Tumplines (scarves used to hold heavy objects against one’s back), household items, and clothing were originally finger-woven by Eastern Woodland Indians from plant fibres.
After Europeans introduced wool to Native cultures, finger-woven sashes became articles of clothing. Sashes were used in many ways — as temporary ropes, towels, bridles or saddle blankets. In the 1800s, sashes were a sign of office.
In the village of L’Assomption, Quebec, colourful sashes were a popular trade item, produced by French settlers mainly for the Quebecois and Métis of Western Canada. Sashes made by Aboriginal peoples were of a looser weave that often included beads.
It was also worn by French-Canadians during the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837, symbolizing their solidarity and heritage.
First known as “L’Assomption Sash”, it became identified with the voyageurs and Métis living in the Red River area and is now widely known as “the Métis sash”.
The Manitoba Métis Federation recently developed a new sash, whose colours (blue, white, red, black, green) represent important aspects of Métis culture.
Blue and white are the colours of the Métis flag.
Red stands for the Métis hunting flag, carried by the guide of the day.
Black represents the period after 1870, when the Métis were suppressed and their lands taken by the Canadian government.
Green is symbolic of fertility, growth and prosperity for the Métis nation.
Yellow, once a standard colour in the sashes of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, now appears only in special circumstances.
Today, a sash with golden threads is presented to members of The Order of the Sash. The Order recognizes members’ outstanding cultural, political, and/or social contributions to Métis people. The Métis National Council is also considering the establishment of The National Order of the Sash.