Oct 28, 2013
Building a Relationship with Switzerland's Nordamerika Native Museum
The first loan to Aanischaaukamikw from Europe was an 18th century Cree moccasin from the city of Zurich, Switzerland's Nordamerika Native Museum.
It was particularly important for the opening phase of our exhibition because it features fine porcupine quill work, a technique of decoration long ago replaced by beadwork and embroidery in this region.
It was also popular with visitors because the other moccasin of the pair had been located in a collection in Toronto (the Bata Shoe Museum) and the two had been brought together in our exhibition for the first time in many decades.
When it became time to return the Swiss moccasin this fall according to the original agreement, we requested that they extend the loan so that more people could see this quill work and our reproduction project could have the benefit of a such a masterwork as a model.
The Nordamerika Native Museum agreed and in their approval letter, asked if we could loan them a Cree artifact from our collection. We selected a pair of child's snowshoes donated to ACCI by the family of Reverend Canon Hugo Muller, who had worked in the southern James Bay Cree communities, including Waswanipi. These snowshoes, made in the 1960's, following an ancient pattern, and still made and used today represent one of the enduring inventions of northern peoples in North America, a essential tool for travel and for hunting and trapping in the north during the winter.
This loan exchange of "footwear" between Aanischaaukamikw and the Nordamerika Native Museum signals a new kind of co-operation, a chance for people in the northern region of Canada to see the exquisite historic handwork of their ancestors and a chance for visitors to Zurich to see an example of a highly specialized and utterly essential ongoing part of daily life on the traplines and in the forest camps of the James Bay Cree.
James Bay Cree Grand Chief, Matthew Coon Come, Cree Federal Government Member of Parliament, Romeo Saganash, Ouje-Bougoumou Chief Reggie Bosum and local and Quebec government ministers view the Swiss moccasin and its pair at the Museum opening.
"Snowshoe Walk" activities at Waswanipi, the Cree community from which the child's snowshoes to be loaned to Zurich originate.
Written by Stephen Inglis, Executive Director, Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute