Sacred headdress is handed over to Siksika Nation delegation in a ceremony at RAMM

A delegation from the Siksika Nation in Canada took possession of a ceremonial bird bundle, in the form of a headdress, in a handover event at the museum on 5 June 2024.

The ceremonial Buffalo Woman’s Headdress, crafted with buffalo horns, sacred bird feathers, porcupine quills, and adorned with red cloth and brass bells, is back in the safekeeping of the people from which it originated. Siksika Nation representatives, Councillor Strater Crowfoot, Councillor Marsha Wolf Collar, Kent Ayoungman, Herman Yellow Old Woman and Joset Melting Tallow travelled to Exeter to repatriate a Buffalo Woman’s Headdress back to the Blackfoot tribe of Siksika Nation. The repatriation ceremony took place on June 5, 2024 at RAMM.

The ceremonial headdress has been held at RAMM since 1920, when it was handed over to the Museum by Edgar Dewdney, a Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories. Although the exact means of acquisition is undocumented, it was likely acquired through the enforcement of colonial assimilation policy in connection to Treaty 7 and the Indian Act (the 1889 amendment to section 114).

Through meticulous and dedicated research, delegates from Siksika Nation, in collaboration with Kainai and Blackfeet Nations, identified the headdress as a sacred ceremonial item once traditionally worn by a holy woman of the Blackfoot Holy Buffalo Woman Society known as the Motokiks. The cultivation of a meaningful partnership between RAMM and Siksika Nation has previously allowed for the repatriation of Chief Crowfoot’s regalia in 2022, and now the museum is pleased to have also repatriated the Buffalo Woman’s Headdress.

The process began in September 2022, when RAMM received a formal letter from the Blackfoot (Siksika) requesting an act of repatriation. Now, the sacred bundle has been returned to the Motokiks so that it may be used once again by the holy women who fought to protect the continuity of their culture.

“The ceremonial Buffalo Woman’s Headdress holds immense sacred significance to the Blackfoot people. Its return to Siksika Nation symbolizes not only the preservation of our cultural heritage, but also the recognition of our history and traditions, and is a profound testament to our ancestors’ spiritual and cultural practices. We are grateful to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for their commitment to honouring and respecting the sacredness of this headdress by facilitating its repatriation.”

Joset Melting Tallow, of the Siksika Nation

“It was a moving experience for all of us lucky enough to be present. The elders performed a short ceremony and then painstakingly bundled and wrapped the headdress in coloured cloth. It will travel like this back to Canada where it will return to its sacred use by the Siksika people.”

Julien Parsons, RAMM’s Collections & Content Manager

About Siksika Nation

Since time immemorial, the Children of the Plains, the Siksikai’tsitapi – Blackfoot People, have lived in and protected a territory that stretches from the North Saskatchewan River in present day Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Yellowstone River in the state of Montana, from the Continental Divide in the west to Regina in the province now known as Saskatchewan.

Today, Siksika Nation population is approximately 8,000+ members and is part of the Siksikaitsitapi – Blackfoot Confederacy. The Siksikaitsitapi refers to four Indigenous Nations which make up the Blackfoot people: the Siksika (Blackfoot), the Kainai (Many Chiefs), the Apatohsipiikani (Northern Peigan) and Amsskapipiikani (Southern Peigan). Siksikai’powahsini (Blackfoot Language) is the language of the Siksikaitsitapi. Visit the Siksika website here