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Native American Headdress Set to be Returned to Blackfoot Homeland After Century in UK Museum

Elders from Blackfoot Tribal Council of the Siksika Nation – SWNS

A sacred Native American headdress is set to be returned to its original owners, after being displayed in a UK museum for more than a century.

Exhibited by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter since 1920, the origins of the stunning ceremonial headdress traces back to the Blackfoot Nation of Alberta, Canada.

Known as a ‘bird bundle’, it features eagle feathers, blue indigo bunting feathers, red-tailed hawk feathers, buffalo horns, porcupine quills and brass bells.

The item was identified as a ‘sacred ceremonial item’ in 2013 by elders from the Sikiska tribe of the Blackfoot Nation, and last year a delegation from the community visited the museum in Devon to discuss reclaiming the item.

Exeter City Councillors decided on November 8 to return the item, which traditionally is worn by a holy woman of the Holy Buffalo Woman Society known as Motokiks.

The headdress was acquired originally by Edgar Dewdney, Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and a Canadian MP, who worked as a Canadian rail surveyor and became ‘Indian Commissioner’ in the country in 1892. Reports say it remains a mystery how he specifically acquired the item.

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The report to Executive said: “The debate on repatriation is a fast-moving one, and agreeing to the return will demonstrate that Exeter City Council through the Royal Albert Memorial Museum is prepared to lead sectoral change and to demonstrate trust and respect to international communities.”

Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot stressed the sacred significance of the headdresss and says the item will be used by the Holy Buffalo Women Society ‘as originally intended’, rather than as an artifact.

“Bringing these items back home to Siksika is a historic event,” he said. “Now the tides are turning and these items are finding their way back home.”

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He said the elders were building strong relationships with curators at several museums as well as private collectors.

The city believes it’s likely that representatives of the Siksika Nation will travel to the UK to collect the headdress.

“To me, it is not as important how these items left Siksika,” said Chief Crowfoot, “What is important is how we bring them back home.”

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