Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The main goals of this thesis are to recontextualize, to rehistoricize and to facilitate the symbolic repatriation of East Cree material culture. As a consequence of the British presence in the Hudson Bay Territory, from the seventeeth century onward a substantial number of inadequately documented material objects were collected from teh Cree of the James Bay region and ultimately accessioned into European and North American museum collections. By using these objects as primary documents, we are able to gain knowledge of the native world view and to reconstruct the social history of both the artifacts and their makers. Foremost is the need to establish a definitive ethnic identification of this material. This identification, derived from both external and internal evidence, allows further analysis of particular items which contribute towards a general understanding of East Cree history and world view. Evidence for embedded symbolism expressed in the decorative elements of beaded hoods reveals the dynamic and negotiated realities of native and European relations. While reworking and incorporating European aesthetics and ideals into their material culture, the Cree retained components paramount to native world view. As well, a socio-semiotic analysis of cloth leggings reveals their communicative role in visually projecting encoded messages to be decoded not only by members of linguistically similar groups but also by others, both human and animal, from outside these groups. On a more abstract level, metaphors of protection and provision as tangibly rendered in the ubiquity of lines and knots demonstrate the interdependence and connnectedness of Cree culture. The connecting link throughout is the prevalent theme that "together we survive." This refers not only to the actions and world view of the Cree, but also to the objects that have survived and which are not source material for reconstructing the past. Now that these initial steps have been taken, the Cree can recover this aspect of their history.
Oberholtzer, Cath, "Together we survive: East cree material culture" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2572.