Friday, April 12, 2013

The Manitou Stone

The Manitou Stone

I became aware of the Manitou Stone through new friends I have made from attending Idle No More events. The Stone is a meteorite that is very sacred to Alberta's First Nations, was stolen by clergy, and now resides at the Royal Alberta Museum awaiting repatriation.

‪Here is some history: The Manitou Stone is part of a meteorite that fell to earth centuries ago in the Iron Creek area near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Consisting mostly of iron, the Stone was taken to the Pakan Mission near Smoky Lake by Methodist minister Rev. George McDougall in the 1860s, then was moved to Lac Ste. Anne. ‬‪In 1886, the Stone headed east to Victoria University in Cobourg, Ontario, followed by Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. In the early 70s, Minister Horst Schmidt requested that the Stone be loaned to the Royal Alberta Museum, where it has resided since 1972. It is currently on display as part of the RAM's Aboriginal gallery.‬

‪Today, the Manitou Stone is still considered a very sacred object in Canadian Aboriginal culture, viewed as coming from the Creator and a symbol of protection. ‬Some draw a connection between the removal of the Stone and war between the Cree and Blackfoot Nations, the near-extinction of the buffalo, and the smallpox outbreak which ravaged the population -- including two of Rev. George McDougall's daughters.

One of the distinguishing features of the Stone is that from a certain angle, it looks sort of like a buffalo head. The way it is displayed at the RAM certainly does not do it justice, as the metal braces obstruct its view.

A pipe ceremony to pray for the repatriation of the Manitou Stone was held at the Royal Alberta Museum on March 22, 2013. The ceremony was followed by an information session where invited speakers and community members could share about their thoughts and experiences concerning the stone.

This ceremony and information session is of utmost importance because it brought together members of both the Aboriginal community and the United Church in an effort towards healing and reconciliation. The connections between faith, culture, and social issues were definitely reasons why the Manitou Stone interests me so much.

Here is a film I edited of the information session, which highlights the most relevant points of discussion and also serves as a good introduction to people not yet familiar with the Stone.

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