M956.5 | Headdress

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Maliseet
1865-1900, 19th century
Ostrich feathers, glass beads, brass beads, brass tokens, silk ribbon, cotton thread, birchbark, cardboard, metallic thread, metallic ribbon, metal braid
28.5 x 58 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Headdress (38)
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Turn-of-the-century photographs of Malecite and Mi'kmaq men often show them wearing feather headdresses, which were very popular at the time. Some Aboriginals no doubt realized that wearing so-called traditional items like this headdress helped them to sell their handicrafts. The Malecites and Mi'kmaqs may also have worn traditional costumes, and these types of headresses, so that their Aboriginal identity would not be swallowed up by white society.

Keys to History

The Imaginary "Indian"

In the 19th century, tourists, whether Euro-Canadians or Europeans, were fond of souvenirs representing their travels in North America. Aboriginal objects were especially appreciated as mementos of this adventure. The "Indian" that animated the dreams and imaginations of so many people in the 19th century often wore a feathered headdress.

This type of headgear was probably not worn by the Mi'kmaq before the arrival of Europeans; however, the Mi'kmaq realized that new clients flocked to them when they wore such regalia. They no doubt adopted the style to increase the "visibility" of the artisanal objects they had for sale.

Nevertheless, the affection of the Mi'kmaq for such headdresses should not be underestimated; they provided a means to affirm their Aboriginal identity loudly and clearly in the face of threats to their culture.

  • What

    This headdress resembles the Glengarry caps worn by some British regiments that served in Canada. The headdress is decorated with ostrich feathers, as well as brass and glass beads.

  • Where

    This headdress may come from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • When

    This object was probably made after 1860. It is unlikely that the Mi'kmaq wore this type of headgear before the arrival of Europeans.

  • Who

    In this photograph, taken in 1914, we see six dancers wearing headdresses similar to this one. The dancer whose face is unclear because the photograph is damaged, is thought to be Chief Isaac Sack (1855-1930), who was elected the grand chief of the Mi'kmaq in 1917.