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Blondeau, Melanie (Malaneh) (1866- ca. 1932)

Melanie Blondeau, tea cozy, floral quillwork on leather, © 1913.
Sherry Farrell Racette (Glenbow Museum) AR 12

Melanie Blondeau was a Métis woman who played a prominent role in the preservation and evolution of traditional Indigenous arts. She was born on April 9, 1866, on the Little Saskatchewan. The last of the plains buffalo hunters, the Blondeaus settled near the Qu'Appelle mission on Lake Katepwa. Following her father's death, Melanie supported her elderly mother and aunt with her skills in beadwork, quillwork and embroidery. In 1913 she came to the attention of the Canadian Handicraft Guild. Melanie's excellent work and personal qualities resulted in the guild's urging the Department of Indian Affairs to hire her at the local residential school; as a result, the Qu'Appelle school was the only residential school in Canada to employ a full-time craft instructor. She was employed from 1914 to 1931, working for $20 a month and never earning more than $240 annually. In the 1930s Cree Elders identified floral designs like those she used as a relatively new phenomenon, the result of Métis influence. Teaching hundreds of girls during her career, Melanie Blondeau played a significant role in both the preservation of traditional arts and the evolution of 20th-century First Nations beadwork. She died around 1932.

Sherry Farrell Racette

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