The Bible Bag

Women embraced the abundance of colours of glass beads to create beautiful designs, like this elaborate and symmetrical floral pattern.

Written by Cortney Pachet

Posted January 14, 2020

This Bible bag features intricate beadwork, expertly crafted pompoms, a handwoven strap, and a thick fringe of yarn.

It was made by an unknown Cree or Métis woman around the northern Manitoba community of York Factory in the mid-to-late 1920s and was later purchased by Hudson’s Bay Company employee George Fowlie.

In 1923, young Fowlie joined the HBC as an apprentice clerk and made the journey from his home of Aberdeen, Scotland, to York Factory on the shores of Hudson Bay. He used the bag to carry his Bible to services held by an Anglican minister, Rev. Richard Faries.

Fowlie worked with dogsled teams in the Nelson River District and formed bonds with the community. He returned to Scotland for a sojourn in 1929 before working in the fur trade in Grouard, Alberta, until 1934.

Fowlie carefully preserved the handmade objects he acquired during his six years at York Factory, and when he died in 1985 they were passed on to his daughter.

Fowlie’s collection is now part of the HBC Museum Collection housed at the Manitoba Museum.

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Cortney Pachet is assistant curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum.

This article originally appeared in the February-March issue of Canada’s History.

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