June 17th, 2024

Burial ceremony held for ‘Unknown Blackfoot Warrior’; Skull discovered in Oldman River over 40 years ago


By Fort Macleod RCMP on July 20, 2021.

Photo submitted by RCMP A group gathers late last month for a burial ceremony near the confluence of the Oldman and Belly rivers. A human skull discovered more than 40 years ago has received a proper burial on Blackfoot land.

A skull discovered more than 40 years ago has been reinterred near the confluence of the Oldman and Belly rivers.
On July 22, 1979 a human skull was found in the waters of the Oldman River west of the Monarch bridge at Highway 3A. At that time, the it was turned over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment at Fort Macleod where it was forwarded to Edmonton for further identification analysis.
In October 1979 through the work of the University of Alberta (Department of Anthropology), the skull remains were determined to be that of an adult male of 60 years or older. The skull is quite old and was determined to be prehistoric, and therefore Indigenous in origin.
Once the study was completed the skull was returned to the finder for safekeeping until it was turned back into the RCMP detachment at Fort Macleod in 2017.
In March 2021 Fort Macleod detachment representatives engaged in discussions with members of the Blackfoot Nations to determine the best course to ensure a respectful and proper re-burial of the skull.
Kainai Spiritual Elder Joe Eagle Tail Feathers was consulted along with other spiritual elders and sundancers, and a traditional burial ceremony was held on June 26 on the Blood Nation. The event was presided over by Elder Martin Eagle Child and several other Blackfoot elders and sundancers. A military style salute was given by ex-Sgt. D. Vernon Houle (Canadian Armed Forces) and Alvin Many Chief, retired (Canadian Armed Forces / US Army Infantry). Blood Tribe Chief of Police Kyle Melting Tallow, Sergeant Bryan Mucha and Constable Benjamin Stubbe of the Fort Macleod RCMP Detachment were also present.
The ceremony included wrapping the box containing the skull remains in a traditional blanket followed by a smudging ceremony and interment. Songs and prayers were sung for this ancestor of the Blackfoot People as he was buried in a small grave near where the Oldman River and Belly River merge. The grave is marked with a bleached white stone indicating “Unknown Blackfoot Warrior”.

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