Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière's Sash

A useful belt became a symbol of French-Canadian and Métis cultural identities.

Written by Mathieu Drouin

Posted February 6, 2023

The origin and development of the arrowhead sash have long been controversial. Historians generally agree that the sash was invented by French Canadians, who employed a finger-weaving technique inherited from both Indigenous and French traditions.

The accessory was widely adopted by French Canadians because of its practicality: it held winter coats tightly closed and served as a lumbar support when carrying heavy packs. Indigenous and Métis people adopted it for aesthetic reasons — the sash was a marker of social prestige — as well as practical ones.

The arrowhead sash became a symbol of French-Canadian and Métis cultural identity. During the uprisings of 1837–38 in Lower Canada, French Canadians demanding greater political autonomy showed their nationalism by wearing an arrowhead sash. Similarly, Louis Riel and his followers wore arrowhead sashes during the Red River Resistance of 1870 and the North-West Resistance of 1885.

This sash belonged to Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière (or Lagimonière), grandfather of Louis Riel and one of the first French-Canadian settlers in the Northwest. Lagimodière, who travelled frequently for the Hudson's Bay Company, fostered the Red River Settlement by providing supplies for the growing colony. His belt bears the distinctive lightning-shaped Assumption motif, named after a community on the L'Assomption River northeast of Montreal. It was probably made in the first half of the nineteenth century.

This object resides at The Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in Cinquante Merveilles de nos musées: les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

Related to First Nations, Inuit & Metis