Aboriginal ceremonies oscillate between the conjunction of tangible and intangible universes - hence the fine line which exists between ceremonies and art. There are indeed passages between healing and shamanic worlds of celebration and certain objects. Dialogues also exist between social ceremonies, rhythms and sounds, as well as creative speech. Then there are diplomatic protocols. The Wampum, the Headdresses of Great Chiefs, the Calumets and, in certain perspectives, the Ceintures fléchées (arrowed belts) are four types of Aboriginal artifacts which, in addition to their artistic stylization, conceal great intangible values that are not only symbolic: they carry within them the very spirit of the nobility of geopolitical talks and alliances.
Political equivalents of royal crowns, the headdresses of Great Aboriginal Chiefs also serve a spiritual function by expressing relations to animal spirits as well as warrior qualities and stature, such as bravery and wisdom. Among the Iroquoian nations, if it is men who wear the headdress, it is women who appoint the chief. Flamboyantly adorned with animal feathers, including those of the eagle, wild pheasants and geese, but also with bones and hair strands, the headdresses show distinctive styles, depending on the tribe.
of Great Aboriginal Chiefs
Originally made of white and purple marine shells from the Atlantic coast, wampum have several uses: the sacred one, from founding myths such as the Hiawatha Wampum Iroquois Belt; those of collective memory to be reinterpreted periodically at gatherings; the diplomatic, equivalent to treaties, sealing the Alliances; and those used as trade currency. Until 1812, this system governed relations between First Nations and the Newcomers.
The ceinture fléchée (or “arrow belt”) weaves into one different cultural identities within Kanata. If its origins stem from First Nation culture (the technique of weaving of linden fibers), its development in time blends with French, British and Métis influences. The ceinture fléchée was to be worn by Wendat chiefs, coureurs des bois, the Prairies Métis, and French-Canadian habitants alike... not forgetting the iconic Bonhomme Carnaval, the famous mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival.
The ceremonial use of the Calumet (perhaps better known as the “Peace Pipe”) is a unifying symbol amongst the First Nations. Peace Treaties, after intense negotiations between parties held in the talking circle, were concluded with a feast and the final bounding ritual of taking turns smoking the Peace Pipe to seal new agreements. The Calumet underlines the importance of geopolitical transactions on the back of the Great Turtle.