Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis by June 3

Goal: $100k

Artifacts belonging to a 19th century Plains Cree chief who was known as a peacekeeper are expected to be returned to his descendants in a repatriation ceremony at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Toronto-based museum is transferring a pipe and a saddle bag that belonged to Chief Poundmaker back to members of his family.

Pauline Poundmaker, or Brown Bear Woman, has been leading efforts to repatriate her great-great-grandfather's belongings and sacred objects from collections held in Canada and internationally.

A number of the leader's belongings were taken and housed in museums after the Northwest Rebellion in 1885 — the same year Poundmaker was found guilty of treason. He served sevens months in prison before dying shortly after his release.

Parks Canada returned a ceremonial staff believed to belong to Chief Poundmaker last year that is to be put on display at the museum named in his honour in Saskatchewan.

Pauline Poundmaker says the growing movement of institutions repatriating items shows there is a willingness to address previous harms against Indigenous Peoples.

"It's a beautiful shift to having different relationships and writing a different history," she said.

"This will be a history change with these artifacts being given back not only to First Nations people but other Indigenous people from across the world."

The saddle bag is to be put on display at the Chief Poundmaker Museum and the ceremonial pipe will be kept in safe keeping with the museum.

Chief Poundmaker's pipe, saddle bag returning from @ROMtoronto to family. #Poundmaker #Artifacts #Indigenous

As the Poundmaker family strives to bring home the personal artifacts of Chief Poundmaker, they continue to be inspired by his willingness to stand up for what he believed in a peaceful way, said Pauline Poundmaker.

She has been told there are about 20 other items spread across North America and Europe. The family is in the beginning stages of getting two other items repatriated.

The Royal Ontario Museum temporarily closed its gallery dedicated to First Peoples art and culture last year to work with Indigenous museum professionals on what they called critical changes to the gallery.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.

Keep reading