'Those objects have a power': Descendant of Chief Poundmaker working to repatriate his belongings
SASKATOON -- A descendant of Chief Poundmaker is working with Poundmaker Cree Nation’s museum to repatriate his items from around the country.
“Most of Chief Poundmaker’s objects were taken under duress, if not stolen,” said Floyd Favel, curator at the Chief Poundmaker Museum.
Poundmaker was a chief of the Cree people during the time of the 1885 Riel Rebellion against the Canadian government. He was convicted of treason and imprisoned.
Poundmaker was known as a peace maker and strived to protect the rights of the Cree people during the negotiation of Treaty 6.
In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exonerated Poundmaker of any crimes or wrongdoing.
The Chief Poundmaker Museum received his rifle and leadership staff on loan from the Fort Battleford National Historic Site in 2017.
“It was the first time that I recollect that an original artifact of Chief Poundmaker actually made it home to the reserve,” Milton Tootoosis, a citizen of Poundmaker Cree Nation, told CTV News.
Since the rifle came home, it piqued a lot of interest and discussion on what other items of Poundmaker’s were out there. Pauline Poundmaker - Chief Poundmaker’s great-great granddaughter - has been on the hunt to recover other items in collaboration with Parks Canada.
“We’ve always known about Poundmaker’s items, it was just sort of the timing. When is it time to bring them home?” Pauline said.
According to Cree law, a direct descent of the ancestor must be the person to repatriate the items on behalf of the family. Pauline says it's an honour.
Tootoosis has found many of the historic chief’s items in museums across Canada such as his saddle, drum, bow and arrow and moccasins.
Ten years ago Tootoosis travelled to the British Royal Museum in London and came across Poundmaker’s pipe, saying it was startling and exciting.
“Most museums are very cooperative, in fact they were calling us prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and telling us ‘listen, we have these items in our possession and we believe they’re from Poundmaker, can we have a meeting?’” Tootoosis said.
Poundmaker’s items have a significant meaning to the First Nation.
“Those objects have a power and a healing power to bring people together and to remember the reason we were put here on Turtle Island,” Floyd said.
Pauline is continuing to work with Parks Canada to repatriate the rifle that was on loan in 2017 and is hoping to bring back all his items from museums across Canada first, then will reach out internationally.
“It’s all part of reclaiming our own power and our own history, our own objects, in our lands and in our own institutions, presenting them to our people and also to the world.”