Document Type

Book Chapter


Hidden away in the recesses of basement archives in the Australian Museum in Sydney are intriguing textile examples of the permeability of borders between the imagined and the real that show how fact and fiction intersect and even merge to create the myths by which we come to understand ourselves and others. One of the most exciting discoveries amongst the First Nations' collection was a pair of delicately embroidered sheepskin moccasins described as Minnehaha's Moccasins [Fig. 34]. For those, like myself, whose lives are fired by literary imagination, Minnehaha's Moccasins are a fascinating example of cultural negotiation and translation - both in terms of their materiality and the story that accompanies their long and unlikely journey from northern to southern hemispheres. Made by indigenous peoples in the New Brunswick area (Mi'kmaq and Maliseet), the moccasins' material and design are indicative of cultural adaptation: made from sheepskin rather than deer or moose hide, embroidered in glass bead rather than shell-bead or porcupine quill, featuring floral rather than traditional indigenous iconography. As material object, Minnehaha's Moccasins are a perfect example of the 'fabrics of change'; the story attached to them in the form of museum correspondence and documentation is a wonderful example of 'trading identities'.