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First Nations

Coat c. 1800

Leather and caribou skin | 117.0 x 53.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 72705

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  • A coat made of caribou skin, such as those worn by the Naskapi, Innu and Cree hunters of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula; half length, painted with stripes and a geometric design over the flared hem.

    Painted caribou-skin coats survive from as early as 1700. They are particularly associated with the nomadic communities of north-eastern Canada who relied on caribou herds for food and clothing. The coats were made as a way of venerating the caribou and ensuring the success of future hunts.   Women painted the coats with motifs revealed in their husbands' dreams, which were thought to grant power to the hunters. Careful preparation of this kind was vital to ensure that the 'Lord of the Caribou' would dispatch animals from their home for the hunt.  If killed in an appropriate manner, the caribou spirits would return to earth again for future hunts.  The coats were thought to lose their power after a year, and might then be traded or sold by their owners.

    Provenance

    Presented to George IV when Prince of Wales by Colonel Benjamin Bloomfield in 1807. 

    The metal disc number '1874' recorded in the markings corresponds to the entry in the Carlton House Arms and Armour Inventory, 'Leather Coat. Indian - made of White Leather - ornamented or stained Red and Yellow'.  The coat was previously thought to be CH AA 1519 - 'A Coat. Indian, made of white leather with ornaments stained on it all round, A Quillted Cap or Helmet made of Cotton and flowerd Chints' presented to George IV by Mr Gordon on 24 February 1801, but it answers less well to this description and there is no trace of the 'cap'.

  • Medium and techniques

    Leather and caribou skin

    Measurements

    117.0 x 53.0 cm (whole object)

  • Place of Production

    Canada