Historic pictograph is First Nations view of treaty talks

The Pasqua First Nation is working with several groups, including the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, to raise money to buy a rare historic drawing.

The Pasqua First Nation is working with several groups, including the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, to raise money to buy a rare, historic drawing.

The drawing, created by Chief Pasqua of the Pasqua First Nation, shows the negotiations leading up to Treaty 4and wascreated sometime in the 1874-77 time period.

It is agraphite drawing ontwo paper panels, measuring 33 by 42 cm,that shows figures in European clothing and traditional Indian dress, and has pictographs of the gifts First Nations people were to receive.

The drawing is the only one known to show a treaty from the perspective of First Nations people in Canada.

Ontarioart dealerDonald Ellisis selling the pictograph for $175,000 US.

Thedocument has been inBritain sincethe late 1800s and was kept in a private family collection until six years ago, Ellis told CBC Radio.

Ellis bought it at auction then for a private collector, who now plans to sell it.

"Beyond its historical significance … it has an imagery and a vibrancy to it that is quite astonishing.It is a work of art beyond being an important historical document," he said.

One of the chief's descendants, Delbert Pasqua, a councillor with the Pasqua First Nation near Regina, travelled to New York last year to see the document.

He says the band could use itas written proof ofpromises made, including health care and education, in the original Treaty 4.

"You know the treaties are very significant to us and this document — if we can get it back and get it interpreted — I see it as a very strong tool in protecting our treaties and the promises that were made," he said in an interview with CBC Radio.

The area covered by Treaty 4covers most of southern Saskatchewan, and small parts of Alberta and Manitoba.

Wants drawing back in Sask.

Lorne Carrier, co-ordinator of the repatriation of the Pasqua pictograph project, says elders have told him it is time for the drawing to return to Saskatchewan.

He is intrigued by Chief Pasqua's drawings of pines and other trees, which may be a holistic symbol of well-being,that appear alongside more easily interpreted pictures of clothing and medicine chests.

"The most significant [pictograph]that I've looked at but can't easily be determined are the pictures of the trees, because the tree represents our standard of living in terms of economics, in terms of his spiritual health, in terms of his mental health," said Carrier.

"This man probably didn't speak English, was negotiating the future of his people with the Crown's representatives. He put down his interpretation in pictographic form on a document."

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum has applied for a federal grant to help purchase and house the pictograph, said director David Baron.

"And in our case we have a professional conservator and we have a reasonably high-quality environment in which to keep it," Baron said.

"Now that's not to say that Pasqua would not have access to the document, but we would have to enter into an agreement with them to care for it on their behalf."

A little more than half the required funds have been raised, and the museum and Pasqua First Nation are making a public appeal for funds.