Getting the Peregrine off the Ground Pt 1
March 25, 2017
Sekon, skennen kowa ken, (Greetings, Is all well with you?) and welcome to our site and to our blog. I thought that a good way to introduce folks to Peregrine Palettes would be by telling you all a little bit about myself, where I was born and live, as well as how the Peregrine palette came into existence.
As the late, great Sam Cooke once sang, I was born by a river in a little town, that river being the mighty St Lawrence river in the village of Kahnawake. Kahnawake, which means the place ‘by the rapids’ has been a continuously occupied Mohawk settlement since the mid-1600s. Founded by the Jesuit order as a mission settlement for Indigenous Catholic converts, Kahnawake and its people have always been entrepreneurial in spirit. Even prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Mohawk people and their fellow Iroquois nations were involved in trade. In the 1600s the medium of exchange was fur and my ancestors played key roles in the fur trade. Many of our people acted as guides to the coureur des bois and voyageurs as we were well schooled in the waterways and trails of this continent. During that period, Kahnawake also was the site of a major repair and manufacture facility for the large trade canoes or as they were also known rabaska. These rabaska were the freighters of the fur-trade era shipping supplies and trade items to the great trading outposts of Hudson’s Bay in northern Quebec and Fort William in the northwest in what is now Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Frances Anne Hopkins – Shooting the Rapids
The voyageurs of that day often paddled 16 hours a day and, often enough portaged the heavy freight canoes and all the goods they contained up and down steep, often wide trails, some as much as a mile or more wide. Many of the sturdy men in these boats were Kahnawakehrho:non (the people who live by the rapids). In those days everything needed to survive was produced by hand. Paddles, gunnels, the cutting fitting and root lacing of the rabaska ‘skins’ were all made by hand by Indigenous artisans and voyageur alike. Finely wrought snowshoes, baskets and containers all required a high level of skill to make. These items were both beautiful and functional.
Closer to home, the Mohawk women of Kahnawake fashioned beautiful items from bags to mocassins, made of moose and deer hide and highly decorated with porcupine quillwork and later beadwork.
Iroquois beaded and quilled mocassins.
This tradition of craftsmanship carries on up to this century with many of our women continuing to fashion beautiful traditional articles of clothing and adornment for ceremonial and everyday use. While the beginning of the 20th century saw many of our men enter the ironwork trade erecting the bridges and skyscrapers of New York City and beyond, across the height and breadth of North America, there are still Mohawk men who make tools, baskets, canoes, cradleboards and even caskets with skill and artistry.
In my life’s journey I traveled with my family to the Mohawk enclaves of Brooklyn, N.Y. where I attended school and upon entering high school studied art at the High School of Art and Design and later at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. There, I haunted the museums of the city from the old Heye Foundation Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Natural History as well as all of the art museums and galleries from the Metropolitan downtown to the SoHo galleries.
Perhaps because one of my earliest recollections about art was of my mother sitting painting in oils at our table in the evenings after making beaded dolls, and washing dishes. I sat quietly and transfixed as the face of a Native woman appeared on her canvas panel, done entirely from her imagination. Something about seeing my mom, even then at 4 or 5 years of age struck me as magical. It was the smell of the linseed oil and paint. I attribute that act of hers as being seminal to my desire to one day become this creature people call an ‘artist.’ and why I have always gravitated to the portrayal of the human face and figure and most especially of my own people.
I believe all of this history, both personal and corporate, of my people has directed my steps as an artist and as a lover of my people’s history. I believe that all of my journey has figured its way into the development of the Peregrine Palette. Niawen kowa for sharing a moment with me. – Kakwirakeron Ross Montour (To learn more about Peregrine Fine Art Products go to: )
Pt 2 to follow soon. The R&D of engineering the Peregrine Palette.