Chiefs, Lord Selkirk renew bond after 200 years


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PEGUIS FIRST NATION -- Two distinctive hats were exchanged on Friday as chiefs marked the bicentenary of the Selkirk Treaty with the current Lord Selkirk.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/07/2017 (2027 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PEGUIS FIRST NATION — Two distinctive hats were exchanged on Friday as chiefs marked the bicentenary of the Selkirk Treaty with the current Lord Selkirk.

Lord Selkirk repatriated the floor-length headdress given to his uncle who held the title before him.

And, in return, Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson gave him one of the highest honours of Ojibway society, an otter-skin hat decorated with beaded symbols of peace and friendship.

The 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Treaty is being celebrated in Winnipeg, Selkirk, Brokenhead and Peguis in a whirlwind series of events all week. Five chiefs, four Ojibway and one Cree, signed the treaty, giving farmland two miles back from the Red and the Assiniboine to Selkirk’s people as a gift, not a land sale. It was the land-sharing aspect that made the Selkirk Treaty distinct in Canada’s history of treaty making.

The headdress presented on Friday carried the symbolic weight of a war bonnet worn by chiefs. The otter-skin hat, on the other hand, symbolized peaceful diplomacy.

“It’s an Ojibway traditional hat, rarely given except to leaders with a long history and a long experience of leadership,” Hudson said following the presentation.

Newly elected AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson holding the headdress presented to Hudson by Lord Selkirk, Friday, July 21, 2017. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press)

“Chief Peguis was a great man,” said James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, the current Lord Selkirk, who travelled from Scotland. “I think this trip has given the relationship with indigenous people and the settlers a great lift.”

Several chiefs met with Lord Selkirk at the Peguis pow-wow arbor, including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader, the newly elected Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, Southern Grand Chief Jerry Daniels and direct Peguis descendant Brokenhead Chief Jim Bear.

There, before a gathering of local Peguis residents and descendants of the original Selkirk settlers, Lord Selkirk officially handed over the 50-year-old headdress to Hudson.

“The treaty is a very significant document . . . And Chief Peguis always kept his word to the settlers in the Red River,” Lord Selkirk told the gathering.

“My uncle had a great love of Canada and made numerous journeys here and to be made an honorary chief of the Red River Saulteaux was one of the honours he cherished. I feel very privileged to hand back this bonnet to the people of Peguis.”

The master of ceremonies for the day, Dave McPherson, said there was a great deal of symbolism with the events at Peguis.

“The essence is that of friendship which has stood the test of time. Lord Selkirk with his visit here today shows he’s still willing to make treaty and to remember the agreement that was set out so many years ago.”

The special bond between the Selkirk family and Peguis’s people was also honoured with the return of a pipe bowl once owned by Peguis.

A pipe and other artifacts displayed as Lord Selkirk visits Peguis. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hudson said the pipe bowl will be smoked again in ceremonies at Peguis. A grandson of Peguis sold the pipe bowl to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1929 and it was eventually housed at the Manitoba Museum.

The treaty itself is a living document, Hudson said.

“It was the first treaty indigenous people made here with the newcomer settlers and it shows the relationship for people here, not only for our people but for all people, Hudson said.

The Scottish farmers originally affected by the treaty were unusual, too, victims of a cruel period in Scottish history known as the Highland Clearances. Farmers were kicked off lands their ancestors had held for hundreds of years in the highlands of Scotland.

At least one member from Peguis remarked Friday on the similarity of the clan and totem systems that were the traditional social framework for both peoples.

Two hundred years ago, Selkirk felt the settlers had been betrayed and he worked to find them new homes, using his own fortune. He secured the land, and the dispossessed refugees brought the labour in Ontario, P.E.I. and Manitoba.

All this week, both his descendant and Peguis’s direct descendant, Chief Bear, have reminded people that Peguis and Selkirk were friends, with similar outlooks and despite the vastly different worlds they came from they had a solid understanding of what they wanted from this treaty.

The land sharing agreement was crucial to establishing peace in the Red River. The year before it was signed, the settlers fled after the violence at Seven Oaks in 1816 and it had been Peguis and his people who helped the settlers find safe haven in Norway House for the winter. They also buried the dead, giving rise to an endearing image of Peguis holding the body of the slain Hudson’s Bay Co governor Robert Semple in his arms, and weeping.

MP Niki Ashton, Lord Selkirk and Brokenhead Chief Jim Bear in Peguis, Friday, July 21, 2017. (Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press)
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