal was created in 1776 by Thomas Hutchins, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Chief Factor at Albany who found that among the Ininiwak who lived on the edge of Hudson’s Bay, there was an expectation that medals would be offered. Hutchins told the Governor of the company that “ … medals also are
much esteemed amongst them if large, and if presented with ceremony when the Calimut [Calument or Pipe] is smoaked[sic], will be not only deemed a mark of distinction but perhaps be a means of binding the Leaders more securely in your Interest.” (quoted in Carter 2004). During and after the war of 1812, many First Nations leaders in Canada and the US were presented with medals featuring
King George III in thanks for fighting with the British against the United States. By the time negotiations for the Numbered Treaties were initiated, medals were part of a 200 year long First Nations history of Treaty making and had been used to secure a range of mutual understandings, alliances, and friendships.
When we talk about Treaty Number One, the image which comes to mind is the famous handshake medal shown here, but in fact this is not the medal that was offered in August 1871 when Treaty Number One was finalized. If you look carefully, you will see that this medal is dated 1873.
The Treaty Commissioners who arrived from Ottawa in 1871 to negotiate Treaty Number One seem to have underestimated the importance of the gift of medals as a gesture of good faith and reassurance to First Nations leaders because the first medal they presented to the chiefs in 1871 was a smallish silver medal with an oak leaf wreath on one side and a standard image of the young Queen Victoria on the other. The medal was chosen from the existing stock of generic medals made by J.S. & A.B. Wyon of London, England. It was small, thin, and made no overt reference to the momentous nature of the Treaties it was meant to signify. The Chiefs who participated in the negotiations that year thought it looked a little too much like a prize at an agricultural fair, and after seven days of negotiations and months of preparation on the part of First Nations leaders, this non-descript Treaty medal seemed to the Chiefs to be an inadequate gesture. As an expression of intent, this generic medal must have worried the Chiefs because it left a feeling that Canada was not taking to heart the enormous implications of the Treaties.
The Treaty Commissioners, having registered the rebuff, returned to negotiations in 1872 with a much more dramatic medal. It was very large, 95 millimeters (almost 4 inches) in diameter, and was based on the medal struck to celebrate Canadian Confederation. The center circle has an image of Imperial Britannia as a Roman matron with a lion resting his chin on her lap and the four founding provinces, as Roman maidens, each hold a shovel, axe, paddle or scythe illustrating their province’s economic possibilities. Surrounding this Confederation image, the medal maker, a Canadian silversmith Robert Hendry of Montreal, added an 11-millimeter band which declared, on one side, “INDIANS OF THE NORTH WEST TERRITORIES,” and on the other – the side with the image of a slightly older Queen Victoria – “DOMINION OF CANADA / CHIEFS MEDAL 1872.” This medal was initially welcomed by the chiefs until it became apparent that it had been struck in copper and merely electroplated with a thin coat of silver. The Anishinaabemowin word for silver is zhooniyaawaabik, literally ‘money metal,’ and it matters if it is pure. When the silver began to peel and rub off, the Chiefs judged this medal a very shallow gesture on behalf of the Crown.
By the summer of 1873, the chiefs were restive, most particularly because oral promises made at the time of the first signing were not being written down on the Treaty documents, but also in protest that the 1872 medal had been yet another inadequate signifier of the sincerity of Canada’s promises. So it was in the summer of 1873 that the now famous 99 per cent pure silver medal with the handshake was commissioned. Like the first medal, this one was made in London, England, by J.S. & A.B. Wyon. The front features a bust of Queen Victoria and the inscription “VICTORIA REGINA.” The inscription on the reverse side reads:
“INDIAN TREATY N°. – and the date 187- .” The spaces were deliberately left blank and were incised with the Treaty number and date at the moment of concluding each successive Treaty. The handshake medal was used until Queen Victoria’s death, by which time relationships had taken such a negative turn that a hollow bronze medal with Edward VII on the back was accepted with little comment.
The handshake medal has come to resonate powerfully with First Nations peoples for the promise it holds, for the idea that a respectful relationship with the Crown will be restored. But the handshake medal is still a product of the 1870s, designed in London by an engraver who had never been to Canada and had certainly never met a Treaty Chief.
The fully clothed figure on the left side of the medal, a representative of the Queen, resembles no one more than the Prince of Wales, later King George V, although the uniform is controversial. But with Queen Victoria on the back and someone who looks like the Prince on the front, the medal is a graphic confirmation that the Treaty relationship is between the Crown of England and First Nations. The bare-chested, feather-skirted Chief, on the other hand, is problematic. Photographs of Treaty events in 1873 show crowds of men dressed in suits and it is actually quite hard to pick out the Treaty Commissioner and his party unless they are up on a dias or have a chair to sit on, because everyone present is dressed the same. The chief on the medal does not seem to bear any relation to the First Nations leaders who made Treaty Number One. The adjacent photo is of Chief Gaagige Binesi, Forever Thunderbird, also known as William Mann Sr. who negotiated Treaty Number One on behalf of Sagkeeng First Nation. The large photo, taken and printed in the 1870s, shows Chief Gaagige Binesi wearing the original Treaty Number One Chief’s coat he received in 1871. Five generations of the Mann family looked after this photo. In 2012, 140 years after it had been taken, Ted Mann brought the photo to the Manitoba Museum asking that it be used to tell the story of his famous ancestor and his role in the making of Treaty Number One. The image actively foregrounds a strong, confident Treaty Chief and provides a corrective to colonial imagery that patronizingly romanticises Indigenous peoples and undermines their authority.
And where did this strange Indigenous imagery come from? It is probable that the engraver at Wyon in London was using as a model, an American Peace medal from the American Revolutionary War when George Washington was President. There were many iterations of this American medal over the years, but the feather skirt and strange feathers persist.
The handshake Treaty Medal is a part of First Nations Treaty history and the gesture of the tentative handshake suggesting equity alludes to a British way of making a promise. First Nations people have a long history of holding the Crown to account for these promises. And if the inescapable implication of the Treaty Chiefs is that First Nations participants in Treaty-making were “noble” but naïve, and probably incapable of understanding Treaties or their implications, the photo of Chief Forever Thunderbird provides a strong counter narrative to the racist image of primitive naiveté; the portrait shows that the chiefs negotiating the treaty were wise and thoughtful political figures. The handshake medals, as signifiers of the Treaty relationship, like the Treaties themselves, hold both the promise of sincere reciprocity and the dangers of racist condescension.
Photo credit: George V. Camera Press/Globe Photos
 Others argue that the fact of the changes were made as the negotiations proceeded through each of the early numbered treaties – as new provisions for hunting rights, rights of occupation, and a medicine chest clause were added – is evidence that there was some significant degree of First Nations agency in the negotiations taking place. In an article looking at the change in view on Treaty No, 1, Hall cites the following historians: John Leonard Taylor (1975, 1979), Richard Price (1979), John Foster (1979), Hugh Dempsey (1978), and Chief John Snow (1977). See Hall who talks about the treaty negotiation during Treaty One HERE.
Jacob Owen of Pauingassi was always cheerfully willing to explain the complexities of Ojibwe history and philosophy with stories from his own life. Margaret Simmons, who conducted this interview, was the Director of Education in Pauingassi at the time. She is a warm and open person with a positive genius for respectfully conversing with old people and her unique talent made my visits to Pauingassi and over 300 hours of Anishinaabe language recordings possible. The equally brilliant and even more patient Anishinaabe linguist, Roger Roulette, has been gradually transcribing and translating the Pauingassi recordings. He just finished this one today and it contains a remarkable discussion In Anishinaabemowin about the old Anishinaabe and their skill at making pots out of clay.
Jacob was over 90 at the time of the interview, the oldest man in the community. He spoke very little English and had lived his whole life in Pauingassi. He most definitely had not read scholarly reports about archaeological discoveries of 500 year old clay pots made by his ancestors and yet, here he is, talking about how incredibly skillful his ancestors were at making these beautifully decorated pots. The conversation veers off after this, in part because Margaret, a very good modern speaker, doesn’t know the word for “clay, waabigan” but this short quote from Jacob’s conversation is an indication of the extent to which one can rely on First Nations oral historical accounts for the truth about the distant past. By the way, Roger says that the verb to fire a pot is zakizo (va) to burn an animate thing. The idea of a kiln is expressed in the verb boodawaash (ca) which means to superheat something animate.
|JO: Daabishkoo, gigikendaan ina ‘iwe gaa-ijigaadeg, aadizookaanag gaa-ijigaadeg?
|JO: It’s like…you know what they mean by that, what they mean by aadizookaanag (legendary heroes)?
|JO: Daabishkoo mii gaa-inendaagoziwaad igiweniwag Anishinaabeg nishtam gaa-gii-bimi-ayaawaad. Bigo gegoon gaye ogii-ozhitoonaawaa’. Wiinawaa bigo.||JO: The first Anishinaabeg that existed, this is what they’re comparable to (the legendary heroes). Also, they were able to make anything. They, themselves.
|Nashke aya’aa, akik. Waabigan gaa-onji-ayaawaad. I’iya’aawan nda gii-onizhishiwag. Eji-, eji debakamig gidaa-ikid e-gii-mookaakizowaad. Ndawaaj gii-onizhishiwag.
|For instance, a pot (vessel) (noun animate). They made them from clay. My, they were beautiful. You would have said they were incredible. The visible images (on the pots), undoubtedly, they were beautiful.|
|MS: Aaniin dino akikwag? Asiniiwi-akikwag?
|MS: What kind of vessel? Stone vessels?
|JO: Bibagiziwag. Gii-bibagiziwag. Waabigan daabishkoo. I’iwe dash waakaa-aya’ii gii-mazine’aawaad gaye, ndawaaj gii-onizhishiwag.||JO: They’re thin. They were thin. It was the nature of clay. However, they had images/patterns around (the pot). My, but they were beautiful.
|Zhigwa ayi’ii naanaagadawendamaan, awegodogwen gaa-omookomaaniwaad nishtam?
|Well, when I think about it, I wonder what they used for a knife (to incise the designs) at that time, at the outset?
This is an image of an original 1875 handwritten parchment document related to the signing of Treaty No. 4., the “Qu’appelle Treaty”, temporarily on display at the museum as part the “We are All Treaty People Exhibit”. Treaty No. 4 was originally concluded at Fort Qu’Appelle in 1874 but many Anishinaabe and Cree Chiefs were absent at the time. This fragile document sets out instructions for Treaty Commissioner William Christie to return to Fort Qu’Appelle in the summer of 1875 and ” secure the adhesion” of the remaining Chiefs.
Among those Chiefs was Piapot, one of the most famous and powerful leaders of the Plains Cree. He wanted a reserve for his people in the Cypress Hills region of what is now South-Western Saskatchewan. Christie misled Piapot about the terms of the Treaty, and Piapot’s band were forced to settle more than two hundred and eighty miles to the east. This document initiated a train of events which led to a decades long enmity between Canadian officials and the Plains Cree of Piapot’s band.
The text of the document follows:
Copy of a Report of a Committee of The Honourable The Privy Council
Approved by His Excellency The Administrator of the Government in Council on the 9th of July 1875.
A Memorandum dated 2nd of July, 1875, from, The Honourable the Minister of the Interior, respecting the Treaty concluded at Qu’Appelle in September last with the Cree, Saulteaux and other Indians mentioned therein, provides among other things, that reserves be selected for the Indians affected by the Treaty by Officers appointed for that purpose; that the said Treaty further provides , that annual payments should be made to the Chiefs, Headmen and Heads of Families of the various Tribes , and also that presents of clothing and other articles shall be annually distributed among the different Bands included in the Treaty.
That it appears to him desirable that steps should be taken for the selection during the present season, of the Reserves in question and that for provision to be made at once for the payment of the annuities and distribution of Presents authorized to be distributed this year
The Minister also represents that in consequence of the absence of the Chiefs of certain of the Indian Bands affected by the said Treaty, their adhesion thereto has not as yet been obtained and thus it is important that they be brought into the Treaty as soon as practicable.
He therefore recommends:
That William Joseph Christie, Esquire of Brockville, Ontario with the assistance of persons as may be named for the purpose by the Minister of the Interior be appointed to select the Reserves where they shall be determined most convenient and advantageous for the Indians , each reserve to be selected as provided by the Treaty after conference with the Band of Indians interested therein and subject to the conditions set forth in the Treaty.
That the said, Mr. William Joseph Christie and the other person named as aforesaid by the Minister of the Interior to be authorized to pay the annuities and to distribute Clothing and other Presents authorized by the Qu’Appelle Treaty and secure the adhesion of the Bands of Indians living within the territory covered by the Treaty and who either from absence or any other cause, were not parties to the Treaty concluded last year.
The Committee submit the foregoing recommendation for your excellency’s approval.
To The Honourable
The Minister of the Interior Etc, etc, etc }
Department of the Interior, Ottawa , 15 July 1875
W. J. Christie, Esquire [signed] Minister of the Interior
Parchment document HBC 1, Photo The Manitoba Museum
Pipe, H4-42-6A, Pipe Bag, H 4-4-21-76, and Treaty Medal, HBC 57-53, Photo The Manitoba Museum.
Today is National Anthropology Day and as the Museum’s Anthropologist, I have been participating in a number of public events. Most recently I assisted with one of three winning designs in this year’s Warming Huts Competition, organized annually by the University of Manitoba, School of Architecture. This entry, Recycled Words, is the work of KANVA, a team of young architects in Montreal. These are the ski/chairs you see down on the Riverwalk, each painted a bright salmon pink with two words stenciled on each so that at rest the chairs can be used like fridge-magnet words to create little sentences. My contribution was the words on the chairs. Because we could use so few words and because the idea was to combine them to make little thoughts, I made up a list of words that do double duty as nouns and verbs, words like canoe, skate, ski, etc. We added place names, a few connecting words and some French words as well.
Because I work with Anishinaabe people to emphasize the importance of the Anishinaabe language, I made sure, in addition to words like Métis, Cree and Ojibwe, that we included Anishinaabe words. Anishinaabe was beyond the letter limit for the chairs as were a great many other appropriate Anishinaabe words but there are two: Gisinaa (It is very cold) and Goonika (There is a lot of snow). The Ojibwe words were very efficient for this purpose. Because of the structure of the language, one word contains the elements of an entire sentence in English, so one chair is a sentence all by itself. The chairs project thus takes advantage of the “talents” of both language families. In French and English you could say that the kind of sentences which can be constructed are endless– in Anishinaabemowin there is no end to the words that can be created – each word as the famous linguist Edward Sapier used to say, a “tiny imagist poem.”
This week I have had visitors here from Arviat and when I told them about my Anishinaabe contribution to the chairs, they laughed because one of the words sounds like Inuktitut for “someone is kissing someone” – appropriate I suppose since it was Valentine’s Day.
American Anthropological Association contacts
Social Hashtag: #nationalanthropologyday
Tag AAA on Twitter (@AmericanAnthro) and
Facebook (American Anthropological Association) and we’ll share your posts.
Kolb beaded panel, Closeup
We would love to know who made this beautiful beadwork.
A few years ago, Mrs. Arlene Kolb purchased this beaded panel in the Value Village shop on Regent Street because she loves handmade things. “I feel that the people making these items were content and focused on what they were doing. They put the effort into making something special,” she told me. After a year of enjoying it, she brought it to the musem and it happened that there were a couple of Manitoba’s finest beading experts in the museum, Dr. Sherry Farrel Racette of the University of Manitoba Native Studies Department and Jennine Krauchi, one of our foremost beadwork artists. They took one look at the colours, the size of the beads and the pattern and confidently dated it to the 1830s or earlier and were pretty sure it was a Metis woman who made it. The colours of beads and fabric changed after the 1850′s with the introdution of ananline dyes. The teltale beads on this piece are are a muted pink, a colour they call greasy yellow and facetted metal beads all of which predate analine dyes.
Please share this blogpost with anyone who might know about the history of this marvellous beadwork because we would like to re-establish its broken family ties.
Child wearing woven rabbit skin parka.
More from U of W student Kristina Misurska:
I’m sure I don’t have to tell anybody this, but this winter has been brutally cold—the coldest winter in 35 years! Every time it seems like we are finally going to get some warmer temperatures, we are plunged back into a deep freeze. Luckily, for most of us, we are able to put on layers of warm clothing to protect ourselves from the elements. Down-filled jackets and Gore-Tex might be considered, quite literally, lifesaving materials. However, even without these innovations, people have survived in North America for thousands of years. Have you ever stopped to think about the clothing people wore in the past to help them to survive such harsh winters?
As we see in the Aschkibokahn mini-diorama, mobility was essential to survival for many First Peoples. The mini-diorama shows the seasonal movements of an Anishnaabe family. Their clothing had to offer protection against the elements, but also had to be easy to move around in. For much of the year, the clothing didn’t have to be exceptionally warm. A great deal of Anishnaabe clothing used tanned deer and moose hides. Hides were useful for clothing because the material is strong but pliable and resilient. As winter approached, people needed warmer clothing to help survive the elements.
For this purpose they made garments and sleeping bags out of thickly woven rabbit fur. It takes many rabbit hides, cut into thin strips to make these garments but they are very warm. If you take a look at the winter scene in the diorama, you can see that Betsy (the diorama artist) has outfitted some of the family in rabbit fur coats. Betsy’s attention to detail serves to help the visitor accurately imagine what life was like for this family. Further, it goes to show that the people who lived in the area made good use of the materials available to them in order to survive winters in a way. It is remarkable to think that people could not only survive, but thrive in this climate without any of our modern luxuries.
Deer Lake Group,
Archives of Manitoba, Still Images Section.
R. T. Chapin Collection.
Speaking of harsh winters, ours is still not over yet. While you’re waiting for it to warm outside, why not come inside to the museum to check out the mini-diorama for yourself?
Closeup of winter travelling scene, Aschkibokahn Diorama
Hello, everyone! Kristina’s blog post for this week is going to be a bit different than some of her other posts:
Over Reading Week I went to a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I didn’t start any new research. Most of my work since my last blog post has been focused on continuing to figure out what is going to be involved with the QR code project, so I thought I would instead take this opportunity to blog a bit about the diorama itself.
The diorama is an astounding piece of work. Betsy Thorsteinson, an extremely talented artist, along with her skilled group of volunteers, put an incredible amount of detail into the diorama. The result of all their hard work is a diorama that, from afar, looks as if it could be a photograph of a real-life fishing camp. Taken as a whole, the diorama is beautiful.
To fully appreciate the amount of effort that went into the creation of the display, however, it helps to take a closer look. To that end, two separate monocles, or monoculars, are provided with the diorama so that visitors can get a close-up view of some of the details. The monocle lets viewers zoom in on different areas and see food being prepared in pottery vessels, birds flying amongst trees, and fish being smoked over fires. The monocles help to focus on the thought and precision that went into the display. From the figurines of the family, to the branches of the trees, to the smoke rising from the campfires, every detail tells a story.
The monocles help visitors to zoom in on areas that make them curious. This parallels what I am hoping to accomplish with my project – to give visitors the option of learning more about the present-day site, along with seeing the bigger picture of the site.
That’s all for this week! Please check back next week to see how my project progresses.
Kristina with Amelia Fay, Curator of the Hudson’s Bay Collection, checking web access at the Aschkibokahn mini-diorama.
Welcome back, everybody! This week Kristina’s post is a quick look at some of the behind-the-scenes planning that she’s been doing for her project:
As I mentioned in my last post, the goal of my project is to look at ways of linking the Aschkibokahn archaeological site and diorama with the present-day community of Duck Bay. The work I did this week involved looking at how to best integrate our research materials into the existing exhibit.
One of the ideas we have come up with is to set up a QR code that links to a webpage with supplementary information about Duck Bay. Some of the materials we are hoping to share on this page include a poem written by Melba Sanoffsky, who grew up in Duck Bay, as well as photographs of the community through the years.
Before we can go any further we have to do something practical: ensure that smart phones are able to get reception in the exhibit area. To check this, I visited the gallery with one of the curators. We have different service providers and we wanted to make sure we both had a signal and reception. We pulled out our phones, and success! Now we know it is possible to use QR codes in the exhibit area. The next steps will be to look at the materials we have at the museum, and to decide what else we would like to include in our web display.
At this point, the web page/QR code is just a concept. I will keep you informed as to what we actually come up with. Stop by the blog next week to see where I’m at with my project, and don’t forget to visit the new diorama!
I would like to introduce Kristina, a Master’s student at the University of Winnipeg, who is completing a program in Curatorial Practices. As part of her internship with The Manitoba Museum (TMM), she is working on a couple of projects to gain experience in different areas of museum studies. Last month, she wrote a blog post about a project with the HBC Collection, and this month she is working with Ethnology Department on exhibit design and programming. This is her first Ethnology blog:
On January 16, TMM unveiled a new display in the Parklands/Mixed Woods Gallery, called the Aschkibokahn mini-diorama. This diorama, the result of nearly twenty years of research, planning, and hard work, explores the activities of an Anishnaabe family from about 800 years ago as they move across the land from winter to summer. The project is based on work undertaken at the Aschkibokahn archaeological site, located near the present-day communities of Duck Bay and Camperville.
One of TMM’s goals for this exhibit is to link the archaeological site to these present-day communities. My role in this project is two-fold. On the one hand, I will be gathering and sorting through existing research to figure out the best ways to integrate this information into a comprehensive exhibit. On the other hand, I will be exploring different means of re-establishing connections with community members in order to gain a fuller picture of the history of the region.
I will be posting blogs over the next couple of months to keep everyone up to speed with my project. I hope you all stay tuned to see how the project progresses and I encourage everyone to come down and check out the beautiful new diorama!
On Saturday, December 1st, 2012, the Peguis First Nation hosted a Hunters’ and Gatherers’ Feast in honour of high school students who had successfully completed a course in bush skills. They were also honouring Chief Glenn Hudson and celebrating the inauguration of a new beaded otter fur Chief’s hat made by women in the community. There were about 250 people in the community hall for the event, which featured the Loud Eagle Drum Group and numerous dancers. For the first time in many years, an old friend returned to the community; a black pipestone horse’s head pipe bowl which once belonged to the founder of the First Nation, Chief Peguis (1774-1864), and is now in the keeping of The Manitoba Museum.
Chief Peguis’ pipe bowl has been in the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Collection for more than 80 years and has been at The Manitoba Museum since the HBC Gallery opened in 2000. According to available records, the pipe was purchased from Charles Prince of St. Peter’s, a great-grandson of Chief Peguis, by William Flett, on behalf of the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was last on public display in 1936 at the Leipzig Fair in Germany.
Last summer the Museum, with community partners, set up a special display in honour of the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Settlement and, in the course of identifying appropriate artefacts, we came upon Peguis’ pipe. It was not part of the display because pipes like this have an important Anishinaabe ceremonial role. ‘Pipes, opwaaganag’ are grammatically animate. They are spoken to as if they were persons and are considered ‘wiikaanag, ritual brothers’ by those with whom they share ceremonies. We eventually got in touch with Chief Glenn Hudson to ask what we could do to make the pipe known to the community. This invitation to the Hunters’ and Gatherers’ Feast is the result and we are honoured to have been invited.
As Curator of Ethnology, it was my pleasure to take the pipe to the community for the day. The video attached shows the ceremonial entrance of the pipe, a welcome song played by the Loud Eagle Drum Group in honour of the pipe and community members lined up to view the pipe. The feast, which featured wild foods including elk, moose, deer, rabbit, goose, and wild rice, was fabulous. Thank you all.
—————————————————- 30 ———————-
MM Dec 4, 2012