Height: 87.000 cm
Width: 50.000 cm (at shoulders)
Room 26: North America
Blue wool shirt of Louis O'Soup, the Plains Ojibwa or Saulteaux leader
Blood, 19th century
From the Canadian Plains, North America
Louis O'Soup (about 1830-1913) wore this shirt when addressing the Governor General of Canada, the Marquis of Lorne, on 19 August 1881 at Fort Qu'apelle, Saskatchewan. The speech drew attention to the treatment of his people, but was incompletely translated so as to leave out complaints. After speaking Lorne presented him with a Waltham watch, and in turn was given O'Soup's costume, which Lorne subsequently sold to the British Museum in 1887. The shirt is decorated with panels of beadwork, surrounded by beaver skin, and edged with coloured cloth tape and bunches of dyed horse hair.
O'Soup, whose name means Back Fat - the prized fat of moose - devoted most of his life to trying to persuade the Canadian government to honour treaty obligations. In 1911, when in his eighties, O'Soup was one of a delegation of nine leaders that went to Ottawa to complain:
'For many years we have put our children to school and there is not one yet that has enough education to make a living. ...they go to their parents for a start and their parents have nothing to give them, and the young man is reported as lazy. But he has nothing to scratch the ground with, and cannot farm.'
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)