We care for approximately 18,000 objects of Indigenous origin. These objects date from the mid-1800s to the present. As the collection grows, we work with Indigenous people to ensure that contemporary as well as historic experiences are represented in the collections and in our displays.
The collection holds great meaning for originating communities. We work with cultural knowledge holders to make sure that the collection is cared for in a culturally sensitive and respectful way.
The collection's areas of greatest strength are:
- Nêhiyawak (Plains Cree)
- Niitsitapi (Blackfoot)
RAM commits to building strong, respectful relationships with First Nations communities and honouring their connections to these ancestral belongings and sacred objects.
Repatriating and Returning Objects to Communities
In 2000, Alberta passed the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Object Repatriation Act (FNSCORA), which enables the repatriation of sacred objects from government collections to First Nations.
Presently, the Blackfoot First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Regulation, 2004, provides for repatriation to the nations of the Blackfoot confederacy in Alberta: Piikani Nation, Siksika Nation and Kainai First Nation. There are two deadlines for Blackfoot repatriation applications each year: February 15 and September 1.
Download the Blackfoot repatriation application form.
RAM has been working with communities to return objects to Indigenous communities for decades. This commitment continues as we explore requests that fall outside of the regulations under FNSCORA on a case-by-case basis.
Museum staff engage in ongoing conversations with First Nation representatives, Treaty Organizations, Elders, and knowledge holders about a process for repatriating Cree, Nakota, and Saulteaux sacred objects in the museum’s collections. We welcome conversations about how we might work together to return these belongings to their communities.
RAM is committed to facilitating access to sensitive sacred ceremonial belongings. Guided by the advice of knowledge-holders, ceremonialists and Elders, RAM staff only minimally handle ancestral belongings. Private spaces and supplies are available on-site for elders wishing to smudge.
Elders and knowledge-keepers have shared protocols on how to handle, care for, and provide access to some sacred materials. In certain circumstances, they have requested that visitors seeking to access these ancestral belongings provide additional information or be accompanied by an elder or ceremonialist while visiting these objects. The museum upholds these requests out of respect for the knowledge and protocols that have been shared with us.
For inquiries or to arrange a visit, please contact Stephanie Halapija.
Learn more about the collection and our work on our blog:
Watch past virtual events from the Indigenous Engagement team