We have ordered 250 voyageur sashes, special sesquicentennial edition, for the Four Winds brigaders, thanks to our Vice-commodore of Swag and Crew Captain from Perth, Ontario, Kay Rogers, who also provided the following information: The sahes are red and white, Canada’s colours, and a sesquicentennial stylized maple leaf will be sewn on each one. We paddlers will look very cool in our sashes.
THE VOYAGEUR SASH
The ceinture fléchée or voyageur sash is a finger woven belt made of brightly coloured wool &/or plant fibres approximately three metres long. It is a traditional piece of French Canadian clothing dating back to the 1770s when it was used to tie winter coats &, thereby, maximize heat retention.
The finger-weaving technique was firmly established in eastern woodland Indigeneous traditions when the settlers arrived. They used the technique to create tumplines, garters & other useful household articles & items of clothing from plant fibres & natural dyes. According to Dorothy K. Burnham, the residents of New France learned this type of finger weaving from the Indigenous women.
Sashes seem to have been introduced to the fur trade around 1797. The voyageurs’ finger-woven wool sash was also called a ceinture, ceinture flechée, or a belt (usually a ‘worsted belt’ or ‘Canadian belt’).
Sashes also prevented injuries & hernias for voyageurs as they acted as ergonomic back belts. They were also used as tumplines (a rope worn over the head to pull or carry heavy objects) & ropes. Though useful, there is no doubt that they were a valued status symbol – a badge of honour for voyageurs. . The sash was worn by eastern woodland Indians as a sign of office in the 19th century, & French Canadians wore it during the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837. It is still considered to be an important part of traditional dress for both these groups. For the Métis, the sash is a symbol of nationhood & cultural distinction.