UK Museum Set To Bring Back The Native American Headdress To Its Blackfoot Home

National World

A revered Native American headdress is poised to reunite with its rightful owners after a prolonged display at a UK museum spanning over a century. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter has showcased this extraordinary ceremonial headdress since 1920, tracing its origins to the Blackfoot Nation of Alberta, Canada.

This particular headdress, referred to as a ‘bird bundle,’ is a captivating amalgamation of eagle feathers, blue indigo bunting feathers, red-tailed hawk feathers, buffalo horns, porcupine quills, and brass bells. Identified as a ‘sacred ceremonial item’ in 2013 by elders from the Sikiska tribe of the Blackfoot Nation, the headdress became the focal point of discussions last year when a delegation from the community visited the museum in Devon to explore the possibility of reclaiming this culturally significant artifact.

In a decision made on November 8, Exeter City Councilors determined that the headdress, traditionally worn by a holy woman of the Holy Buffalo Woman Society known as Motokiks, would be returned to its rightful owners. The intriguing history of this artifact involves its initial acquisition by Edgar Dewdney, Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories and a Canadian MP. Dewdney, who served as a Canadian rail surveyor and assumed the role of ‘Indian Commissioner’ in 1892, acquired the headdress during this period. The specifics of how Dewdney came into possession of this sacred item remain shrouded in mystery.

“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,” the report to the Executive Council had stated.

Chief Ouray Crowfoot of the Siksika tribe emphasized the profound sacredness associated with the headdress. He articulated that the headdress would be employed by the Holy Buffalo Women Society in accordance with its original purpose, steering away from its classification as a mere artifact. This underscores the cultural and spiritual significance attached to the headdress within the community.

“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.”

He mentioned that the elders were actively cultivating robust connections with curators across multiple museums and private collectors. The city is inclined to anticipate that delegates from the Siksika Nation will make a journey to the United Kingdom to retrieve the headdress.

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


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