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Pipe and saddle owned by Chief Poundmaker returned to descendants in Toronto ceremony

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A saddle and a ceremonial pipe owned by Chief Poundmaker were returned to his descendants at a ceremony in Toronto on Wednesday, after being held by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for 99 years.

Poundmaker, or pitikwahanapiwiyin, is considered one of the great Indigenous leaders of the 19th century and was key in negotiations that led to Treaty 6, which covers the west-central portions of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“To share this day, and for this day to happen, it’s incredible. It’s a spiritual journey, and sometimes you feel overwhelmed,” Pauline Poundmaker, Brown Bear Woman, great-great-granddaughter of the historic chief said.

“It’s such a huge honour we’ve been given to be able to be the one, the generation, to bring back his artifacts.”

Pauline, Brown Bear Woman, has been working to repatriate all his former belongings from museums around the world. She told CTV News that some of Poundmaker’s possessions should never have been put on display, like the ceremonial pipe.

Last year, Parks Canada returned a staff owned by Poundmaker at a ceremony at Fort Battleford National Historic site.

Poundmaker is remembered as a peacekeeper during the North-West Resistance of 1885 and, in 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exonerated the chief, who had been convicted of treason for leading his warriors in battle against Canadian forces.

As the largest museum in Canada, Pauline, Brown Bear Woman says ROM’s move could represent a turning point for First Nation families across the country who have historic family heirlooms held in institutions.

Last year, the ROM repatriated another Indigenous artifact to its rightful owners — a peace pipe used in the 1836 Manitoulin Treaty, returned to the Ojibwe and Odawa on Manitoulin Island.

Now that it’s been returned to the family, Pauline, Brown Bear Woman says the saddle may end up on display on Poundmaker’s traditional territory.

-With files from Donna Sound

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