Oxford House HatsThe men and boys of Oxford House, northern Manitoba.
1926 Photo by Jack Kell.

The end of April was the time when the Swampy Cree of Oxford House, Manitoba came back from winter camp, ready for the Spring season.

They had gone far into the bush, lived in shacks, shot duck and moose, and fished for themselves and their dogs. They were more healthy and contented when they were out in the bush than on the reserve because they had meat to eat. The missionary had given their fathers their school exercise books and made them promise to have their children look at them at least once a day.

Now Spring was here and with it came travelers from the South. Eager to make some money, the men and boys tried to make a good impression. Strong and swift-footed, with valuable knowledge of nature and skills as craftsmen, they were indispensable as guides to carry the outsiders’ gear, paddle and portage canoes and navigate the trails through the bush. They would also exchange meat for ‘white man’s’ food such as jam.

Where Did They Get Their Hats From?
Each man or boy has his own style and no two hats are the same. I suspect they came out of the bales of clothing which were sent up to the reservation from church congregations in the South who wanted to help the Aboriginal people. The influence of the new age of aviation was detectable in some of the hat styles.

Look at this Historical Photo:
Chief Jeremiah Chubb is standing second from the left in the back row. He is the one who “although not musical, played the organ as best he could for the church services”.

His right hand man, Bobbie Chubb, is standing — on his right. He liked to brag and had a good sense of humor, which my mother (the missionary’s wife) adored.

One night when he was at Mission House, he told her that his children were not let out of the house at night because he locked the door at 10 p.m. Then he looked at his watch and said: “To-night I have locked myself out.”

Which hat in this historical photo appeals to you most?

What’s your new Spring hat like?

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