The first loan to Aanischaaukamikw from Europe was an 18th century
Cree moccasin from the city of Zurich, Switzerland’s Nordamerika Native Museum.
It was particularly important for the opening phase of our
exhibition because it features fine porcupine quill work, a technique of
decoration long ago replaced by beadwork and embroidery in this region.
It was also popular with visitors because the other moccasin of the
pair had been located in a collection in Toronto (the Bata Shoe Museum) and the
two had been brought together in our exhibition for the first time in many
When it became time to return the moccasin cared for by the Nordamerika Native Museum this fall according
to the original agreement, we requested that they extend the loan so that more
people could see this quill work and our reproduction project could have the
benefit of a such a masterwork as a model.
The Nordamerika Native Museum agreed and in their approval letter,
asked if we could loan them a Cree artifact from our collection. Instead of a loan, we opted to gift them a newly made pair of snowshoes by master craftsman, Saunders Weistche, of Waskaganish.
This exchange (albeit temporary for the moccasin) of “footwear” between Aanischaaukamikw
and the Nordamerika Native Museum signals a new kind of co-operation, a chance
for people in the northern region of Canada to see the exquisite historic
handwork of their ancestors and a chance for visitors to Zurich to see an
example of a highly specialized and utterly essential ongoing part of daily
life on the traplines and in the forest camps of Eeyou Istchee.
James Bay Cree Grand Chief, Matthew Coon Come, Cree Federal
Government Member of Parliament, Romeo Saganash, Ouje-Bougoumou Chief Reggie
Bosum and local and Quebec government ministers view the Swiss moccasin and its
pair at the Museum opening.
Written by Stephen Inglis, Executive Director, Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute, updated in 2021 by Aanischaaukamikw to correct erroneous information about a loan of an older pair of snowshoes from the ACCI collection to Switzerland. This was an early idea, but in the end ACCI opted to gift a contemporary pair.