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The Huron-Wendat Craft Industry from the 19th Century to Today

Linda Sioui, Conseil de la Nation huronne-wendat

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Introduction:

Linda Sioui, Conseil de la Nation huronne-wendat. 2007

In the early 19th century my ancestors, the Huron-Wendat, were faced with a series of situations that threatened our way of life and even our very survival. Living in Lorette, a few kilometres northwest of Québec City, the Huron-Wendat found themselves cut off from their traditional hunting grounds by the residents of Valcartier and the surrounding area. Several years later the population of the Huron-Wendat increased significantly. Then the Irish and French Canadians settled at Stoneham and Tewkesbury, with the result that the Huron-Wendat had to travel even farther from their homes to feed themselves as they always had, by hunting and fishing. They also farmed, raising a little corn and potatoes. But their crops and the game and fish they caught were often not enough to feed the many people in the community. Later on as well, Parc des Laurentides and the private hunting and fishing clubs (Tourilli and Triton) were created.

Around this time the village of Lorette (later called "Huron Village" and today, Wendake) became a tourist centre visited by people from all over Québec. These visitors came in search of the exotic. The people in the community began making moccasins, mittens, snowshoes, ash baskets and souvenirs for sale to the visitors. Over time the Huron-Wendat women refined their techniques and began specializing in the production of a wide range of embroidered items using moosehair dyed in a variety of colours. Sometimes stitched on animal hides, sometimes on red or black fabric, and even on birchbark, these moosehair- embroidered items became more and more elaborate. Around the mid-19th century, the craft industry of the Huron-Wendat grew rapidly, thanks in part to the initiative and entrepreneurship of Marguerite "Lawinonkié" Vincent and Paul "Hudawathont" Picard. Once again, the families living in the community could ensure their livelihood. In fact, the Huron-Wendat brand name did so well that today Wendake is famous for numerous products that my people adapted to modern needs, while nevertheless preserving our knowledge of traditional techniques that are a fundamental part of our identity.


M4939
© Musée McCord
Épaulette
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1800-1830, 19e siècle
7.8 x 10 cm
Don de Mrs. J. B. Learmont
M4939
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the wake of a turbulent period of contact with Europeans and a territorial realignment among several Aboriginal nations, in 1697 the Huron-Wendat from the Georgian Bay region in Ontario moved to the village of Lorette (now known as Wendake), near Quebec City. Thus, in the second half of the 17th century, the Huron-Wendat had to adapt to the flora and fauna of the Laurentian forest, their new homeland. Moose hunting became a way of life, part of their culture. Moosehair, taken from the hump on the animal's back and flap under the neck, quickly became an essential raw material used by Huron-Wendat women in refining their craft embroidery techniques. In the 19th century, moosehair replaced porcupine quills in their work, and these expert embroiderers began producing different styles of embroidery with a variety of design motifs. Moosehair embroidery experienced unprecedented popularity in the second half of the 19th century.

Quoi:

This type of epaulet was used mainly to embellish frock coats worn by men. Note the embroidered upright motifs representing plants found in the vicinity of Lorette. Appliqués and epaulets like this were also adorned with metal cones into which moosehair had been inserted.

Où:

Huron Village, formerly known as Lorette, has long been the home territory of the Huron-Wendat. The village is now called Wendake.

Quand:

This epaulet was made in the early 19th century.

Qui:

Huron-Wendat women developed the art of embroidery using moosehair to make, among other things, decorations for clothing.

ME938.1.12.1-2
© Musée McCord
Épaulette
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1800-1830, 19e siècle
10 x 28 cm
Don de Mrs. Lillian M. Ogilvie
ME938.1.12.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Huron-Wendat decorated their garments and accessories with beads made from natural materials such as shells, bone and stone. They also used porcupine quills, moosehair and coloured pigments to create motifs on their clothing. With the arrival of Europeans and the start of the fur trade, they obtained iron axes, copper pots, cloth, glass beads, steel needles - a whole range of new goods that were quickly incorporated into their production methods and daily lives.

Quoi:

These epaulets, made of black wool cloth, are embroidered with moosehair and adorned with a fringe of metal cones filled with moosehair.

Où:

Epaulets such as this pair were sewn on the ceremonial clothing of men from Wendake, especially their frock coats.

Quand:

These epaulets were made in the early 19th century.

Qui:

These epaulets were probably collected by John Ogilvie (1769-1819), an agent of the New North West Company (also known as the XY Company), a major fur-trading company and competitor of the North West Company.

M6266
© Musée McCord
Brassard
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1900, 19e siècle
9.5 x 9.5 cm
M6266
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In 1825 four Huron-Wendat chiefs, including Nicolas Vincent and Michel Sioui, visited England and were received in the court of King George IV. According to archival records, the men spent several months in England and returned to Wendake with gifts from the king, notably, frock coats from the British army. Huron-Wendat men quickly incorporated this type of coat into their traditional costume. The women dressed them up with magnificent accessories embroidered with moosehair. Leggings, moccasins, sashes (ceintures fléchées) and armbands of metal or birch bark covered with red stroud completed the ceremonial outfit of the men. This style spread through Wendake.

Quoi:

This armband is made of birchbark and covered with red stroud embroidered with moosehair.

Où:

This type of accessory was worn in Wendake, near Quebec City.

Quand:

This armband, from the second half of the 19th century, is a beautiful example of the marriage between traditional and European materials.

Qui:

It was Huron-Wendat men who wore this type of accessory. Armbands, usually made of metal, are also found among other groups of Iroquoian origin.

M977.90.1
© Musée McCord
Estampe
Un chasseur huron-wendat appelant l'orignal
Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872)
Vers 1868, 19e siècle
28.6 x 23.8 cm
Achat
M977.90.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Forced to adapt to a new environment, the Laurentian forest, the Huron-Wendat decreased their farming activities and took up hunting and trapping. Moose became an important source of food and raw materials.

According to Huron-Wendat oral tradition, as related by the hunter and Elder Rolland P. Sioui in 2007, moose are hunted at any time of year, as needed. However, the best time for the hunt is winter, since fall is their breeding season. The hunter first surveys the moose yard (wooded area where the animals shelter) and takes inventory. Adult pairs and pregnant females are not hunted, in order to maintain the species. Hunters target in particular young animals one year and a half and older.

Hunting on snowshoes, the hunter tries to flush the moose out of its yard, where it is safe from wolves and food is plentiful. The skilful hunter draws the animal from its yard and into open snow where it is more vulnerable. Once killed, the animal is cut into five pieces (counting the head) and the catch is transported by dogsled.

Quoi:

This print illustrates a Huron-Wendat hunter calling a moose.

Où:

There is no record of where this painting was done, though it probably represents the traditional hunting grounds of the Huron-Wendat in the vicinity of Wendake, in Quebec.

Quand:

This work dates from about 1868.

Qui:

Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872), a painter of Dutch origin, signed this work. Krieghoff was probably the most popular painter in Canada in the 19th century. He painted mainly landscapes, views of nature and, especially, Canadian winter scenes.

M984.102.1-2
© Musée McCord
Raquettes
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1880-1890, 19e siècle
4.5 x 29.6 x 91 cm
Don de Mrs. M. E. Sylvia
M984.102.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the 19th century, hunter-trappers from Wendake travelled their hunting grounds wearing traditional snowshoes. At that time, snowshoes were laced with finely woven rawhide (babiche) made from deer, caribou or moose hide (replaced later by cowhide babiche) and embellished with red wool pompons, the hallmark of the Huron-Wendat. The snowshoes were firmly attached to the wearer's moccasined feet by long pieces of lamp wick. Thus equipped, the Huron-Wendat could venture into the woods in winter to hunt game and trap fur-bearing animals, and to ensure their survival and that of their families.

Quoi:

The frame of these snowshoes is made of white ash. Traditionally, the webbing (babiche) was made from caribou hide, but in later years it was made from cowhide. The woven wick used in oil lamps was used for the straps. Once completed, the snowshoes were decorated with red wool pompons, in keeping with Huron-Wendat fashion at the time.

Où:

The Huron-Wendat adapted their traditional techniques and knowledge through the ages. These snowshoes were made in Wendake, where snowshoes are still being produced.

Quand:

In the 19th century families in Wendake turned to the production of snowshoes in order to make a decent living and ensure their survival.

Qui:

Several families of artisans in Wendake were involved in making snowshoes. Even the children took part!

M11104
© Musée McCord
Gaine de couteau
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1920, 19e siècle ou 20e siècle
6.7 x 17.5 cm
M11104
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Knife sheaths like this one were part of the basic equipment of the hunter-trapper. They were often made from the leg of a caribou that had not been dehaired. It was decorated with an attractively embroidered black leather band. Often, the embroidered motifs on the band depicted balsam fir branches.

More rare is a knife sheath like the one shown here, made entirely of hide embellished with red stroud used to make the fringe and band (with a sawtooth pattern). The embroidered motif, resembling a cat's paw, was frequently used at the time. Hunting knives were essential, especially when moose hunting, which the Huron-Wendat did more of after they moved from Huronia to Lorette in 1697. In their original homeland near Georgian Bay, farming had been their main livelihood.

Quoi:

In addition to being a decorative element of the Huron-Wendat man's outfit, this object also had a utilitarian role: it protected the knife blade from damage while keeping it well sharpened.

Où:

The Huron-Wendat wore this accessory as they travelled their hunting and trapping grounds and on special occasions, when they dressed in ceremonial clothing.

Quand:

A knife sheath was very useful when hunting and trapping in the woods.

Qui:

This element of traditional clothing was worn especially by men.

M6837
© Musée McCord
Bourse à cordonnet
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1900, 19e siècle
13.1 x 23.5 cm
Don de Mrs. C. B. Allardice
M6837
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This type of caribou hide pouch (sometimes made of moose hide) decorated with moosehair embroidery was used mainly by men for carrying tobacco and a clay pipe, among other items, when hunting and trapping. The Huron-Wendat did not use caribou hair (fur) in their embroidery because they considered it too short and fine.

The moosehair-embroidered motif on this pouch is often seen on tobacco and pipe bags, that is, a tree on which branches of balsam alternate with dead branches and are topped with a star, a daisy, phlox, a cat's paw or wild chicory.

Quoi:

This pouch for tobacco and a pipe is made of caribou hide. It is attractively decorated with moosehair embroidery. Its floral motifs are typical of those found on this type of object.

Où:

The Huron-Wendat used pouches like this to carry their tobacco and pipe when working in the woods. Tobacco contained substances that made hunters feel less hungry, enabling them to keep going longer when travelling great distances.

Quand:

This pouch was made during the second half of the 19th century (between 1840 and 1900).

Qui:

It was mainly Huron-Wendat men who used such pouches, to store their tobacco and pipe.

I-20033
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Autochtone avec des objets à vendre, Montréal, QC, 1866
William Notman (1826-1891)
1866, 19e siècle
Plaque de verre au collodion humide
15 x 10 cm
Achat de l'Associated Screen News Ltd.
I-20033
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This photograph by William Notman was one of a series of nine photographs that he made on the theme of hunting. His subjects were the members of the family of François Gros-Louis, known as La Plume (The Feather). He is seen here with his hunting gear (including his snowshoes) and a Huron-Wendat pouch made from a moose's foot.

On the subject of Gros-Louis and his family, a newspaper of the period, Le Canadien (April 16, 1866), reported that "... This lively and vigorous generation of the famous hunters nicknamed "little and big Francis" are well known in Quebec City."

François Gros-Louis died tragically in 1871 while returning from a hunting trip on which he had guided Colonel William Rhodes. Near Lorette, he was shot by a rifle, the money he had earned was stolen, and he was left in the woods to die. His body was found only two months later. The death of Gros-Louis was a terrible blow to the community.

Quoi:

This photograph of a hunter-trapper from Wendake is one in a series of nine photos on hunting made by the renowned photographer William Notman.

Où:

In the 19th century, interior -- and even exterior -- scenes were often reconstituted in photography studios. This photograph of François Gros-Louis posing with his hunting gear as if he were about to go to his hunting territory, is an example.

Quand:

This photo was taken in 1866 in the Montreal studio of the photographer William Notman.

Qui:

The subject is François Gros-Louis, one of the best hunter-trappers in Wendake in the 19th century.

I-20494
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Chasse à l'orignal, le retour, Montréal, QC, 1866
William Notman (1826-1891)
1866, 19e siècle
Plaque de verre au collodion humide
20 x 25 cm
Achat de l'Associated Screen News Ltd.
I-20494
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The famous photographer William Notman re-created in his studio, for documentary purposes, typical hunting scenes of the Huron-Wendat. This one shows a shelter and traditional hunting gear as well as accessories embroidered with moosehair (epaulets, knife sheath, etc.).

According to oral tradition in Wendake, the men on the extreme left, in the middle (kneeling) and on the extreme right of the photo represent three generations of François Gros-Louis: the grandson "Sassenio"; La Plume (kneeling); and the elder François Gros-Louis. The two other figures are clients of these Huron-Wendat hunting guides. Notman also re-created in studio a "fall cabin," a type of temporary shelter built by Huron-Wendat hunters. These slant-sided (half-triangle) shelters were often used at the time. Later (after 1875), Huron-Wendat shelters were square; built to last longer, they resembled log cabins.

Quoi:

This is a studio reconstitution of a hunting scene and traditional camp with Huron-Wendat guides. The photograph is one in a series of six on moose hunting, all of which show "hunting cabins."

Où:

This scene was re-created in the Notman studio in Montreal. At the time it was common to re-create in a photography studio both interior and exterior scenes.

Quand:

This photo was taken by William Notman in 1866.

Qui:

This work by the photographer William Notman (1826-1891) presents three generations of François Gros-Louis, famous hunter-trappers in Wendake, namely, François "Sassenio" Gros-Louis (grandson), on the left; François, nicknamed La Plume (murder victim) kneeling in the middle; and the patriarch, old François Gros-Louis, on the extreme right.

M16934
© Musée McCord
Récipient
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1855, 19e siècle
4.6 x 9.9 x 17.8 cm
Don de Miss Blackader
M16934
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The use of moosehair to decorate objects goes back to the precontact era; however, the art of embroidery with moosehair really took off after contact with Europeans and the fusion of Aboriginal techniques and knowledge with the know-how of the Ursuline nuns. In 1714, according to archival sources, Mother St-Joseph, an Ursuline from Trois-Rivières, taught the art of embroidery on birchbark. Another Ursuline nun also made a major contribution: Mother Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Anne Du Bos), who was born in Sillery in 1678 to a French father and a Huron-Wendat mother. According to her 1734 obituary, she devoted the final years of her life to teaching embroidery, in particular, embroidery with moosehair, which by 1720, was widely recognized as a refined and elegant form of needlework.

Quoi:

Birchbark containers embroidered with moosehair were one of the specialties of Huron-Wendat women. This type of work was also done in convents, where young nuns learned the art of moosehair embroidery.

Où:

Huron-Wendat women from Wendake and the Ursuline sisters of Quebec City practised the art of embroidery with moosehair, using it to decorate pretty birchbark containers and other objects.

Quand:

Archival documents reveal that the art of embroidery on birchbark was practised from the early 18th century.

Qui:

It was probably a metis Ursuline nun named Mother Sainte-Marie-Madeleine who introduced embroidery with moosehair to the Ursulines. This type of embroidery became very popular in the 19th century thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of Marguerite "Lawinonkié" Vincent. She transformed this art into a craft industry that provided work for the women of Wendake.

ME938.10
© Musée McCord
Étui
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1850-1900, 19e siècle
5.5 x 13 x 26 cm
Don de Mr. Henry W. Hill
ME938.10
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the 19th century it was mainly the women who dyed the porcupine quills and moosehair. They used plants, roots and tree bark to obtain bright and attractive natural dyes. The colour red was obtained by boiling sumac flowers in water for about 15 minutes. No mordant was needed to fix the colour obtained from this flower. If a brown-red colour was desired, pulverized Tsavooyan (goldthread) root was added to the sumac water. The moosehair or porcupine quills were carefully removed from the dye and dipped in a mild soap before being rinsed with lukewarm water.

Quoi:

This is a glove or handkerchief case made of pink silk with a birchbark bottom and flaps. The flaps are beautifully decorated with embroidered moosehair dyed from brightly coloured plant dyes.

Où:

This type of object was sold in Wendake as well as Quebec City, where the Huron-Wendat frequently travelled to sell their merchandise (baskets, moccasins, snowshoes and other souvenirs).

Quand:

This rectangular-shaped case was made between 1850 and 1900.

Qui:

This type of case was made and carefully embroidered by Huron-Wendat women, specialists in moosehair embroidery in the 19 century.

M18510
© Musée McCord
Plateau à cartes de visite
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1860, 19e siècle
6.5 x 21.3 x 25 cm
Don de la succession de Miss J. J. MacFarlane
M18510
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the 19th century, Huron-Wendat women excelled in the traditional art of dying. The colours of objects decorated with porcupine quills and embroidered moosehair, coloured with natural dyes, retain their brightness even today, as seen by this birchbark tray magnificently decorated in the style of the time. The tray was intended to hold calling cards.

Contemporary artists Marie-Paule Gros-Louis and Manon Sioui relate that, to obtain a brownish dye, Huron-Wendat women used walnut bark. Alder bark gave a mauve-black dye, while maple bark to which ferrous sulphate was added (as the mordant) produced a bluish-black dye. The colour yellow was obtained from goldenrod or bog myrtle.

Quoi:

This type of tray sat on a table in the entrance hall of elegant homes. The custom of giving and receiving visiting cards was widespread in the mid-1800s. The visitor could indicate the reason for a visit simply by folding one corner of the card, which was then placed on a tray, a plate or some other container set out for this purpose.

Où:

This type of tray for visiting cards sat in the hallway of the homes of the wealthy.

Quand:

Huron-Wendat women were influenced by the styles of the Victorian era, as revealed by this tray, made between 1840 and 1860.

Qui:

Calling cards were very popular in the Victorian era. In response, making trays such as these became one of the specialties of Huron-Wendat women in Wendake.

M18509.1-2
© Musée McCord
Récipient avec couvercle
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1900, 19e siècle
5.3 x 6.3 x 9.4 cm
Don de la succession de Miss J. J. MacFarlane
M18509.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Embroidery with moosehair, as seen on this pretty little birchbark box, is not an art that is easily mastered. Unlike conventional embroidery thread, moosehair must go through several steps before it can be used, according to the Wendake artists Thérèse Sioui and Marie-Paule Gros-Louis. The raw material is first combed and sorted into small bundles that are tied with cord, then washed in mild, soapy water, rinsed, dried and dyed, before a final rinsing and drying.

The moosehair, of various lengths, is then ready to be embroidered, a process that requires the frequent and repeated addition of more hairs. Once the piece is finished, the places where hairs overlap should not show. Several different stitches might be used in one piece. For all these reasons, this art requires more skill and patience than conventional embroidery.

Quoi:

This small birchbark box decorated with moosehair embroidery could be used to store almost anything. It is decorated with a variety of embroidery stitches, including a straight stitch on the edges. The motifs were first drawn on the bark, the holes were punched and then it was embroidered.

Où:

This box is typical of the objects designed for the tourist market and sold mainly in Wendake and Quebec City.

Quand:

This pretty birchbark box was made between 1865 and 1900.

Qui:

Huron-Wendat women made these superb birchbark containers. The Mi'kmaq made similar ones, but theirs were decorated with porcupine quillwork in geometric motifs.

M10620.1-2
© Musée McCord
Mocassin
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1900, 19e siècle
9.1 x 9.2 x 27.8 cm
Don des Messieurs Papineau
M10620.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The Huron-Wendat of the 19th century tanned and smoked the animal hides using traditional techniques. The process was described in the daily newspaper L'Opinion publique on May 8, 1879: "The four frames of the drying rack are set up in a square... Five to seven hides are stretched out there lengthwise: moose, buffaloe (sic), caribou, cow hides... [They are] scraped and turned this and that way, rolled, beaten... dipped, soaped, rinsed in a tub, a pail, a barrel, the river under watchful eyes and skilled hands..." After all the steps in treating and stretching the hides, decaying wood is placed in the bottom of barrels and set on fire. "As soon as there is thick smoke the hides are placed around the top of the barrels, raised so that they make a sort of chimney..."

Quoi:

The different colours obtained during the smoking of the hides depended on the type of wood used by the tanner-smoker. For a nice chocolate-coloured hide, for example, the Huron-Wendat used decaying black walnut wood during the smoking.

Où:

A tanner is someone who specializes in the traditional art of preserving animal hides. His workshop is known as a tannery. The Huron-Wendat community had its own tanneries.

Quand:

It was in 1879 that the newspaper L'Opinion publique published the above description of smoking hides.

Qui:

At this time the best-known tanners in Wendake were François Gros-Louis and Philippe Vincent. Élie Sioui (the Elder), was regarded as "the tribe's best smoker," according to some sources.

M9812
© Musée McCord
Étui
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1875-1900, 19e siècle
5 x 18.4 cm
Don de la succession de Miss Anne McCord
M9812
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the village of Lorette was a frequent destination for visitors, mainly British army officers and their wives, who were drawn there out of curiosity. Throughout the 19th century, Huron-Wendat women played a major role in the fashioning of attractive objects intended for sale to visitors who wanted a reminder of their trip to Lorette. The tourist art of this era is characterized by the ingenuity with which Huron women produced Victorian-inspired objects, both common and whimsical. Objects such as this handkerchief case looked European but were made from traditional materials using Huron-Wendat styles and decorative techniques.

Quoi:

This pink silk handkerchief case has a bottom and flaps made of birchbark. The case could also be used to hold gloves. Its embroidered floral motifs are elaborate and the colours from plant dyes are vivid.

Où:

Cases such as this were made in Wendake for sale to tourists visiting that community or Quebec City.

Quand:

This case was made between 1875 and 1900.

Qui:

Huron-Wendat women were inspired by Victorian-era fashions in creating objects like this one, so rich in artistry.

M18506
© Musée McCord
Sac
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone : Huron-Wendat ou Malécite
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1900, 19e siècle
10.5 x 15.5 cm
Don de la succession de Miss J. J. MacFarlane
M18506
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Huron-Wendat women looked to Victorian-era fashions in creating all sorts of objects using traditional materials. This small, birchbark bag covered with black cloth and attractively embroidered with moosehair in floral motifs is but one example; numerous similar small bags were made and sold. Some were covered in red cloth embroidered with motifs representing local personalities and scenes from daily life in Wendake.

Quebec City was close to Wendake, so the Huron-Wendat had a ready market for the craft goods they produced. In addition, the village of Wendake was a favourite tourist destination, and many Huron-Wendat families worked making the snowshoes, moccasins and original souvenirs that so delighted its visitors.

Quoi:

During the Victorian era women carried bags of all sorts, and Huron-Wendat artisans made versions of many of the most fashionable styles.

Où:

This type of small bag was sold in the village of Wendake as well as in Quebec City, where Huron-Wendat women travelled to sell the baskets and other craft works that they produced.

Quand:

Bags were an important fashion accessory in the second half of the 19th century, when narrower skirts with no pockets were all the style.

Qui:

Their creativity, ability to adapt and their skill enabled Huron-Wendat women to create all kinds of utilitarian objects appreciated by visitors as lasting souvenirs of a journey to Wendake or Quebec City.

M18508
© Musée McCord
Pelote à épingles
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone : Huron-Wendat ou Malécite
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1900, 19e siècle
4.7 x 6.7 x 10 cm
Don de la succession de Miss J. J. MacFarlane
M18508
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Pincushions of various shapes were made by women from several Aboriginal nations. A range of sewing accessories such as needle and scissor cases fashioned from birchbark and richly decorated with moosehair embroidery were also made. Even the Ursuline sisters took up this kind of craft work, which they called "convent work."

The different Iroquoian versions of the pincushion, made from cloth or velvet, were much appreciated by Victorian women. The sewing baskets, made of birchbark and embroidered by Huron-Wendat women, were also highly prized, as were the ash baskets that they made.

Quoi:

No woman's sewing basket could be considered complete without a pincushion. In the Victorian era there were pincushions of various shapes and sizes, and the embroidery on them was sometimes very elaborate. But almost everyone could afford these the utilitarian and often highly decorative objects.

Où:

Objects like this were made for tourists and sold in urban centres as well as tourist destinations such as the Huron-Wendat village on the outskirts of Quebec City, which had been drawing tourists since the 18th century. The Iroquois sold beaded objects in their villages and in nearby tourist attractions, the most famous of which was Niagara Falls.

Quand:

This pincushion dates from the second half of the 19th century, but similar ones were made and sold into the early 20th century, along with other crafted objects produced by the Iroquois for sale at Niagara Falls.

Qui:

Iroquois women fashioned pincushions in a variety of shapes. Huron-Wendat women also made these utilitarian objects. Some pincushions even resembled cushions and were intended mainly as decorations.

M7426.1-2
© Musée McCord
Étui à cigares ou à cigarettes
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1899, 19e siècle
2.4 x 6.7 x 10.2 cm
M7426.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

During the Victorian era it was the custom to leave your calling card at the home of people you wished to meet. And tourists were always searching for something exotic to take home as a reminder of their travels. In response, Huron-Wendat women began producing hand-made novelty objects that would meet this market demand.

Lorette was also producing other types of goods. The 1898 Rapport ethnologique du Canada states that 140,000 pairs of moccasins and 7,000 pairs of snowshoes were made there that year, while 20,000 animal hides were treated for future use. The Huron-Wendat community even had to hire French Canadians from the nearby parish of Saint-Ambroise to meet the demand.

Quoi:

This case was used to store calling cards. Inside is an inscription in ink that reads: "City of Quebec, visited Augst. 11 to 14 - 1899."

Où:

Calling card cases and birchbark trays magnificently embroidered with moosehair were made in Wendake for sale to wealthy visitors. They were also sold in Quebec City.

Quand:

The inscription "1899," written in ink on the inside of the case, provides the date of its creation.

Qui:

Huron-Wendat women took the initiative in adapting traditional artisanal techniques to the production of objects highly appreciated by tourists of the era.

M18512
© Musée McCord
Plateau à cartes de visite
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1860, 19e siècle
4.9 x 28 x 38 cm
Don de la succession de Miss J. J. MacFarlane
M18512
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Huron-Wendat women adapted their artistry to the needs and tastes of the bourgeoisie. In the Victorian era it was customary to place in the entry hall of one's home a tray for collecting calling cards left by visitors. Made of birchbark intricately embroidered with moosehair, these trays as well as small cases for calling cards were highly prized gifts, and Huron-Wendat women made large numbers of them in the quiet of their homes. Some of the most spectacular ones were decorated with flowers and various other motifs, while others depicted scenes of daily life in the community. Still others were magnificently embroidered with birds.

Quoi:

This birchbark tray was made to collect visitors' calling cards. Some exquisite ones are found in the collection of Lord Elgin (1811-1863), who was the Governor General of the Province of Canada and Viceroy of India. During the Victorian era these receptacles for calling cards were a specialty of Huron-Wendat women artisans, who produced them in several different shapes and decorated them with a variety of embroidered motifs.

Où:

Superb trays like this one were fashioned by the women artisans of the village of Wendake. Most were made of birchbark that had been embroidered, while others were covered with red or black cloth attractively embroidered with moosehair.

Quand:

Inspired in large part by Victorian-era fashions, this magnificent tray for calling cards was made in the mid-19th century, between 1840 and 1860.

Qui:

It was the women artisans of Wendake, on the outskirts of Quebec City, who made these magnificent trays embroidered with moosehair. It is said that the wife of Lord Elgin (then Canada's Governor General) came to Lorette (Wendake) because she also wanted to learn the art of moosehair embroidery.

M16933.1-2
© Musée McCord
Récipient avec couvercle
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1830-1860, 19e siècle
6.5 x 9.5 x 22 cm
Don de Miss Blackader
M16933.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Huron-Wendat women demonstrated great creativity in their artisanal production through their ability to target a market niche. They perfected elaborate embroidery techniques and created refined and original products that were greatly prized by bourgeois women.

This glove box is but one example - the perfect match of aesthetics, sophistication and usefulness. Magnificent boxes like these are especially interesting for the variety of their embroidery stitches in moosehair.

Quoi:

This birchbark glove box is lined with silk and generously decorated with embroidery in moosehair dyed with natural pigments.

Où:

In the 19th century, Wendake, on the outskirts of Quebec City, had a flourishing artisanal industry. It was a great economic boost for Huron-Wendat families.

Quand:

This glove box, so attractively embroidered with moosehair, was made in about the mid-19th century, between 1830 and 1860.

Qui:

This superb glove box is clearly the work of a Huron-Wendat woman. These artists produced many fine works elaborately embroidered with moosehair in the middle of the 19th century.

M2181.0-1
© Musée McCord
Étui à cigares ou à cigarettes
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1900, 19e siècle
6.6 x 13.3 cm
M2181.0-1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the second half of the 1800s, cigar cases like this one were greatly prized as gifts. Men also bought them for themselves as souvenirs. Often they were inscribed inside, directly on the birchbark. Other "gifts" of this type had the inscription written on a small piece of paper.

The cases were made of birchbark and decorated with pretty floral motifs. Some were covered with cloth in red (like this one), black or even brown and featured embroidered motifs illustrating local personalities and scenes from daily life in Lorette at the time.

Quoi:

In the 19th century a cigar case was a favourite gift, given by men to their male friends. A dedication or inscription was often written on the birchbark inside, under the flap. Or a few words might be written on a piece of paper accompanying the case.

Où:

This case was fashioned by Huron-Wendat artisans of the village of Wendake during a period when tourist art was at its height. It was also a period when Huron-Wendat families could anticipate a decent income.

Quand:

This object was made between 1840 and 1900, that is, during the second half of the 19th century.

Qui:

Birchbark cigar cases were a speciality of the Huron-Wendat. Decorated on both sides with flowers embroidered in moosehair, these cases were often presented to men as gifts or souvenirs.

M12679
© Musée McCord
Éventail
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1900, 19e siècle
46 x 56 cm
Achat du Musée McCord d'histoire canadienne
M12679
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the second half of the 19th century, fans were very much in demand, and all the Northeastern Aboriginal groups made them as souvenir items. Their popularity became so widespread that the Tupinamba of Brazil even started making them. However, the most famous ones were made by Huron-Wendat women artisans in Wendake.

The women cut the handles out of birchbark, before carefully embroidering them with attractive motifs in moosehair. The actual fan was made of feathers that had been imported from South Africa and were very fashionable at the time. The feathers of one or more entire birds would be set in the middle.

Quoi:

Very fashionable during the Victorian era, fans were made by several Aboriginal nations, who sold them to wealthy tourists as artisanal objects.

Où:

In the 19th century the living room was the centre of family life, the place where family members shared their interests, talents and travel tales with guests. On small shelves and in quiet corners, women displayed their favourite objects - photographs, books, gifts, personal handwork and travel souvenirs. Aboriginal objects like this one were particularly prized.

Quand:

Luxury objects like this were in fashion in the 19th century.

Qui:

During the Victorian era, finely crafted objects like this fan were worn as accessories by women of privilege who wanted to appear "well turned out." The Huron-Wendat artisans who made the fans had succeeded in filling an existing market niche.

ME982X.519.1-2
© Musée McCord
Mocassin
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1840-1860, 19e siècle
5 x 4.5 x 13.8 cm
Don de Miss Anne McCord
ME982X.519.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Moosehide was used to sew moccasins like these and other souvenirs destined for sale to tourists, such as magnificent splint ash baskets also made by women. The Huron-Wendat travelled to Quebec City to sell these souvenirs and to buy food and materials needed for their work. In fact, as their craft production increased, their farming and hunting activities decreased. By 1857, the Huron-Wendat needed more than 3,000 moosehides annually to keep up with the pace of production of their craft industry. On occasion, they even purchased antelope skins imported from Africa in order to meet the demand.

Quoi:

Moccasins made the traditional way (from tanned and smoked hides) and superbly decorated with moosehair were very much in demand in the 19th century, and Huron-Wendat women made superb ones.

Où:

Such moccasins could be purchased in Wendake. The Huron-Wendat also sold them in Quebec City, a short distance away.

Quand:

These moccasins were made in the period 1840-1860, when market for embroidery with moosehair was flourishing.

Qui:

The animal skins were tanned and smoked by the expert tanners in the community, but it was mainly the women who sewed the moccasins.

M16946.1-2
© Musée McCord
Pantoufles (chaussons)
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1820-1900, 19e siècle
5.1 x 7.8 x 24.5 cm
Don des Misses Lambe
M16946.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

By the second half of the 19th century, intercultural exchanges were becoming a major influence on Huron-Wendat footwear production. In addition to making moccasins, the women starting producing a style of soft shoe resembling the little ankle boots worn by North American non-Aboriginal women. The artisans of Wendake decorated the evening shoes they produced with wonderful floral motifs embroidered in moosehair.

The cultural exchanges between Aboriginal people and North Americans of European descent were very rich. They were reflected in a thousand and one ways, with footwear as well as with utilitarian and luxury objects purchased by the well-to-do to decorate their homes.

Quoi:

These flat shoes lined with beige leather are made of red cloth embroidered with moosehair (a Huron-Wendat adaptation).

Où:

The embroidery embellishing these shoes, of Euro-Canadian styling, was done in the village of Wendake.

Quand:

The artisanal production of the Huron-Wendat was greatly influenced by Victorian fashion.

Qui:

Elegant shoes like these ones, decorated by the skilled hands of a Huron-Wendat woman, were worn by the well-to-do. Several people in present-day Wendake think that the shoes themselves were not made there, but rather were shipped to the community by a manufacturer for decoration.

ME986.104.3.1-2
© Musée McCord
Coupe en loupe d'arbre
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone : Huron-Wendat ou Iroquois
Anonyme - Anonymous
1910-1930, 20e siècle
6 x 12 x 11.5 cm
Don à la mémoire de William Hill Petry (1868-1957) et Elizabeth Petry (1880-1973) parents de Mrs. L. S. Apedaile.
ME986.104.3.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In addition to objects embroidered with moosehair, tourists were also interested in the everyday items used by Aboriginal people, who made and sold as curios. One example is this "cup made from the burl of a birch or cherry tree, the favoured species for such objects. According to Rolland P. Sioui of Wendake, hunters would attach a small cup like this one to their belts, dipping it in a stream or lake for a quick drink while travelling in the woods.

After being hollowed out, the wood burl was dried and varnished, to make it stronger. A small handle with a small hole was also carved, so the hunter could insert a cord and attach the cup to his belt.

Quoi:

This type of small goblet or cup, made from the burl of a tree, was very useful when out on the land. Hunter-trappers would tie them to their belt and use them when needed to quench their thirst.

Où:

Many Aboriginal groups made small cups like this one, which was carved in Wendake.

Quand:

This object is contemporary (made in the 20th century).

Qui:

Some cups like this were made by the Huron-Wendat for sale to tourists.

MP-0000.223
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Groupe huron-wendat de Wendake (Lorette) à Spencerwood, Québec, QC, 1880
Jules-Ernest Livernois
11 février 1880, 19e siècle
Papier albuminé
24 x 31 cm
MP-0000.223
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In February 1880, a delegation from Lorette paid a visit to Spencerwood, the home of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. Grand Chief Paul Tahourenché addressed the new Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Théodore Robitaille, in Huron-Wendat, then in French. His words were printed in L'Opinion publique of March 11, 1880:

"The day is fine, the rays of the distant sun beat down, warming the hearts of your children. For some time our warriors and our hunters have noticed on the hill a tree whose crown already reaches above the other trees... We extend our greetings to you and to those who share not only the work but also the pleasures of your wigwam... However, we did not want to come here with open hands, knowing that yours also are open, without offering you a gift that will warm your heart when your eyes alight on it, a souvenir of your humble and devoted children of the forest."

The Grand Chief, along with Christine Gros-Louis, presented the Lieutenant Governor and his wife with a pair of snowshoes. Then, following a light meal, there was singing and dancing. Mr. Livernois, of Livernois Studios, took this photograph, and the festivities went on until 5 o'clock.

Quoi:

The first Lieutenant Governor of Quebec during the French Regime was Louis D'Ailleboust, a native of Coulonge, France. He owned a vast domain called La châtellenie de Coulonge. In 1676, the Seminary in Quebec City purchased it, before selling it in 1780 to Henry Watson Powell. The property was sold in 1811 to Michael Henry Perceval, who named it Spencerwood. In 1860, a fire destroyed the house, but it was rebuilt two years later. In 1870, Spencerwood was sold to the Province of Quebec and became the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.

Où:

This is Spencerwood, home of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. The property is now known as Bois de Coulonge. Since 1996, this Quebec City property has belonged to the Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec.

Quand:

It was in February 1880 that the then Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Théodore Robitaille, held a celebration at his home, Spencerwood, in honour of his appointment as Lieutenant Governor.

Qui:

This photograph shows a delegation from Lorette made up of 30 warriors and women, dressed in their finest garments, during a visit to Spencerwood, home of the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec.

M2005.35.1.1-2
© Musée McCord
Raquettes
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1966-1970, 20e siècle
29.5 x 110 cm
Don de Mme Lise et Mme Andrée Mercier
M2005.35.1.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Snowshoes were for centuries one of the preferred transportation methods of Aboriginal people. Over the years the Huron-Wendat adapted them, improving production methods to such an extent that, beginning in the early 20th century, several small snowshoe factories opened and flourished in Huron Village. The traditional model of Huron-Wendat snowshoes used when travelling in wooded areas or over frozen lakes was adapted for use in a variety of other conditions, and manufacturers started exporting snowshoes throughout much of the world. Until recently, modern Huron-Wendat snowshoes were made with cowhide babiche and varnished to make them more durable and waterproof. The materials used to make snowshoes have evolved, and the traditional wooden variety is becoming more and more rare.

Quoi:

Thanks to industrial technology, Huron-Wendat artisans were able to adapt their snowshoes to modern needs without compromising their original characteristics. Today, much lighter and more modern materials have replaced the ash and babiche.

Où:

These snowshoes were made in Wendake.

Quand:

In the 20th century, several small manufacturers in Wendake produced snowshoes for sale and export.

Qui:

Several Huron-Wendat businesses employed people (often men) to work in factories making the snowshoe frames and the lacing (babiche). However, some women from the community were also familiar with the technique of lacing the snowshoes.

M2005.35.2.1-2
© Musée McCord
Mocassin à raquette
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone: Huron-Wendat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1966-1970, 20e siècle
23.5 x 8.6 x 28 cm
Don de Mme Lise et Mme Andrée Mercier
M2005.35.2.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

With the adaptation of the Huron-Wendat to the new living conditions resulting from urbanization, society at large unfortunately assumed that their acculturation was a fait accompli. At the same time, the Huron-Wendat language was disappearing. The turning point proved to be their craftwork; from subsistence hunters, the Huron-Wendat had become a people living increasingly by industrial production. In 1879, Paul Picard and his nephew, Philippe Vincent, signed major contracts with the Commissariat de Québec. An article in L'Opinion publique for April-May 1879 noted that the contracts were for "providing snowshoes, shoes, mittens, tobagons (sic) and Indian sleds to the soldiers, who benefit greatly from them."

By about 1950, machines had replaced the work done by hand. That is how "soft shoes" for snowshoes, into which was inserted a felt liner, began being produced by machine in the factory of Maurice Bastien, who gained international fame for this product.

Quoi:

According to Rolland P. Sioui, these "soft shoes" or snowshoe moccasins were made industrially using split horsehide. Special machines split the leather in two layers. The upper part of the moccasin was made with the inside layer of the leather, while the foot was made with the outside layer, which was a little tougher.

Où:

This product was made in Wendake for sale and export.

Quand:

These "soft shoes" for snowshoes were introduced to the market during the Second World War.

Qui:

These "soft shoes" were made by Maurice Bastien, a businessman from Wendake and owner of Bastien Brothers, a company that gained international fame. A similar type of footwear was made by Paul Blondeau of Loretteville.

M7062
© Musée McCord
Bourse
Forêts de l'Est
Autochtone : Huron-Wendat?
Anonyme - Anonymous
1901, 20e siècle
10.1 x 12.2 cm
M7062
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Today, artisanal techniques and materials are very diverse and the men and women of Wendake continue to make objects that evoke the material culture of their ancestors. There have also been numerous "borrowings" from other Aboriginal nations, and these days in Wendake you can buy dream catchers as well as other objects representative of pan-Aboriginal culture.

One example is this small change purse in sealskin (a raw material of the Inuit). Made for resale in urban boutiques, it became very popular in the 1970s.

Quoi:

In the 20th century, small manufacturers in Wendake used sealskin to decorate moccasins and make other everyday items such as this small change purse.

Où:

According to the Elder Ludovic Sioui (who has now died), the Huron-Wendat travelled as far as Rivière-du-Loup to hunt seals. Seals were hunted at low tide when they climbed onto the rocky banks of the St. Lawrence River and it was easy to approach and kill them.

Quand:

Seal hunting and the use of their fur and hide by the Huron-Wendat and the Malecite grew in popularity in the 20th century.

Qui:

Both the Huron-Wendat and the Malecite hunted seals in the Rivière-du-Loup area for the several businesses in Wendake that produced items made with the skin and fur of seals.

© Musée McCord Museum