Messagepar admin » Mer 6 Avr 2011 22:36


Long ago when the French fur traders used to meet with First Nation hunters gathered to barter, they dressed with great coats, beaver hats, coloured Métis sashes, garters and other Métis Canayen finery. These meeting always included smoking of the Calumet and trade palavers( gossips) , the French traders wanted to impress the First Nations citizens with the quality of their wares. The First Nations citizens, who craved personal adornment and prestige. The First Nation leaders were fond of acquiring similar insignias of power and emulating their distinguished visitors, so that great coats with hood, red and blue cloth leggings, beaded bands and pouches, brightly coloured eastern Quebec Métis sashes and garters of fine wool with flowing fringes and tufted tips, met with favour in the bartering process and very soon formed part of the attire of each First Nation Chiefs worthy of the name and of the “bourgois” who could afford these articles.

Thus began the widespread diffusion across North America of eastern Métis trade articles and handicrafts which were initially foreign among the Woodlands First Nations and in the one located in the West. In time these type of articles were later mistaken for being “Indian”.

As a tribute to a remarkable Quebec Métis craft, it is a well accepted fact that the woolen saches of the Eastern French Métis, referred to as “la ceinture fléchée”, arrowed sashes or as ceinture de L’Assomption or ceinture de St-Jacques de L’Achigan . The name were derived from the localities from which they originated. These Métis sashes first originated in Acadia, Lower Canada. Among the sashes of this exceptional group are the Métis Acadian sashes which were also referred as to the beaded sashes which consisted of 2 separate bands , of about 1 1/2 inches wide. Similar to simple garters, the border strand of these saches were interlock ed together at the edges.

In pressing need for resource, and as adaptable as they were, the Métis people of eastern Canada learned from the First Nations the finger weaving technique for making sashes , just as they learned the use of corn, tobacco, the snow shoes, moccasins, the practice of maple sugar making and other First Nation techniques.

As well, among the eastern Métis there were many Métis imitating French customs. It is also the Eastern Métis who in various respect imitated the customs of the First Nations with whom they were in daily contact. The Arrow sashes were woven in large numbers initially for their personal use and later for the North West Company and then for the Hudson Bay Company as they became important articles for barter all over the northern part of this continent.

It is these old Eastern Métis from French and Acadian stock that introduced the sash to the more recent western Métis settlements of the Red River created by the Métis Canayen Coureurs des Bois being part of the trading and moving their families west of the Orangist settlements of Ontario.

It is the Eastern Métis that first developed the Métis families, the Métis communities, the Métis culture, the Métis philosophy, the Métis spirituality and the Métis languages, as they adopted both the French and the First Nation cultures, smoked the First Nations pipes, adopted the catholic faith, used tobacco prepared in the native way, travelled in adapted huge canoes, wore shoes’ garters and sashes in their own Métis fashions and built the first Red River cart with imported wheels from eastern Canada in their huge canoe.

The Eastern Métis sashes were woven with spiritual patterns and considered by the Eastern Métis as spiritual objects with holographic three-dimensional designs similar to the one we see on the wampum belts used by First Nations Elders . The colours of the sashes were selected by the Eastern Métis women from the spectrum of the colours of the rainbow, in the same way these colours are selected and used among the First Nations when performing spiritual ceremonies. The Métis sashes were composed mainly of gros bleu, petit bleu, red, yellow, green and white compared to the mostly red Sashes mass produced in Conventry England for and introduceed by the Hudson Bay Company and adopted by the English Halfbreed countryborn of the west working mainly for the Hudson bay company .

The sashes were produced with a First Nations understanding of spirituality to received protection from the Creator and from the spirit for the Métis, the husband and children travelling on the rivers, portaging for months to move merchandise to the west.

Most of the original sashes “ ceintures fléchées” within the memory of old Eastern Métis people, were first made at St. Jacques de l’Achigan, in l’Assomption County Province of Quebec: St Jacques is about 8 miles north of L’Assomption village and L’Assomption is 25 miles northeast of Montréal on the north shore of the majestic Fleuve St-Laurent. They were not produced by the new Métis of the Red River in the new province of Manitoba as some Métis seem to believe.

It is possible that the Eastern Métis family adopted the simple process of finger braiding as designs exemplified in the Wampum Belts. With time elaborated upon the process to the point of making it their own. Then through the use of flexible and abundant materials, these Métis Women transformed the craft almost beyond recognition and gave it a new broader distribution among the Métis, the First Nations, the French and English who were glad to accept its renovated style.


The majority of the Métis families of St Jacques and many others parishes used to spend two to four months in the winter making sashes. The entire family, including women, children from the age of seven and even the men would begin to work on the sashes very early in the morning to stop only late at night. Due to the fact the sashes were produced not only for their own use but also to earn their food, this forced the Métis families maker of the sashes, to muster all their resources to make as many sashes as possible for the trader. This production always followed the particular Métis family pattern. These Métis families were from Acadian stock such as Aubin , Nicholas , Denis , Nault, Lavallé , Forest, Légaré, Bourgeois, Léveillé, Lajoie, Larivière, Richard, Blanchard, Salomé, Venne, Lord, Melançon, Johnson, Lord, Gaudet, Desrosiers, Lajoie, Légaré , Dion Mirault and many other to many to Mention.

Many children from these sash maker families, especially the little girl, began to help with making the sashes at a very early age. They began by helping their mothers who were weaving, by unravelling the threads behind her , the work of two children. Without their help, the weaver would have had frequently to leave her breading to unravel the tangled strands behind her. It was difficult for one person alone to twist the strands properly and to make the knots at the end. The technique was easy to learn, requiring lots of memory to maintain the continuity of the pattern. With time it became almost second nature and the weaving of the sashes could be done practically with their eyes closed especially in families where the craft had been practiced intently. A sash could be woven in few days. Most sashes were 6 feet and 6 inches long. As many settlers of L’Achigan were from Acadian it as been mistakenly presumed, that the craft of sash-making originated from Métis of Acadia.


What a nice opportunity for the women and children to meet, to chat and to fill the long day of the winter. A house was chosen and the whole place was taken over for stretching the strands from the ceiling to the floor. When the strands were sorted out, family colour selected, placed in a set and made ready for finger weaving, a tempié consisting of two flat cedar sticks about 12 inches long, was placed on each side of the set of strands, at the middle or centre, and tied at the end so as to hold them firmly in place. Then one end of strand was tied either to a ceiling beam or high up on the wall, and the opposite end was fastened to a long nail on the floor.

The weaver then sat beside the strands set diagonally and began her finger weaving from the tempié or sticks downwards. The weaving was started at the middle or centre of the whole length of the strands, which was the usual method for the long sashes. From time to time the tempié was loosened and shifted down, to keep it closer to the hands as it held the body of the fabric well stretched, In order to shorten the length of the stretch from the floor to the ceiling, the strands of the upper part were usually tied in several large knots, spaced evenly from each other. When one end was woven and the fringe completed the process was reversed: this finished end was then tied to the ceiling or the wall, and the other half was woven . Again, starting at the tempié, which had been readjusted just above the starting point. It would have been practically impossible to weave a large sash from one end. The strands were far to long as the woven body of the sash alone was about 6 1/2 feet long and the unwoven strands naturally were much longer.

There were several different ways of weaving, but the Assomption sashes are of the same standard, following the description recorded from a weaver. The arrows or points were usually made the length of the index finger that is about 3 1/2 inches and sometime a little bit longer. Most weavers made 7 arrows or points to a foot. But the finer sashes were stronger and more tightly woven, they consisted of 14 arrows or points to a foot which meant more work and resulting in a better quality product.

The red core or coeur (heart) as it was called by the weavers, consisted of 80 double strands of brins. On one side of the core were 16 arrows of points, consisting of 12 strands each: and as many on the other side: which means, 32 arrows or points in all: making a total of 464 strands in all. Petit bleu, gros bleu, yellow, red, white and green were the usual colours, among the Métis eastern weavers.

The wool required to make the sashes was of a special type it was rough, hard and dyed in advance. Each sash required 2 pounds of wool. The wool was purchased in skeins (écheveaux) arranged in balles of 10 pounds of each colour. The colours were bright and fresh. After the wool was received, it was twisted (retordue) on the spinning wheel at home and two single treads were spun into one to ensure more solid strands.

When the sashes were finished, they were moistened, stretched, covered with cloth and pressed with an old hot iron. Later various companies and some weavers substituted mechanically woven sashes made by machine or “Métier à tisser” to replace the former trade Sashes of L’Assomption .


The eastern French Métis , Bois brulé sashes have been borrowed by the Red River Métis and Half breed country born of western Canada without much knowledge and understanding of the Métis history of the sash or acknowledgement of its eastern Métis origins. Ironically , most of these western Métis and Halfbreed country born do not recognize the Eastern Métis . This statement is supported by the President of the Métis national council and the English Métis Nation stating publicly on television news :"There is no Métis in the province of Québec . "

Unfortunately the current sash used by the Métis National Council was created for the Québec winter carnivals of the late 1970s' and also from the sash produced for the Festival du Voyageur in St-Boniface Manitoba. This present sash is mass produced by a company in Québec city called les Petits Castors. The predominant red colour of this sash used by the National Métis Council reflects the colours of the Conventry sash mass produced by the Hudson’s Bay Company then controlled by English interests who were not to supportive of the French Métis Canayen and the French habitant of Lower Canada. The Predominantly gros and petit bleu colours of the eastern Métis sashes reflected the colour of the French and Acadian flags and was strongly supported by the Company du Nord Ouest at the time of the fur trade.

It is important to note thatQuebec Métis sashes have a story of their own to tell something western Métis do not know. All stories have a beginning to remind us who the Métis are and where they came from. Different from other sashes, the Métis ( French and First Nations ) sashes disclosed the process of the Métis Culture, its early growth and some of the features of the Métis population movement to western Canada. The red sash that was mass produced in Conventry England and introduced by the Hudson Bay company did not reflect the Métis culture but more so the culture of the English Halfbreed. This is why no individuals or organisations have the authority to limit the recognition of Métis identity to a particular territory.

We must go back to the origin of the sash as told by our Elders. The sash represents the spine of the Métis Nation and their families from coast to coast on Turtle Island. The sash is the spiritual connection of all the Métis People. We must reconnect the strands of the sash to who we are and what we have became. We must redesign our sashes in respect of the Métis Nation and our Métis families clans. Our sashes must reflect our true Métis identity.

We must built the future of la Nation Métis . The families clans must gather once again around their family fire to decide which colours will be used to once again make their new family sash. The Métis People must also gather around the fire of la Nation Métis to decide on the official Nation Métis sash with le gros bleu et le petit bleu reflecting who the French Métis People are, where they have come from and what they have become.

In the text the following words means :
Métis: is a word use to identified an Aboriginal person of French and First Nations ancestries,
Halfbreed : is a word used to identify an Aboriginal person of English, Scotish, Irish and First Nations ancestries.
Canayen: Métis and french descend born in Canada
Rassade: rought fine wool
Bourgois: upper class
Gros bleu: dark blue
Petit Bleu: light blue
Tempié: loom
Retordue: twisted
Balles: bundle
Ceinture: sash

PS: This article was directed to western Métis but eunfortunalty was written in English as western Métis are no longer connected to their original french Michif language .
Claude Aubin
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