Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Fun Week! Winona, Rochester, Alexandria and Hastings.

Despite the cold and awful winter weather, I had a fun week touring parts of Minnesota and giving talks about my book and the Red River trails. A week ago on Wednesday, I started out giving a talk at the Winona Historical Society - they have quite a nice new building - and from there went to the Olmsted County History Center in Rochester to give a talk. Reports were coming in of bad weather for the next day, but the drive home that evening went fine (although for some reason the door to my car's gas cap became stuck shut, so I had to pry it open with a screwdriver).

Thursday, I drove up to Alexandria's Runestone Museum to give two talks - one to a group of about 50 eighth and ninth graders, and then one to a group of adults. The weather was still okay, but had started to snow by the time I was leaving. I'd heard reports of school already closing for the next day in parts farther south in Minnesota. The drive out of Alexandria started fine, but about halfway home, things started getting a little hairy, and speeds on the highway slowed from 70 to 50 to 40 to 30...by the time I was near home, most (sensible) people were driving at about 20 mph. Still, only three miles from home, I skidded out of control and ended up on the side of the rode perpendicular to the highway. Luckily I didn't hit anyone or get hit, and all was fine. Well, except I had to be pulled back onto the highway by a tow truck, since my wheels didn't want to do anything but spin.

Friday here in Savage was a snow day. I stayed home, too, with my kids, and we held down the fort.

Sunday it was on to Hastings where I gave a talk at the Le Duc Estate - a beautiful old house. It was a sunny, yet cold day, and the roads were still icy in places, but the drive went fine. 

One thing I gotta say is that the people who work at these places have all been so kind. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. And the audiences, too...I always seem to learn something new from them. One of my favorite things about giving talks is the questions they asks and the anecdotes they often tell.

March will be another busy month for this author, so get ready to hear more about those squeaky wheels and well-rutted trails!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Busy Week - Events for Ox Cart Angel

This looks to be a fun and busy week!

I'll be giving a talk Thursday night to a group of Daughter of the American Revolution about Ox Cart Angel and the ox cart trails.

On Saturday, November 16th, I'll be at the annual Local Author Fair from 1 - 4 pm at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley, Minnesota, along with many other writers. Lorna Landvik is giving the keynote!

Hope to see you there!


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Metis Flag

The Métis flag consists of an infinity symbol (which looks like the number 8 tipped over on its side) on either a blue or red background. The blue background is believed to have originally represented those Métis who worked for the North West Company, while the flag with the red background represented the Métis who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company.


Metis flag with blue background

To some, the infinity symbol represents either the faith that the Métis culture will live on forever. To others it represents the blending of the two cultures from which the Métis came. The flag made its first appearance in Canada when Alexander MacDonnell, of the North West Company, gave it to the Métis as a gift. They quickly adopted the flag, and it was soon used by Métis resistance fighters before the Battle of the Seven Oaks in 1816.

Metis flag with red background

The Métis flag can still be seen in some areas of Canada. If you see one on your journeys, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ten Uses of The Metis Sash

An integral part of Métis life on the Red River trails was the Métis sash. It was originally called a L'Assumption sash, named for the town in Quebec in which it was created. It is made of wool and typically 3 meters long - which is close to 10 feet - and as you can see in the picture below, quite beautiful.

Métis sash

It looks simple, like a long scarf, yet it had many uses. Here are ten of them.

1 - Belt. It was often worn around the waist to hold a Métis coat - known as a capote - closed. A capote, by the way, was usually made from a Hudson Bay blanket.


A capote coat. Do you see the sash in the middle?

2 - Oven mitt. Of course, there weren't necessarily ovens on the ox cart trails, but if they needed to pull a hot pan or pot of coffee off of the fire, they could use their sash like we use an oven mitt today.

3 - Sewing repair. See the threads dangling on the end of the sash in the picture below? They were more than mere decoration. If a thread was needed for mending something, one of them could be pulled off and used for stitching.



4 - Key, knife, fire-kit holder. Those threads could also be used to attach items like keys. When wrapped around the waist, it often also held a knife on one side and a bag with fire-starting equipment on the other side.

5 - Buffalo marker. While on a buffalo hunt, the Métis sash could be used to mark a buffalo. Each sash had its unique qualities, and a Métis hunter could identify his from other sashes. If he killed a buffalo, he could place his sash on it, so that other hunters would know it was his.

6 - A tumpline. Tumplines were used by voyageurs and the Métis to carry heavy loads over portages or uneven terrain. They would place the middle of the sash over the top of their head and use the two free ends to tie a pack to their back.

7 - Bridle or saddle blanket. 

8 - Tourniquet. In a life-threatening emergency where heavy bleeding was involved, a Métis sash could be used as a tourniquet. It would be tied above an injury to stop or slow the flow of blood, turned tight by a stick or other baton-shaped object.

9 - A rope. 

10 - A scarf. A Métis sash does make a nice scarf!

Here's a closeup of the Métis sash so that you can see the detail:


As you can see, they are quite colorful. The colors have meaning. The red and white represent the mixing of the American Indian and European nations. The blue represents sky and water. Green represents fertility and growth. Yellows represents the sun.

Can you think of any other uses the Métis sash might have had?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Few New Places that Carry Ox Cart Angel!

Ox Cart Angel is now being carried at the Minnesota History Center Gift Shop and at Red Balloon Bookshop, both in St. Paul. It is also being carried at Louise Erdrich's Birchbark Books in Minneapolis!

There are also a number of historical society gift shops that carry it - particularly ones located in the vicinity of the ox cart and Red River trails.

Sunday, July 28, 2013