Based on an article originally published in the Kenora Daily Miner and News
Dr. Sherry Racette (left) examines the jacket worn by Métis northern
runner Arthur Beacham with two of his descendants: granddaughter
Linda Beachman and great-granddaughter Chamain Romaniuk.
Speaking at the Lake of the Woods Museum in Kenora recently, Dr. Sherry Racette, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, and an expert in Métis textile fabrication and decorative artwork in bead, quill and thread, focused on a jacket that had been donated to the museum by the Beacham family of Kenora. The jacket is part of a display at the Museum called Resillence/Resistance: Métis Arts 1880-2011.
The coat had belonged to Arthur Beacham (1889 – 1938), and was created by his mother, Maria Crate Beacham, and sister Eleanor in 1907. Mr. Beacham was among the famed northern “runners” who travelled in two-man dog sled teams to deliver the mail. While one man broke trail by snowshoe, the other ran beside the sled–up the frozen Red River to Lake Winnipeg and on to Norway House, a 1000 km journey that took eight days.
The runners were known to be flashy dressers, but the jacket is also practical. The fringe deflects moisture and sheds snow, and the seams are sandwiched with leather trim to keep the stitches dry for strength and wind proofing. An ornamental mink and caribou hide chest plate provides ventilation while preventing drafts, and the intricate designs are ‘button’ stitch embroidery in silk thread.
Dr. Racette commented that, “The embroidery style is unique to the region and specific area but unlike bead and quill work, a revival of the craft has yet to occur. It’s very fine work….”