Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dr. Richard Preston


The purpose of this study is to show the ways in which clothing reflected and influenced the shifting balance of power in the relations between and among Anishnaabe (Ojibway) and British peoples in the Great Lakes region. Clothing is embedded in cultural and economic systems, exerting a powerful force on the lives of individuals and nations. A specific objective is to reveal how clothing contributed to the economic and political subordination of Anishnaabek, as well as how it has facilitated gradual re-empowerment. This thesis makes a significant contribution to knowledge of the history of Great Lakes Native clothing by presenting and analyzing new data on clothing styles during the fur trade era, on the transformation from culturally distinct styles to the adoption of European styles, and on contemporary Native fashion and everyday styles. The resultant history of Anishnaabe clothing and original use of neglected sources, such as commercial records and language, contribute new insight to existing studies of ceremonial dress of the modern period. The interdisciplinary approach of this study reveals new perspectives on the history of colonial relations. The emphasis on clothing provides a window into cultural, social and economic aspects of inter-cultural relationships that are difficult to perceive through the study of words and events alone. As well, an innovative adoption of anthropological theories of narrative is used to elucidate historical processes in colonial relations. Original combinations and applications of theoretical concepts contribute new approaches to the interpretation of material culture and dress. These show how objects participate in cultural constructions of "the self" and "the environment" that vary across cultures and therefore influence relations between cultures. Application of the theories of narrative noted above demonstrates how dress functions to embody roles in "master narratives" which are shared among members of societies.

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