Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, the Métis, especially of the Northwest Territories (NWT), are often belatedly referenced. This is no less the case in museum collections where Métis cultural materials are often misidentified, if not completely overlooked. This is especially apparent with important examples of Métis artistry. A signal case in point is moose hair tufting, a decorative embroidery technique invented in the early 20th Century by Métis women in the community of Fort Providence, NWT, which quickly was incorporated into the craftwork of neighboring Slave and other Dene neighbors.
Objects that display tufting have long been dismissed as mere “souvenir art”. However, drawing on my fieldwork with communities in the Mackenzie Basin-Great Slave Lake Region of the NWT, I dispute that appellation and argue that these ‘souvenir’ objects (sometimes elevated to “craft” status) in fact represent transcultural art forms and that their study illuminates their role as visual texts of Métis cultural mediation and transformation. Through examination of traditional and contemporary moose hair tufted objects, I will contextualize this form, heretofore viewed with an essentialist eye, within Métis-Dene ethnohistory, knowledge, and identity.