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Historic moment for Red Pheasant Cree Nation as medal returned 134 years later

The Red Pheasant Cree Nation celebrated the return of the Treaty No. 6 Medal with an official repatriation ceremony on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Red Pheasant Cree Nation / Supplied

After 134 years, the Treaty No. 6 Medal is back home with the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

An official repatriation ceremony was held at the George Benson Memorial Grounds on Thursday.

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Between 1871 and 1921, Canada and First Nations agreed to 11 treaties. First Nations people agreed to share their homeland, and Canada promised to provide for the well-being of Indigenous people.

A treaty is a formal agreement between First Nations about sharing land and living in peace. Canada acknowledged its promises with the presentation of Treaty medals.

Negotiations were conducted by Red Pheasant, who signed Treaty No. 6 on Sept. 9, 1876, and then became chief of the band.

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The Treaty No. 6 Medal was first presented to Chief Red Pheasant on Aug. 28, 1876, at Fort Carlton in Saskatchewan. He died of smallpox the same day.

“The Cree leaders who signed Treaty No. 6 in 1876 took this negotiation seriously and the Cree, being a symbolic people, placed great value in the objects presented and exchanged,” Red Pheasant Cree Nation Chief Clint Wuttunee said in a press release.

“We find ourselves sometimes missing connections to our past, and although we have the teachings and stories of our elders, it is also important to have these family and community possessions and heirlooms to remember the past, the character and nature of treaty, and help pave the future for our youth.”

The Treaty No. 6 Medal was first presented to Chief Red Pheasant on Aug. 28, 1876. Manitoba Museum / Supplied

The Treaty No. 6 Medal was at large until it came to the attention of the Manitoba Museum’s former curator of ethnology, Katherine Pettipas, in 2002. A letter accompanying the medal states it was removed from Chief Red Pheasant’s body in 1885 by the Indian agent who attended his funeral, according to her research.

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It was later sold to H. Fry of Lancashire, England, and the Hudson’s Bay Company acquired it around 1952, according to the museum. The medal was acquired by the museum in 1994 as part of the donation of over 25,000 artifacts in the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection.

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Having learned the disconcerting provenance of the medal, Pettipas initiated contact with Red Pheasant Cree Nation.

The Winnipeg museum’s board of governors granted, without condition, full ownership of the Treaty No. 6 Medal to the Red Pheasant Cree Nation on June 20.

“The Manitoba Museum is delighted to see the Treaty No. 6 Medal return home. We acknowledge that repatriation is a vital aspect in the journey towards reconciliation,” Seema Hollenberg, Manitoba Museum’s director of research, collections and exhibitions, said in a statement.

“It is our sincerest hope that reuniting the medal with the community will reconnect Red Pheasant people with their history.”

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Red Pheasant Cree Nation wants the medal to be shared with the community and made available for public viewing. They have since arranged for it to be on display at the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC) just south of Saskatoon.

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“The Treaty 6 Medal is a testament of the relationship the Crown has to the First Nations,” SICC president Wanda Wilson said in a statement.

“This is a historic event and SICC is honoured to be part of the repatriation. The vision of SICC to promote, preserve and protect First Nations culture and language is being fulfilled.”

The SICC is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT on weekdays and the medal can be viewed starting on July 8.

Red Pheasant Cree Nation is located 33 kilometres south of North Battleford. The band has 1,900 registered members, 600 of which live on the reserve.

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