Dressing Under Pressure: Métis in kistapinânihk, 1862-1900

  • Author / Creator
    Sorell, Lindsay
  • Métis forms of beadwork and dress persisted in the Saskatchewan Valley between the years of 1862 and 1900, even in the midst of divisive and traumatic circumstances. Métis moved within their kinship networks to join the Isbister Settlement and other settlements along the North and South Branches of the Saskatchewan River in kistapinânihk (“the great meeting place,” also known as Prince Albert) after 1862. Soon many more, dispossessed from their homes at Red River in the aftermath of the Riel Rebellion of 1869-70, flocked to live among family and friends in the Saskatchewan Valley. After the signing of Treaty 6 in 1876, the 1885 Resistance, and the federal government’s subsequent violent retribution for the Resistance, First Nations and Métis families connected to kistapinânihk were split between treaty and non-treaty, and under surveillance. Add to that the failure of the federal scrip system, the extinction of buffalo, and the outlaw of key ceremonial elements, and it becomes clear that Métis and First Nations had become increasingly oppressed in a short period of time. Despite the gravity of these events, there is not only a remarkable absence of scholarship on how these events effected Métis material culture production, but also an absence of accession data linking material culture artifacts held in museum collections to Métis of kistapinânihk in this era. I seek to address this twofold knowledge gap firstly by using a reflexive approach to explore the complex kinship network between First Nations and Métis in kistapinânihk, including the relationships of my own ancestors James Isbister (1833-1915) and Margaret Bear (1842-1895), known as the first Métis family to grow wheat in the area. I assert that further exploration of cultural connections between Indigenous people groups in necessary for both tracing Métis migration and material culture, and establishes an approach to Métis studies through a relational, community-minded epistemology. Secondly, I examine photos from my family’s collection as well as the Narcisse-Omer Côté collection of 153 photographs from the 1900 Northwest Scrip Commission, and a tablecloth of the era beaded by Métis artist Harriet Ann McKay in Prince Albert. Examining these documents of Métis material culture between 1862 and 1900, I argue that resistance to cultural assimilation persisted in the wake of 1885, with shared elements of material culture between both First Nations and Métis kin, and cultural continuity along long-established fur trade routes such as the North Saskatchewan River, Carlton Trail, and Green Lake Trail into 1900. The historic role of kistapinânihk as a key point of trade between diverse peoples in all directions makes it especially suited to discussions of identity, intermarriage, and material culture exchange, especially in the midst of events rife with pressure.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.