Mrs. Walking Sun donates beaded dress to Red Cross

by | Jul 27, 2023 | Artifacts

The contributions by Canadian Indigenous women to the war effort, both WWI and WW2, has been poorly documented. A follower brought this dress to my attention this week. It is currently on display at the National Gallery of Canada in an exhibit called ‘Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment’.

Beaded Dress currently on display at the
National Gallery of Canada until August 20, 2023

The label reads: “Mrs. Walking Sun, Nakoda, Montana 1872-c.1943, Carry the Kettle Reserve, Saskatchewan. Dress c. 1940, Belt c. 1920-1950. Royal Ontario Museum Collection, Toronto. Gift of the Canadian Red Cross Society.”

It continues with this description: “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Walking Sun were leading members of the community on the Carry the Kettle (Nakoda) First Nation reserve in southern Saskatchewan. Mrs. Walking Sun donated this spectacular doeskin dress to the Red Cross in 1942 to raise funds in support of the Nakoda men serving in the Canadian forces in the Second World War. The dress remained in storage at the Red Cross until it was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum in 1952”.

I had not heard about this dress, so I went to the ROM’s digital collection and found a more detailed image:

Royal Ontario Museum, Date: c. 1940, Object number:952.75.A
Credit Line: Gift of the Canadian Red Cross Society

This led me to investigate primary sources which revealed the following articles:

Regina Leader Post: August 2, 1940
Regina Leader Post: January 20, 1943
Regina Leader Post: July 14, 1943
Regina Leader Post: September 10, 1941

In a future post, I will detail other work by Canadian Indigenous women during WWII for the war effort, when they made contributions through the production of unique textiles to meet the needs of Canadian and British Forces and support workers.