‘Unknown Blackfoot Warrior’ receives ceremonial burial where the Old Man River meets the Belly River

A skull that was determined to be a prehistoric, Indigenous person received a burial June 26, over 40 years after it was discovered in the waters of the Old Man River west of the Monarch bridge at Hwy 3A in southern Alberta.

That happened in 1979, when someone found a skull and turned it over to the Fort Macleod RCMP detachment.

In October, 1979, with the assistance of the University of Alberta’s anthropology department, the skull was determined to be from a male over 60 years of age, and prehistoric – and therefore Indigenous – in origin.

Fort Macleod RCMP returned the skull to the finder for safekeeping, and that seemed to be the end of the story until 2017, when someone turned it in again to the local detachment.

In March 2021, members of the detachment sought out the council of Blackfoot elders in order to determine a way to give the skull a proper and respectful re-burial.

The ceremony involved 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 people as he was buried in a small grave near the junction of the Old Man River and Belly River.

The grave is marked with a bleached white stone that says “Unknown Blackfoot Warrior”.

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 26th, 2021 on the Blood Nation.

The burial was presided over by Elder Martin Eagle Child and several other Blackfoot Elders and Sundancers.

A military style salute was delivered by ex-Sgt D. Vernon Houle (Canadian Armed Forces) and Mr. Alvin Many Chief, Retired (Canadian Armed Forces / US Army Infantry).

Blood Tribe Chief of Police Kyle Melting Tallow, Sgt. Bryan Mucha and Const. Benjamin Stubbe of the Fort Macleod RCMP detachment were also present.