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Elizabeth (Betsy) Crowe (c.1839-c.1910)

Basket ( 1860

Birch bark, buck skin, porcupine quill | 25.0 x 30.0 x 22.0 cm (parts .a and .b together) | RCIN 84327

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  • Birch-bark basket and lid (makak) with handle, exterior partially quilled with heart shaped leaves and lid embroidered with Maltese crosses; handle made from leather with porcupine quills wrapped around it.

    This basket is one of more than a dozen birchbark containers presented as gifts to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in September 1860 by Michi Saagiig women. The prince visited the community at Rice Lake Village (now Hiawatha First Nation), Ontario, during a landmark two-month tour of Canada – the first royal tour of these territories.

     The baskets are known as ‘makaks’ in Anishnaabemowin, an Indigenous language spoken by the Mississauga First Nation community. Most are decorated with porcupine quillwork using a combination of Indigenous geometric and European-inspired floral designs. Unusually, the names of the women who made the makaks are preserved, on handwritten paper labels or quilled birchbark tags.

     The meeting at Rice Lake was an important opportunity for community members to acknowledge and renew their special relationship with the Crown. Gimaa (Chief) Paudash made a speech expressing their identity as sovereign nations allied to the Crown – a bond which stretched back hundreds of years. The presentation of the makaks and other gifts signified the renewal of these allegiances and obligations.

     After the prince’s return to Britain, the makaks were displayed in the Swiss Cottage Museum at Osborne House, Isle of Wight.

    The maker of this makak, Elizabeth (Betsy) Crowe (c.1806–?), was married to John Crow / Kaagaasi (c.1806–?), one of the hereditary Chiefs of Rice Lake. Elizabeth would have been 54 in 1860. Betsy is listed on the census as unable to read or write, living in a log home with John, three children and Sarah Copway. In addition to Betsy’s gift to the prince, Chief Crow presented him with a 'decorated war club' (likely the tomahawk, RCIN 84281).

    Supplementary biographical information provided by Dr Laura Peers, Dr Lori Beavis and Hiawatha community members.

    Provenance

    Presented to Queen Victoria, via the Prince of Wales, by Elizabeth Crow at Rice Lake, Canada, in 1860

  • Medium and techniques

    Birch bark, buck skin, porcupine quill

    Measurements

    25.0 x 30.0 x 22.0 cm (parts .a and .b together)

  • Place of Production

    Rice Lake [Ontario]


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