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The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in Alberta, Canada is home to a cultural center that holds many Blackfoot sacred Indian artifacts. The sacred artifacts were obtained from families who gave in their family heirlooms to the center for safekeeping and to be displayed as part of the rich Blackfoot heritage. Several private collectors also gave their collection of artifacts to the center. The Blackfoot cultural center which opened in July 2007 still envisages the return of numerous sacred Blackfoot artifacts that were taken by unscrupulous explorers and illegally obtained by museums.
251 Blackfoot sacred Indian artifacts were returned in January 2000 by the Glenbow Museum to the Blackfoot Confederacy of Calgary through the Aboriginal Cultural Property Agreement. These sacred artifacts were returned to the Blackfoot community at the end of 10 years of negotiations. As the Blackfoot religion is a living religion, the sacred ceremonial artifacts were immediately used by the community in their religious rites and rituals.
Bundles of Blackfoot sacred Indian artifacts physically represent how the Blackfoot people understand their relation to all creation. These sacred artifacts nurture spiritual life and enhance spiritual understanding, hence their importance to the Blackfoot Indians.
Controversy of Sacred Artifacts in Edmonton Museum
Blackfoot sacred Indian artifacts were the topic of negotiations between the provincial museum in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and Blackfoot Indians from Montana, US in June, 1990. The tribal artifacts were obtained by the museum from a sculptor in Montana who sold the bundle of sacred tribal artifacts for an estimated $1.1 million. The collection had been part of his private museum.
Blackfoot Indians claimed that the bundle of artifacts belonged to their ancestors and as such should have been returned to the community. The museum refused to consider handing over the artifacts to the Blackfoot Indians for a price as it claimed that museums had a social contract with society at large and could not sell its collections to any party. The sacred artifacts however could be made available to Blackfoot Indians for their study and examination.
Blackfoot Indian sacred artifacts are significant to the Blackfoot Indians as part of their religious and cultural heritage. Much controversy has surrounded the return of some of these sacred artifacts to the Blackfoot Indian community.