FRENCH/BRITISH INDIAN PEACE MEDALS King George III and his iconic “Peace Medal,” which were given to the Chiefs dating back to the 17th century. The silver medal perfectly symbolizes the three founding peoples of Canada. The medal was struck in France under Louis XV (1715-1744) for distribution to the leaders of Indigenous allies or to
FRENCH/BRITISH INDIAN PEACE MEDALS
King George III and his iconic “Peace Medal,” which were given to the Chiefs dating back to the 17th century. The silver medal perfectly symbolizes the three founding peoples of Canada. The medal was struck in France under Louis XV (1715-1744) for distribution to the leaders of Indigenous allies or to those who had rendered some exemplary service to the French in North America. The medal itself represents the earliest permanent European settlers in what was to become Canada (Port Royal was established in what became Nova Scotia in 1605 and Québec City in 1608) and the Original Peoples of Turtle Island. This medal which originally named Louis XV, but was reengraved featuring King George II, and later his grandson, George III of Great Britain, represents the third of the original founders of Canada—the English. Canadian territories claimed by France were ceded to Great Britain in 1763, at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). In 1775, its design features King George III Peace Medal, including the young, armoured bust of the King wearing the ribbon of the Order of the Garter. To his right is the Arms of George III, which appeared on the reverse of the peace medals during the War of 1812. Beneath the Coat of Arms is a ribbon bearing the royal motto, “Dieu, et Mon Droit” (“God and My Right”) flanked by the symbolic rose and thistle of the British monarchy. Keep in mind that these type of symbols or inscriptions were a hidden message to the Indigenous Nations.
The Indigenous owner of the medal almost certainly had the legend re-engraved to indicate his acceptance of alliance with the British in North America on the eve of the American Revolution and to retain a nice relic of the old French regime—French medals were prized by their Indigenous recipients because they were generally larger and heavier than most subsequent British Indian Peace medals. It is nevertheless difficult not to think of the re-engraving of the British monarch’s name on a French medal bestowed upon an Indigenous as a kind of allegory for both the sequence of political dominance in Canada, from Indigenous, to French, to British and for the building of English Canada on pre-existing Indigenous and French foundations. The medal is also allegorical of the serious problem that the colonial powers of France and Great Britain are both given visible form respectively through the medal itself and the re-engraved legend while its Indigenous owner has left no trace. He is invisible.
KING GEORGE III PEACE MEDALS
These medals were given to Chiefs and warriors during and after the War of 1812. They are known as the King George III Peace Medals, and they were a symbol of friendship and gratitude for their contributions during the war. Natives wore them as a sign of status within their tribes and with pride with their ties to the British. Notice the loop at the top of the medal, which allowed for the wearer to affix it using a piece of leather to wear around their necks. At Burlington in 1814, Peace Medals and military banners were presented to Indigenous groups who fought alongside the British during the War of 1812.
The 1814 Peace Medal is extremely rare, as it was specifically designed in 1814 by the British to honour the contributions by the Indigenous Nations for their contribution during the War of 1812. Unfortunately, they were never able to be presented, as the die broke before the ceremony. The design was intended to be different from the usual King George III Peace Medals; instead of having the Royal Coat of Arms on the obverse side, it was instead replaced by the female personification of Great Britain, “Britannia” offering a Peace Medal to a Chief. Many years later, and hundreds of miles away from the Canadian border, Chiefs were still seen wearing their Peace Medals, a sign that they still held value to their connection with the British.
White Spotted Horse, Anishinaabe, Treaty 2 Territory