Blood Tribe from Alberta visits Marischal Museum

Blood Tribe from Alberta visits Marischal Museum

Five members of the Blood Tribe in Alberta have flown to Scotland to visit the University of Aberdeen’s Marischal Museum to investigate a full-length Indian head-dress in the Museum collections.

Every summer members of the tribe conduct a ritual Sun Dance. For many years the Tribe’s Horn Society have used three sacred head-dresses during the Sun Dance and have been searching for a fourth, known to have been lost. They came this week to Aberdeen to determine if the head-dress in the Museum was the missing one.

Principal C Duncan Rice and Dr Alan Knox, Manager, Historic Collections were delighted to welcome members of the Horn Society, a tribal Elder, and his partner. Following the three-day visit, Dr Knox said: “The head-dress has been examined by members of the Horn Society and has been identified as the one they are seeking. A request for repatriation will now be submitted by the Society in collaboration with the Museum. Any return will have to be approved by the University Court. The Horn Society has successfully repatriated many of their sacred artefacts. This is the last one they have been seeking. We are extremely pleased that they have found this item that is very sacred and important to them.”

Attempts were made to ban the Sun Dance in the early 1900s and many items went missing during the following decades. The head-dress was presented to the Museum in 1934 by Mrs A Bruce Miller. It was purchased in the 1920s in the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana, without the knowledge of the Horn Society. Since the 1970s, the Blood Tribe have managed to retrieve many of their sacred objects, strengthening their traditional culture and involving the present generation in caring for its future.

Randy Bottle, a member of the Horn Society, said: “We are very fortunate to have located the last of our sacred bundles. This will ensure that future generations can continue the practices and teachings, which are important to our people. We have developed a very positive relationship with the Museum and will be working with the Museum to strengthen the appreciation of our culture in Scotland.”

Marischal Museum lies in the University of Aberdeen's Marischal College, the second-largest granite structure in the world. The Museum – one of the oldest in Scotland - was founded in 1786, with material that has been donated by generations of friends and graduates of the University. This has resulted in collections of high quality material, most notably non-Western ethnography, Egyptian and Classical antiquities, Scottish prehistory and numismatics, that rank alongside the largest and most important in Scotland. Today, the care of these collections is enhanced by a purpose-built conservation laboratory.

Dr Knox added: “This is an excellent opportunity for the Museum (and the University) to develop working contacts with the Blood Tribe in North America and establish an ongoing relationship to the benefit of the University and the Blood.”

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