British Columbia

Okanagan woman makes social media plea for grandfather's missing headdress

Taylor Baptiste is hoping to repatriate her grandfather's missing headdress, in the hopes she can preserve it with the rest of his artwork that is on display at the Nk'mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos.

The headdress of Francis Baptiste, a prolific artist from the Osoyoos Indian Band, went missing in 1988

Francis Jim Baptiste, pictured here, was a prolific artist from the Osoyoos Indian Band. His headdress disappeared after he died in 1988. (Taylor Anne Baptiste/Facebook)

A South Okanagan woman hopes a post on social media will lead her to her late grandfather's long lost headdress. 

Taylor Baptiste, 24, a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, is looking for the headdress of Francis Jim Baptiste, who was a prolific artist from the Osoyoos Indian Band. His headdress went missing after his death in 1988.

"He passed away in 1988 before I was born," Baptiste said. "So I never actually got to meet him. So the only connection I've made with him is through photographs of him."

Francis Jim Baptiste, who was born in 1920, studied art at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Much of his artwork is held at the B.C. Archives and at the Nk'mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos.

In the Baptiste family home, there was a portrait of Francis wearing the headdress.

"And as I got older, I got serious, like we have all of his artwork, but where is this headdress?"

It was through family discussions, Baptiste said, that she learned that after his funeral in 1988, it was sold or given away as people were clearing out his home.

"The information of where it went has been lost over the years," she said. 

The headdress has distinct arrow beading on the front. (Taylor Anne Baptiste/Facebook)

For Taylor, connecting with her grandfather's artwork is what inspired her to go to art school. 

"For me, when I look at my grandfather's artwork, it's a direct connection to my family history, to my culture, because he would articulate through his art things about our culture, like our stories or values that were really important to us."

Bringing the headdress back, she says, would be an important part of his legacy.

"I think once we locate it, I'd like to speak to the person who had it or found it and learn how it came to be in their possession and discuss with them repatriating it and bringing it back to the cultural centre ... where it can be preserved with the rest of his artwork and just celebrate the coming home of it with all of my family," she said.

The headdress has some key identifiers, says Baptiste, notably the arrow beading on the front of the headdress.

"I've seen crazier things happen on social media. People have found lost siblings or family heirlooms or things from the war. And I thought, why not put it out there ... somebody out there knows where this thing must be."

With files from Daybreak South

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