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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
Needlework

Very early in their history, the Métis became known as ‘The Beadwork People’ because of the amount of decorative beadwork they wore. They decorated their straps, their bags, their jackets, their moccasins, their leggings, the bridle, saddle, and saddlebags of their horses. One element that is frequently mentioned is recurring floral motifs. There is some thought that these stylized blossoms originate in Quebec and were taught by the Grey Nuns. This would explain how wide spread is the design. It is found from the North West Territories to the Great Lakes.

The Aboriginals used porcupine quills, dyed with vegetable dyes, or left natural, to decorate their moccasins and bags. Some Métis handwork is done with quills. Certain designs are better in quillwork, those with straight lines in the design, particularly. When beads became widely available through the fur trade, Aboriginals used these in place of hand-made beads. Métis women of course always had access to beads, and beadwork done on leather worked particularly well. When the Métis began to use more fabrics, and lighter fabrics, they also had access to silk embroidery thread, and transferred some of their designs to ones that could be embroidered. This transition might have been influenced by the fresh flood of European influence in the mission schools.

The Métis society used the same type of beadwork to add decoration to their homes. They made items such as wall pockets, both as useful places to help organize the household and as a spot of bright colour to enrich the spirit of the home. They also decorated wall hangings, containers, cushions, etc.  These items added some gaiety to the wood walls and floor.

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Clothing

Needlework

Tools (snowshoes, traps, scrapers)

Toys (rattles, dolls, games)

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