First nation canadian dolls

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First nation canadian dolls

My great Aunt Elsa emigrated to Canada c 1920 where she was a housekeeper at an Anglican Mission school in Gleichen,Alberta. In the twenty first century there is a reconciliation scheme acknowledging the removal of native Blackfoot children to such schools found throughout Canada. But back then,Elsa's going was considered a good and noble act. From there she wrote to her ten year old neice, my mother, and sent her dolls made by the girls. Some of these looked like papoose, others used European materials to make tiny cloth dolls of girls, or mothers with babies on their backs. They were treasured by my mother,and now by me,as a tangible sign of Elsa's care and love for her charges,and as an exotic link with a new and different place so far away. Recently in Peru I bought twin cloth dolls, wrapped together papoose like, made in 2010 by indigenous modern day Peruvians in the same way as these Canadian dolls made a century earlier.Aunt Elsa felt called to cross the Atlantic hoping and expecting that the children in the schools would be enriched by the experience. How bitter sweet when we now understand how damaging this was for families and commumities with effects lasting to today.

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Gleichen, Alberta, Canada

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