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Artifacts

Artifacts Canada Postage Stamp
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Title
Artifacts
Denomination
Date of Issue
April 4, 1975
Quantity
14,000,000
Postal Administration
Canada
Series
Indians of Canada, Indians of the Subarctic
Series Time Span
1972 - 1976
Perforation or Dimension
13.5
Printer
Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.
Creators
Designed by Georges Beaupré. Based on a photograph by Ray Webber.
Hidden Date

The hidden date for this stamp can be found in the bottom-left corner.

About Stamp

The Subarctic cultural area extended from the Labrador coast, through Quebec, northern Ontario and the northern prairies across the Mackenzie River basin and into Alaska. Living in this vast region were Indians of two language groups, the Athapaskan, distantly related to certain Asian languages, and the Algonkian. The Athapaskans were the western group and included Kutchin, Hare, Dogrib, Yellowknife, Kaska, Slave, Skani, Beaver and Chipewyan Indians. The Algonkians included Ojibwas, Crees, Mistassini-Crees, Montagnais, Naskapis and Beothuks. The Beothuks are extinct. In the harsh Subarctic, where food was scarce, people were widely scattered. During winter they hunted, in groups of around twenty relations, in their own isolated territories. When summer arrived, the hunting parties which formed a single band came together, often at a good fishing spot or a trading post. A senior male led this band. He was usually an outstanding hunter and a skillful bargainer or perhaps a noted shaman. Generally, the leader had more influence than power. With no police courts, jails or other civil and religious institutions to control the Subarctic Indians, they relied on anxiety to regulate personal conduct. Starvation was the penalty for those who failed in the almost daily task of extracting sustenance from the meagre environment. The people hunted, fished and snared but ate little plant food. Caribou and rabbits were especially important dietary items although there were regional variations. While certain tribes despised fishing, those of the far west depended heavily on the salmon they caught using a trap derived perhaps from the Russians. The Cree of James Bay were expert at taking waterfowl. Yukon hunters jumped out of a canoe onto the back of a swimming moose and cut their throats. The Algonkians and Athapaskans of the north usually boiled their meat but occasionally roasted it. They often dried meat and preserved it in the intestines of large game animals or in bark containers. Some group prepared a version of pemmican animals by breaking up fish flesh, and storing it, to be eaten later with fish oil. There were two meals each day, and food was served in birchbark plates and wooden dishes. The Subarctic Indians ate a large amount because they burned many calories keeping warm and hunting. Housing was light, portable and easily assembled. The most common type was the conical lodge. Foundation poles were simple to find and erect and the light outer shells of bark or skin were easy to carry from one campsite to another. Encampments usually contained two to five dwellings, each of which housed one or more families. The Indians built racks to dry meat, to hold supplies and to set out bones in respect for dead game animals. The northern natives learned to travel in summer and winter, because they often moved. They used canoes especially in the east where many bodies of water crisscrossed the dense forests and the muskeg. Although canoe styles varied from region to region, the birch bark model was ideal since it was light and easy to fit. Water transportation was less common in the west, although in the late 1800's, the mountain Indians invented the mooseskin boat for returning downriver from their winter camps. These craft, some as much as forty feet long and seven feet wide, had a larger carrying capacity than canoes. Mooseskin boats normally drifted with the current although paddles came into play in fast water and at landings. When carrying goods overland, the Indians used a long narrow thong with a wide centre section. They passed the wide part around the porter's forehead and tied the ends to a bundle of up to several hundred pounds which rested on the back. Snowshoes kept people from sinking into the snow in winter and toboggans, pulled by the Indians themselves, moved possessions from place to place across the drifts. Few bands produced sleds. Dogs did not pull either sleds or toboggans until after the Europeans arrived. Men and women cooperated in the manufacture of canoes, mooseskin boats and snowshoes. Men made paddles and frames and women prepared webbings and covers. Religion was intimately connected with the hunt. The Indians wanted to know where the game was and attempted to find out through ceremonial songs and the interpretation of dreams. The tribes were careful to honour and placate the spirits of any animals they had killed. Rituals were minor affairs but shamanism was important. A shaman was an individual who was thought to have supernatural powers for good or evil. The spirit of the turtle was often the shaman's helper. Some Subarctic bands believed in reincarnation. Subarctic Indians were among the first North Americans to meet Europeans. Beothuks probably came into contact with the Vikings and certainly saw John Cabot. He observed the Beothuk's custom of painting their bodies with red ochre and many in the old world assumed from his description of this practice that Indians were red. The newcomers and the natives quickly exchanged technologies thus affecting the lifestyles of both. Europeans could not have survived without the canoe, the snowshoes, and the local remedy for scurvy while metal knives, traps and cooking pots as well as guns made the existence of the natives considerably more comfortable. However, they obtained such items in return for furs and they soon put a greater emphasis on trapping and a smaller emphasis on communal use of the land. Caucasians gave the Subarctic Indians measles and smallpox. Samuel Hearne estimated that the 1781-82 smallpox epidemic killed nine-tenths of the northern Athapaskans. The Europeans do not seem to have received any illnesses in return but made up for this in other parts of the non-white world where they acquired malaria, syphilis and the black death. Ray Webber photographed the artifacts which are, from left to right, a drum, a scorched caribou scapula bone, a mitishi (beaded charm), a woman's hat, a decorated bear skull, a toy bear and a model canoe. The canoe is Chipewyan and the other objects are of Montagnais-Naskapi origin. The Royal Ontario Museum, the National Museums of Canada and Alika Podolinsky-Webber provided the artifacts. The way of life stamp features the "Dance of the Kutcha-Kutchin". A.H. Murray drew this scene and M. & N. Hanhart Lithographers originally printed it for a book entitled Arctic Searching Expedition... by Sir John Richardson. The Post Office is reproducing the picture with the permission of the Public Archives of Canada. Lewis Parker sketched a ceremonial costume of the Kutchin tribe for the dress stamp. Georges Beaupré designed the graphic symbolism stamp which includes a Ojibwa thunderbird and a decorative strip from the coat of a Naskapi. Mr. Beaupré did the typography for the entire Indian series.

Reference
Canada. Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1975.
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