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Museum artefacts to be returned to Canada

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter has owned the Crowfoot regalia for over 100 years.

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The items have been at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for over 100 years (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City Council/PA)

The items have been at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for over 100 years (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City Council/PA)

The items have been at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for over 100 years (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City Council/PA)

A Devon museum has agreed to hand over a 19th century tribal leader’s regalia to his Canadian descendants.

The Crowfoot regalia, which belonged to Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot nation, has been at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for over 100 years.

The collection includes his deer-hide necklace of grizzly bear claws and animal teeth, a symbol of bravery and status, as well as his hardwood bow and colourful buckskin shirt and leggings.

Councillors at Exeter City Council, which owns the museum, have agreed to return the artefacts to the Siksika Nation in Alberta.

Giving back Crowfoot’s regalia returns control to the Siksika Nation over their cultural identity, dignity and authority and is the right thing to doRachel Sutton, Exeter City Council

They will go on display at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, which is built on the site of the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877 between the Crown and several tribes at Bow River.

The area is of great spiritual importance to the Siksika Nation and it is also where Chief Crowfoot died.

The museum purchased the Crowfoot regalia from the family of British policeman Sir Cecil Denny in 1904 for £10.

Sir Cecil was a friend of the chief but it remains unclear how he came to own the regalia.

In 2015, the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park made a formal request to repatriate the Crowfoot regalia.

Earlier this year, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum approached Chief Ouray Crowfoot, chief of the Siksika Nation, about repatriating the collection and it was agreed the Siksika Tribal Council would take ownership.

Councillor Rachel Sutton, Exeter City Council’s portfolio holder for climate and culture, said: “When considering the claim for repatriation, the council recognised that the original injustices still reverberate today with First Nation Canadians.

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Among the items in the collection is the decorated trade cloth strap from a horse whip (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City/PA). Council

Among the items in the collection is the decorated trade cloth strap from a horse whip (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City/PA). Council

Among the items in the collection is the decorated trade cloth strap from a horse whip (Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery/Exeter City/PA). Council

“Giving back Crowfoot’s regalia returns control to the Siksika Nation over their cultural identity, dignity and authority and is the right thing to do.”

Chief Crowfoot will visit Exeter and an official ceremony to hand over the regalia will take place once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

Once back in Canada, the Siksika Nation will lend the regalia to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.

Chief Crowfoot said: “As a direct descendant of the Great Chief Crowfoot, I am pleased that the regalia will be returned to its rightful home, the Siksika Nation.

“The returning of this regalia will contribute to healing and reconciliation and the Great Chief’s spirit can rest easy once all his belongings are gathered from the four corners of Mother Earth and returned back to his home.

“The Siksika Nation will lend Chief Crowfoot’s belongings to Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park for display and the education of all peoples around their significance as part of world history, together with their journey to the UK and their return to the Chief’s traditional homelands.”

PA