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.

My folks bought me this on a trip to Winnipeg, but you can find some here, too. 

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Upcoming Events in July!

July is a busy month for me.

July 4th - 7th I'll be at the wild and crazy CONvergence 2013 talking on a few panels and just having a fun time.

July 10th (Wednesday) I'll be giving a talk at the Maplewood Area Historical Society at 7:00 pm about the ox cart/Red River trails. This is open to the public, so if you're in the area, come on over! The MAHS is located at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm, 2170 East County Road D, Maplewood, MN 55117.

July 20 & 21, I'll be part of the Literary Landing at the Minnesota River Arts Fair. We'll be giving readings, signing books, and just chatting it up with anyone and everyone who stops on by. It's located at The Landing in Shakopee, and goes from 10 - 5 both Saturday and Sunday. Erin Hart and Paddy O'Brien are the Keynote speakers. I'll be giving a talk/reading at 1:30 on Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday. Other authors there will be Pat Dennis, Jan Dunlap, Susan Koefod, Kathryn Sullivan, Evelyn Klein, Cristina Oxtra, Sheyna Galyan, Debbie Lampi, and Connie Claire Szarke. There will also be over fifty visual artists, music, and history! Should be fun.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ox Cart Angel in Crosslake!

Last week I gave a talk on about the ox cart/Red River trails to the Crosslake (MN) Historical Society. The even was held outside in the middle of the Old Pioneer Village. Beautiful weather, great people, and delicious treats provided by the historical society members. I think I only got one mosquito bite during the whole thing, and that's saying something! Special thanks to Mary Hoag, the CHS president, for letting me come up and talk.

Ox Cart Angel on Amazon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ox Cart Angel in Cold Spring - on YouTube!

I spoke at the Cold Spring, MN Historical Society on Friday, February 8th. Of course, on the way up, I had to stop at the Clearwater Travel Plaza for some of their amazing caramel apples. Anyway, the talk went well, and it was great to meet some of the folks up there.

PLUS, the talk was videotaped by Duane Kuss and put up on Youtube! So if you'd like to see it, you can view it here. It's about 43 minutes long.

I had a wonderful time.

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Ox Cart Angel in Sauk Centre

In the beginning of January, I had the privilege to give a talk at the Sauk Centre Historical Society's annual meeting. I had a nice time, and I hope the historical society members enjoyed it, too. One neat thing is that Sauk Centre was Sinclair Lewis' hometown - he based his famous novel Main Street on the city. I've read Main Street, Arrowsmith, and my favorite of his - Babbitt - and enjoyed them all. So it was quite fun to hear Pamela Borgmann, who was my contact person with the historical society, tell me that her grandfather had passed by Sinclair Lewis when they were both youths. Sinclair started throwing apples at Pam's grandfather, scaring his horse, after which the grandfather proceeded to beat up Mr. Lewis. When taken to Sinclair's father, who was a doctor, apparently the father told Pam's ancestor that Sinclair had it coming. What a great story!

Anyway, much thanks to the folks there for hosting me!

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