A beaded hood used by Cree women during ceremonies and special occasions will be permanently returned to Eeyou Istchee from the Lachine Museum where it has been since 1948.
“The meaning of this act of repatriation is that it returns our stories to us,” said Cree Grand Chief Abel Bosum during the online announcement on Wednesday. “They are not for us abstract artifacts of history. They are immediate, tangible reminders of where we came from and who we are.”
The hood was made in the 1850s and originally belonged to Jane Gunner from Mistissini, Que. It’s not known how it ended up in a private collection, which was then donated to the Lachine Museum.
‘Like meeting my Gookum’
Two of Gunner’s descendants sat behind the grand chief as he spoke during the online announcement.
“By repatriating objects such as these, we ourselves become more whole. Repatriation of our cultural treasure is a profound act of decolonization,” Bosum said.
The hood was brought to Mistissini in 2016 for family members to view. Jane Gunner’s granddaughter Dinah Simard said the visit was “like meeting my Gookum [grandmother].”
In 2019, the Cree Nation Government asked Montreal for the hood to be repatriated because of its cultural significance.
For Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, the return of the hood is a key step toward reconciliation.
“We’re happy to be able to demonstrate that it can be done with kindness, openness and mutual respect,” Plante said in French.
The ceremonial hood will be displayed at the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou, near Mistissini.
The former director of the institute, Sarah Pash, explained that efforts continue to repatriate other significant Cree artifacts. The institute is currently searching for painted caribou hide clothing, and has identified some items in Ontario.
Pash is the current chairperson of the Cree School Board, but continues to support the
Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou.