Métis Panel Bag: information

These bags were used for carrying personal medicines, tobacco, and flint and steel for making fire.  After the introduction of the gun, panel bags were also used to carry ammunition.

It is made of glass beads, porcupine quills, sinew thread (which is very strong), and loom-woven cloth.  The cloth and beads would have been imported from Europe.  The porcupine quills and sinew thread would have been part of the local material culture.

This artifact represents the essential character of Métis culture – it combines elements from both First Nations and European-based cultures. The panel bag is a perfect marriage – everything is woven tightly together, becoming almost inseparable. It reminds us that the maternal ancestors of the Métis were Aboriginal women from various First Nations and that their paternal ancestors were French-speaking voyageurs (fur-traders).

It is for this reason that the Métis people are sometimes considered to be the earliest example of multiculturalism in Canada. This artifact symbolizes and embodies the idea of multiculturalism.

The bag also reflects the mobility of the Métis, which they still practise today. More than one-fifth of the Métis population have more than one residence.

Canadians often think of Louis Riel when the Métis are mentioned, but the Métis culture flourished long before the era of Riel, the middle and late 19th century.
Royal Ontario Museum
Historical Advisor: Scott Carpenter, Métis Nation of Ontario

© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

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