Edgar Dewdney collection

Edgar Dewdney was born in Bideford, Devon, in 1835.  He attended school in Bideford, Tiverton and Exeter, and went on to study civil engineering at Cardiff. Arriving in British Columbia at the age of 23, he travelled the province as a surveyor to town planners and road builders.

In 1868  Dewdney began a career in government, representing British Columbia districts in the legislative council. In 1879 he was appointed Indian commissioner of the North-West Territories and was also Minister of the Interior and Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In 1893 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia.

Seeing the items collected by Cecil Denny in their original display case while on a visit to Exeter Museum in 1906, Edgar Dewdney told his wife (Blanche Elizabeth, nee Plantagenet Kemeys-Tynte) that he wanted some of his own collection to come to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum after his death.

Dewdney retired in 1897 and settled in Victoria, the capital of the province of British Columbia, and died there in 1916.

His donation consists of 101 items, of which 12 are attributed to the Northern Plains; from Alberta and Montana. The collection was donated in two parts, therefore accessioned in 1925 and 1927.

 

The collection

 

25/1920/1 Bison robe

This item was destroyed in 1970 due to infestation.

 

25/1920/2 Buffalo horn headdress with trailer

Blackfeet. Only men of high rank wore buffalo horns on their head-dresses. The horns conferred the power of the buffalo bulls on the wearer. The eagle feathers were symbols of power and liberty.

The head-dress listed in 1904 as having been bought from Denny has not been identified in the collections, although it can be seen in photographs taken early in the 20th century. The head-dress shown here, collected by Edgar Dewdney, appears to resemble it.

 

Consisting of a deerskin cap, this headdress is fringed and trimmed with red trade-cloth. Bound at intervals with natural toned quills the cap has eagle and other feathers (raptor) with a pair of buffalo horns. The long tail is decorated with feathers, brass bells, thongs and tufts of black hair. Whilst the cap is stitched with sinew, the tail contains cotton thread stitching.

Length 1845mm

 

 

25/1920/8 Moccasins

Listed as a pair of Blackfeet hide moccasins decorated with red cloth and beads, with red anlets. These moccasins have not yet been identified but could relate to accessioned pair 212/1996/6. However, the description given is not extensive enough to prove this conclusively.

 

25/1920/13 Pouch

A Blackfoot-styled deerskin pouch with fragments of a blue cloth backing. It carries a thong fringe with the tips encased in metal cones. Pouch decorated in a beaded design of pink, black and blue beads, sinew-strung.

Length 205mm x Width 77

 

 

 

25/1920/20 Knife and sheath

 

 

An iron blade where the blade's tang is fixed to a wooden handle with 4 metal rivets. The sheath is cotton stitched and decorated in beadwork. One side has a pink background with 4 yellow and black diamonds, with a border of a blue and yellow beads.

Sheath length 379mm, knife length 342mm

 

 

 

25/1920/24 Cuffs

 

Blackfoot cuffs of cloth with a white cotton underside and a front of woven black wool decorated with beads in a floral design. There has been some moth damage to the surface wool.

Length 310mm x Width 108mm

 

 

 

25/1920/25 Pouch

Plains-style pouch with a horse's hoof design. No traditional materials are used but European-American produced. Context of pouch could reflect a time where there was no buffalo to hunt, or reflect the people living on reservation, or on the move due to forced relocation, so no opportunity for hunting.

Length of pouch 240mm x Width 180mm

Plains styled pouch

 

 

25/1920/26 Belt

Originally described as a Blackfoot belt of red trade cloth decorated with blue beads. According to letter written by Blanche Dewdney to Rowley the museum curator, this belt belonged to one of Crowfoot's warriors.

Length 1350mm x Width 192mm

 

 

25/1920/32 Pad saddle

This Blackfoot deerskin pad saddle, which is in a Cree or Crow style. The beaded floral decoration is typically Woodlands in a style that influenced the Plains area in the 19th century. Comes with a saddlecloth of dark blue wool.

Length 470mm x Width 280mm x Height 220mm

Pad saddle and blanket 

 

25/1920/36 & 37 Stone-headed clubs

 

Two Blackfoot stone-headed war clubs, both have handles that are covered in buckskin and decorated with trade-cloth and blue beads.

Length 754mm and 855mm respectively

 

 

 

 

25/1920/51 Pipe

A Blackfoot pipe bowl of catlinite. According to the letters written by Blanche Dewdney to Rowley the curator, this pipe bowl was once owned by one of Crowfoot's warriors.

Length 165mm x Height 75mm

 

70/1927/24 Pouch

A Blackfoot pouch of soft hide which is decorated on the front with white, pink, blue and yellow seed beads. Body also has a frigne. A European-made mother-of-pearl shell button acts as a fastener.

Length 73mm x Width 74mm