by Wayne Bednersh
Sometimes an innocent looking spoon blossoms into a major find when the
riddle is unravelled.
This is one of those rare cases.
When I first purchased this 5.25" sterling spoon I was
vaguely aware of the 6.2 billion dollar insurance company
known as the
International Order of Foresters (IOF).
This company is an insurance company which
considers themselves to be a fraternal organization.
The enamel finial at the top reads: " Pacific Coast I-O-F
The embossed bowl reads:
"Pacific Coast Delegation
This is where the story starts to get interesting.
I found the old synoptic chart
records for the IOF for 1911 which indicates that a delegation
was selected and "The I.O.F donates Oronhyatekha’s collection
to the Royal Ontario Museum."
This didn't mean a lot to me, but
since I had time, I decided to look further.
All of the following information is derived from this source:
Rotunda (Royal Ontario Museum, Fall 2002): pp. 32-37
Article reprinted with the permission of the Royal Ontario Museum.
in the order (IOF) was restricted to white males and as a Mohawk,
Oronhyatekha was ineligible. Yet, in 1878, he was granted admission
through "special dispensation". Still, some detractors sought to have
him expelled, pointing out a meeting of the membership that the IOF
constitution’s intent was "to exclude applicants who belonged to
a race which was considered inferior to the white race". Without
missing a beat, Oronhyatekha quipped to the assembly that his admission
was legalized because "they recognized the fact that I belonged to a
race which is superior to the white". The next year, in 1881, he was
elected as the organization’s CEO, or supreme chief ranger, a
position he would hold until his death in 1907."
"Born at Six
Nations on August 10, 1841, Oronhyatekha was baptized Peter Martin, the
eighth in a family of nine children. From early on he preferred his
Mohawk name - which translates as “Burning Sky.” He was
heard on occasion to remark, “There are thousands of Peter
Martins, but there is only one Oronhyatekha.”"
The 19th century was a particularly difficult time for native Americans
in Canada, but despite extensive difficulties, Oronhyatekha was able to
make it into the United States and into a college program.
completing college Oronhytekha was offered the opportunity to attend
Oxford University, but completed only one semester there. He had left
the Six Nations reserve early in 1862 without Reverend Nelles’s
permission and was forced to return, but he did not go back to Six
Nations. He began teaching at Tyendinaga. He continued his education at
the University of Toronto and in 1866 was awarded a medical degree.
enjoyed a phenomenal degree of success by any standard. He was one of
the first of Native ancestry to graduate as a medical doctor, he was
named a justice of the peace, he was appointed consulting physician at
Tyendinaga by Sir John A. McDonald [First Prime Minister of Canada],
and he became chairman of the Grand Indian Council of Ontario and
Quebec - just a few excerpts from the list of accomplishments, awards,
and citations that actually prompted a notation about him in a
Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper column in the late 1960's.
What was perhaps most remarkable about the man was not that he achieved
success in the Victorian world but that he did so with his Mohawk
joined the IOF in 1878, the order was promoting itself under the banner
of “Liberty, Benevolence and Concord.” It was a
struggling group beset by factionalism and facing steep debts. Armed
with a solid academic background, and with the flair and confidence of
a showman, Oronhyatekha was ready to make his mark as Supreme Chief
travels as Supreme Chief Ranger, Dr. Oronhyatekha did as did all good
Victorians - he collected. But he didn’t restrict himself to
acquiring the typical cabinet of curiosities. He amassed more than 800
objects and natural history specimens. The Oronhyatekha Historical
Collection was heralded in The Toronto Star on September 10,
1902, as "The Beginning of a Very Valuable Museum, Founded by the
Supreme Chief Ranger", when it opened in the Oronhyatekha Historical
Rooms in The Temple, the world headquarters of the IOF located at Bay
and Richmond streets in Toronto."
the Oronhyatekha Historical Collection was donated by the IOF to the
ROM, then part of the University of Toronto. Unfortunately, it was
dispersed into departmental collections according to region or origin,
which included the Mediterranean World, the Far East, Africa, Oceania,
Europe, and the Americas, thus burying its most compelling aspect -
what it tells us about the man who collected it."
"Of all of the
ROM’s holdings, the collection assembled by Dr. Oronhyatekha must
rank among the most interesting. In his role as head, or supreme chief
ranger, of the IOF, Dr. Oronhyatekha travelled extensively and amassed
a large, eclectic collection of more than 800 artifacts and natural
history specimens. A catalogue published in 1904 lists the wonders that
awaited visitors to the Oronhyatekha Historical Rooms and Library.
According to the catalogue, the collection was intended to encourage
"education, increased interest in history, nature, and art, and beyond
all, thought and reading in the Home". Of particular interest are the
objects that record the historical relationships between the British
Crown and the First Nations in the Great Lake region. In 1860,
Oronhyatekha, on behalf of Six Nations, greeted the Prince of Wales,
then on a North American tour. In his speech he reminded the royal
visitor of the chain of friendship that had existed between the
Iroquois and the Crown “for more than 200 years.” The
objects Oronhyatekha collected in later years, including a replica of
the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey, reflect his life-long
interest in royal connections. Many other objects like the ones above
record important historical events in which Native people participated
as allies of the British and as sovereign nations in their own right. "
The complete article may be viewed at:
I was unable to trace the marks on this sterling spoon.
This spoon is a tribute to the IOF presentation of a major historical
collection to the Royal Ontario Museum and to the life of a
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