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Important artifact under investigation

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One of the older artifacts at Fort Dauphin Museum, a spontoon, has staff unsure of its travels.
“It is a mystery. How did it come to be in the Parkland? Possibly a traveling band of Indigenous people traded it to, perhaps another band long ago, or perhaps it was lost from a sash of a rider. Nevertheless, it’s a great find of the fur trade area,” said executive director Theresa Deyholos.
The 180-year-old steel spontoon, also called a tomahawk, she explained, was donated to the museum in 1987.
It was located on a farmer’s field in the early 1940s, Deyholos said, close to the mouth of the Fishing River, which flows into the Mossey River.
The artifact is five-inches-by-14-inches, she noted, and research confirms it is was European manufactured.
“Similar tomahawks were made by a blacksmith who travelled with the Lewis and Clark expedition, who traded with the Indigenous peoples, as they crossed America,” Deyholos added.
It is an important item, she explained, because it helps to tell the story of the fur trade in the area.
Fort Dauphin Museum receives artifacts similar to the spontoon, she said, such as a vest recently gifted by Bertha Davis.
The leather vest is from the late 1800s, Deyholos noted, and has glass beads of various colours, plus brass buttons.
“And it appears that it came from Cst. Bob Lack at Fort Pelly in about 1893, while he was stationed there. Vests like this is new to Fort Dauphin Museum, we’ve never seen anything like this piece of work,” she added.
“We haven’t done any more information finding yet. We have a document that shows how it was obtained. Old documents came with it, too. We can only pick out just a few words here and there, to tell a little bit of the history of that artifact.”
Although the artifact did not come from this area, Deyholos said, artifacts received at Fort Dauphin Museum better suited to another museum, are often forwarded on.
Research and preservation of artifacts is another side of the facility many Dauphinites may not be aware of, she said, pointing out it is a teaching museum.
“So the fur trade is taught at the elementary school level, as well as at the university, for their native studies program. We receive school tours regularly sometimes in February for around Heritage Week. And then also in the month of May and June just before school is finished,” Deyholos said.
While the vest was recently gifted to the museum, Deyholos noted, fewer artifacts from the area are coming to the museum, as many are being sold on eBay.
“If people have something they think is of historical value they can give us a call at the museum,” she urged, adding it is important artifacts found in the area stay in the Parkland.
Call Deyholos at 204-638-6630, or visit the museum at 140 Jackson Street.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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