The legacy of Cree Chief Poundmaker, tainted by his conviction for treason, is closer to being restored than ever before according to officials with the Cree Nation that bears his name.
The chief – known by his Cree name Pitikwahanapiwiyin – was found guilty of treason in 1885 when the band attempted to join with Louis Riel following the Cree victory at the Battle of Cutknife Hill. After his surrender at Fort Battleford, Chief Poundmaker was tried, convicted and sentenced to three years in Manitoba’s Stony Mountain penitentiary. He served just one year before poor health led to his release, but leaders with the Poundmaker Cree Nation have spent generations trying to secure a pardon and restore their namesake’s damaged reputation.
Elected Headman/Councillor Milton Tootoosis said the band received a letter this week from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, inviting them to discuss the issue at a meeting next month. The letter also indicated the possibility of a joint statement between Canada and the Poundmaker Nation, Tootoosis said, which he hoped takes the form of a pardon and public apology.
“Certainly [we want] an apology,” Tootoosis told paNOW. “A large public event involving the Prime Minister, I would hope.”
Although an apology and pardon may not immediately be on the table, Tootoosis said the Cree Nation will push for a memorandum of understanding at the February meeting, which would firmly commit both parties to further discussion and planning.
Tootoosis said he hoped an apology and pardon come with some monetary benefit for the Cree Nation, which would allow them to reclaim historical artifacts and preserve Poundmaker’s history permanently in a high-quality museum. Funding a facility to house the chief’s legacy will likely be the “number-one agenda item” at the band’s meeting with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Tootoosis said.
“We have a temporary museum that was built many years ago. It’s a shack – put it that way,” Tootoosis said. “In order to repatriate Poundmaker’s artifacts that are in many, many collections around the world, we need a state-of-the-art, modern facility.”
The band was able to temporarily display Chief Poundmaker’s rifle last summer, Tootoosis said, but they were required to provide insurance, security and special climate-controls during the rifle’s week-long stay. A modern museum would make it much easier for the band to reclaim artifacts permanently, he said.
Part of the Poundmaker Cree Nation’s ongoing struggle to reclaim their history involves their namesake chief’s portrayal in an upcoming video game – Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Rise and Fall. As first reported by paNOW, the Cree Nation took issue with the inclusion of Poundmaker by the game’s developers, which Tootoosis said was done for profit without proper consultation.
Tootoosis said there has been some informal outreach between the band and game developers 2K Games, but he said he expects the Cree Nation will send them a formal cease and desist request in coming days.
“Stop using Chief Poundmaker without our consent in your product,” he said. “First, let’s have a dialogue.”
Tootoosis said he hoped the band and the game developers can come to a reasonable solution that would allow them to continue using Poundmaker in their game, but noted proper consultation has to be done first. Reclaiming historical figures and stories is just as important as reclaiming the physical artifacts that once belonged to Poundmaker, Tootosis explained.
2K Games and parent company Take-Two Interactive have not responded to numerous requests for comment by both phone and email.
On Twitter: @TaylorMacP
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