Monthly Archives: January 2015

“Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event”

The image above showing an heroic portrayal of Henry Kelsey by Jay Hyde Barnum, illustrator of Alida Malkus, Little Giant of the North: The Boy Who Won a Fur Empire  (Toronto: The John C. Winston Co., 1952)—sadly typical of the unfortunate illustrations critiqued—is referred to, but not included, in the article below.

Paul C. Thistle, “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event,” Native Studies Review 9,  no. 1 (1994): 33-50.


Henry Kelsey’s tour of the Hudson Bay hinterland under the auspices of Assiniboin mentors in 1690-91 has been celebrated by a number of visual historians.  This article examines the patterns of stereotype and historiography reflected in these illustrations over time.  Artists and their patrons typically have ignored the advances in academic history dealing with the relations between First Nation peoples and Europeans.  Dated and uninformed visual portrayals have continued to seriously downplay the demonstrably crucial role of Native people in the history of this relationship.  Visual historians have also neglected the readily available literature which clearly identifies the unjustifiable preponderance of negative images as a major problem associated with the portrayal of First Nation peoples.  A case is presented showing that even small, isolated, and relatively poor patrons can produce more acceptable and accurate images of Native people based on contemporary academic work in contrast to those which continue to be used by the large, resource-rich institutions examined.

Read the full article by clicking Thistle_on_Kelsey_Images