Pauline Johnson's performance costume


The poet and performer Pauline Johnson wore this costume when she read her poems on stages across Canada, the United States and Britain.  Pauline Johnson was born Emily Pauline Johnson on the Brantford Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, in 1861. Her father, George Johnson, was a hereditary Mohawk chief and her mother, Emily Howells, an Englishwoman. Johnson took the name of her great-grandfather Tekhionwake in 1886. She began performing in 1892 and ended her performing career in 1909.  The costume she made in fall of 1892.  She wore this costume in the first half of her performances, during which she recited her own poems on First Nations subjects; she performed her poems on more general topics during the second half of the performance wearing evening dress. Johnson chose Vancouver as her home on retiring from the stage in 1909; she died in 1913. By special permission, her ashes were interred in Stanley Park near Siwash Rock, the spot marked by a picturesque cairn.

Pauline Johnson’s will read in part: “I bequeath to the Museum of the City of Vancouver and in order that the same may remain in the City of Vancouver my Indian Costume intact and comprising the scalps, silver brooches and all other decorations and including the skirt and bodice….”


Date Range 
Worn by Johnson 1892-1909
Place of Manufacture 
Assembled by Pauline Johnson
Museum Location 
Catalog Number 
AG 27a-b
Estate of Pauline Johnson