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The Métis Sash. The history as well as purposes of the sash . The Métis Sash. The Sash is a symbol of pride for many Métis people.

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The Métis Sash

The history as well as purposes of the sash


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The Métis Sash

  • The Sash is a symbol of pride for many Métis people.

  • Many Métis people consider their traditions, culture, history and way of life to be woven through the patterns, material and strands of the wool, as Métis people share an intertwining history with many other groups.



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The Sash Came from…

  • French Canadian weavers from L’Assomption which was a small town in Quebec made the Assomption Sash which was known for the arrowhead designs.

  • In time many of the Metis became voyagers and wore the sash, therefore the word Assomption was dropped in favor of the name “Metis Sash.”


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Different Styles

  • In Western Canada, the sash is associated with the Métis however in Central and Eastern Canada the sash is associated with traditional French Canadian Acadian and First Nation culture.

  • Each of these groups wore a variety of sash. The Métis wore “ceinture flechee” or “arrow belt.”



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The History of the Métis Sash

  • The finger-weaving technique used when making the sash originates from the Eastern Woodlands Indian Peoples who traditionally used plant fibers to make ropes and also made Wampum belts.

  • Wool and wearing the sash is derived from European culture.


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L’Assomption Sashes

  • These sashes were woven in large numbers first for the North West Company and then for the Hudson’s Bay Company as they were an important article of barter throughout the north.

  • The sashs made for trade were sold mainly to the Métis in the Red River settlement and to French Canadians.


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The Standardized Sash

  • Some claim that the art of sash making was lost once the sash became standardized. The demand for cheap articles brought about the production of a mechanically woven sash in England for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

  • These manufactured sashes were less durable and attractive than the hand woven variety, and they almost led to the abandonment of the art of finger weaving.


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Who Made the Sash

  • Before the sash was produced in standardized form, the workers made these sashes by the dozens.

  • The workers were said to have worked from early dawn until ten or eleven at night, for less than 30 cents a day.

  • One means to make a sash required the weaver to tie one end of the length of thread to a ceiling beam and the other to a long nail on the floor. Two wooden sticks would be fastened to the middle of the threads to hold them firmly in place. The weaver would then start at the middle of the threads and work towards the end tied to the nail on the floor.


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Quality of the Sash

A top quality sash, using 300 to 400 fine waxed woolen threads, usually took about 200 hours to complete. A lower quality sash made from around 100 thicker woolen threads could be made in 70-80 hours.


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The Colours in the Métis Sash

The sash has many interconnected threads. The main colours are: red, blue, black, white, and yellow. Red represents the historical colour of the sash whereas blue and white represents the Métis flag. Green represents growth and prosperity whereas black signifies the dark period of Métis history where Métis people suffered dispossession and suppression.


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The Colours in the Métis Sash

Traditionally Sashes were individualized, families and communities would often design and develop their own pattern and colours. Oftentimes a person could identify a strangers home community by their sash.


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The Wool of the Sash

  • The traditional wool used by the weavers was a lot different from that used for knitting or weaving. The wool was dyed with presumably vegetable and wood dyes and indigo.



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Purposes of the Sash

  • A belt to keep a coat closed.

  • A scarf and muffler to keep warm in the harsh winters.

  • A wash cloth and towel.

  • A first aid kit.

  • An emergency sewing kit.

  • A saddle blanket.

  • A money belt.

  • And many more.


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The Purpose of the Sash Today

  • Modern Sashes are mainly woven on a four harness loom and many finger-weaving programs are taught through cultural institutes, museums, and art classes both in Quebec and western Canada.

  • The traditional patterns are still used, the arrowhead sash is acknowledged as the recognized symbol of the Métis people.

  • The Métis sash continues to be worn with pride and dignity.



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A Sign of Recognition

Métis communities often honour the social, cultural, or political contributions of talented Métis by awarding them the “Order of the Sash.”

Awarding the sash is a means of expressing the preserving Métis identity and culture, while striving toward self-determination.


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References

  • The Métis: memorable events and memorable personalities George R. D.Goulet - Terry Goulet - FabJob – 2006

  • Assomption Sash Marius Barbeau- 1984

  • www.metismuseum.ca - The Sash Darren R. Prefontaine

  • www.metismuseum.ca - Traditional Métis Clothing Patrick Young

  • http://www.northwestjournal.ca/sash.html - Making an Arrowhead Sash


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