Beadwork bands

This pair of beadwork bands was woven on a wooden frame loom around 1920. They are believed to have been made by Christina Massan, a Cree from Big Trout Lake, Ontario, who was married to Henry Moir, the Hudson's Bay Company manager at Churchill, Manitoba.

Beadwork of this sort, with geometric designs in glass beads, was worn as armbands or used to decorate clothing or tikanagens [cradles]. It has a long history in northern Manitoba. In his Observations Upon Hudson's Bay written during the 1740s, for instance, James Isham, chief at York Factory, described how Cree women wove beadwork bands on a simple sampling loom. Long before imported glass beads became more readily available, women would have made similar style belts from other materials, such as bird quills and seed beads.

These bands were brought to Scotland in 1921 with Tom and Ronald Moir, who were given them by their mother, Christina. The boys grew up in Scotland and never saw their mother’s family again, but the beadwork was a reminder for them and their own children that they had family connections in the Canadian north. In 1998 the beadwork bands were donated to Glasgow Museums where they are currently on display. They have since been used as a focus for exploring the family histories of Christina Massan and Henry Moir and the experiences of twentieth century fur trade families in Scotland and Canada.

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© Glasgow City Council A.1998.14c+d

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