About the Maker

“The model moose-skin boat, fish trap (basket) and snowshoes were made by Brian Francis of Ft. McPherson, Northwest Territories, in 1963–64. Brian Francis is a Peel River Kutchin, born about 1892. His father, Francis tsIk [Tsik] (Slim), was chief of the Peel River band from 1891 until his untimely death in 1905. Francis is the youthful chief who plays a prominent part in George Mitchell’s gold-rush reminiscences, The Golden Grindstone (Graham, 1935). Indeed, Francis and his wife, Flora — Brian’s mother — might be called the hero and heroine of those memoirs.

Francis tsIk [Tsik] was the eldest son of Charles Francis t’ok tsUl [T’ok Tsal] (Small Nipples), chief of the band from about 1860 to 1891, the first Kutchin chief to be baptised. t’ok tsUl [T’ok Tsal] had succeeded his father, vIcinyitsai t‘I [Visriiniintsaiiti’] (Father of Him Whose Face Is Painted Properly), the chief at the time Europeans first ascended the Peel in 1840, who died a pagan in about 1860.

Francis tsIk [Tsik] was succeeded by Julius Martin, son of an older sister of Francis. Julius remained chief until his death in 1949. Since then, the chieftainship has not been hereditary. Throughout most of the first half of this century, Chief Julius, Brian Francis, the Rev. James Simon (now of Old Crow, Y.T.), and five other grandsons of t’ok tsUl [T’ok Tsal] formed a rather cohesive confraternity of able and influential men; first cousins are equated with siblings in the Kutchin kinship system.

For as long as I have known him, that is, since 1938, Brian Francis has been known as a humorous and rather witty man … in his youth he was … skilful and conscientious in his work. As he grew older, he added prudence and foresight to these qualities. Thus, in the winter of 1963, when caribou came very close to Fort McPherson, almost everyone ran out of .30-30 shells. The stores at Fort McPherson were depleted. Then it turned out that Brian had cases of ammunition, which he had gradually cached away through the years. He saw to it that no one who really needed meat was unprovided [for].”

— Richard Slobodin, 1963–1964

Brian Francis and Harriet Stewart