Ceinture Fléchée, T89.0158
Posted: Jan 8th, 2020 | Collection Spotlight

Our Object of the Week is a ceinture fléchée, made in L’Assomption, Québec between 1875 and 1925.

The history of the development of the ceinture fléchée has been much debated. According to a paper by historians François Simard and Louis-Pascal Rousseau (Material Culture Review, 2004), the origin of the ceinture fléchée lies with the French-Canadians in the late 18th century. The sash was part of the outfit French-Canadian fur traders wore on trading missions; an intricate and beautiful object, it conveyed the power and prestige of the wearer and was amongst the most frequently traded objects. Finger-weaving was used by Indigenous people long before the arrival of Europeans and was essential in the development of the ceinture fléchée, as was the introduction of wool yarn from Europe. The Assomption style ceinture fléchée took form from these influences in the 1840s; the first Indigenous-made ceintures fléchées have been dated to the mid-19th century by Marie-Berthe Guibault-Lanoix. Simard and Rousseau argue that the ceinture fléchée can be seen as an intercultural North American object: a merger of Indigenous and French finger-weaving techniques and materials.

This ceinture fléchée’s dimensions are typical: 20 cm x 2 metres. A sash like this takes between 200 and 400 hours to make.

The ceinture fléchée holds distinct social, cultural and symbolic importance in the Métis, Indigenous and French-Canadian communities. In the past, a sash could also be employed as a functional object: it could be used to tie around a blanket coat for warmth, as a back-belt for labourers, a rope, an emergency bridle and more!

Links: Click here to see the sash on our collections database where you can zoom in to see details; Link to François Simard and Louis-Pascal Rousseau’s article in Material Culture Review (Vol 59, 2004) [article is in French]; Monique Genest-Leblanc’s book Une jolie cinture à flesche (2003) [book is in French]; The Quartier des Art de L’Assomption has an interesting ceinture fléchée tutorial on youtube [the video is in French – skip to 8:00 to see the fingerweaving in action!]; the Canadian Encyclopedia also has an interesting article on ceinture fléchée [available in English and French].

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