RCMP, elders co-operate to bury prehistoric skull

A prehistoric skull was buried near the Oldman and Belly rivers with a traditional First Nations ceremony.

In 1979 a prehistoric human skull was found in the waters of the Oldman River west of the Monarch bridge at Highway 3A. Last month, the skull was laid to rest with a traditional ceremony conducted by First Nations elders.

The skull was found on July 22, 1979 by a Monarch resident, who was swimming and snorkeling about one kilometre west of the Monarch bridge. The skull was in five to 10 feet of waiter.

The Monarch resident notified the RCMP of the discovery, and the skull was turned over to the RCMP detachment at Fort Macleod. The police in turn enlisted the help of the University of Alberta department of anthropology and the skull was forwarded to Edmonton.

“The skull you found is that of an old adult — 60 years or older — male,” wrote professor Owen Beattie in 1979.

“It is often difficult to determine the racial origin of skeletal material, though because this skull appears quite old it is likely 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 to the Fort Macleod RCMP in 2017.

In March, Fort Macleod RCMP  Sgt. Bryan Mucha 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. A traditional burial ceremony was held on June 26 on the Blood Nation. This significant 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, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces and the U.S. Army Infantry.

Blood Tribe Chief of Police Kyle Melting Tallow, RCMP Sgt. Bryan Mucha and Const. Ben Stubbe were also present.

The ceremony included wrapping the box containing the skull remains in a traditional blanket followed by a smudging ceremony and internment.

Songs and prayers were sung for this ancestor of the Blackfoot 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.”