Exeter City Council has voted to return material held by its Royal Albert Memorial Museum (Ramm) to the Siksika Nation in Canada.
The regalia, which includes a buckskin shirt, pair of leggings, a knife with feather bundle, two beaded bags and a horsewhip, once belonged to Chief Crowfoot, a Blackfoot leader in the late 19th-century.
The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park (BCHP) made a formal request for Ramm to repatriate the Crowfoot regalia in 2015. The BCHP visitor centre focuses on Siksika cultural heritage and the preservation of their way of life. The area is of great spiritual significance to the Siksika Nation and BCHP is built on the site of the signing of an important treaty in 1877. It is also the place where Crowfoot died.
After initial dialogue with BCHP, Ramm approached Chief Ouray Crowfoot in January 2020. Chief Crowfoot, a Siksika Nation chief, confirmed that the Siksika Tribal Council, as the elected representatives of the community, would be prepared to take ownership of the regalia.
The Siksika Nation will lend the regalia to the BCHP, which will care for the regalia. Chief Crowfoot will visit Exeter for an official ceremony to hand over the regalia once Covid-19 restrictions have lifted.
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.”
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. 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.”
The Crowfoot regalia are thought to have been acquired from Chief Crowfoot by Cecil Denny, a British-born policeman and one of the signatories of the 1877 treaty. Crowfoot played a key role in the treaty signing, which he believed would help protect Blackfoot lands and traditional ways of life, but the terms of the treaty were broken by the Canadian administration. The regalia were loaned to Ramm by Denny’s sister in 1878 and the museum bought the items in 1904.