Saskatoon

Sask. woman learns object found on farm is rare Blackfoot relic

Tricia Hallborg Riviere has learned the ammonite fossil she found on her Radville-area farm is significant to the Blackfoot people.

Museum curator says discovery of ammonite fossil considered sacred by Blackfoot reinforces oral history

An ammonite fossil, known as an Iniskim, that was found on a farm in the Radville, Sask. area. (Submitted by Tricia Hallborg Riviere)

A Saskatchewan woman has been told the "odd-looking rock" she stumbled upon on her farm is, in fact, a rare Blackfoot relic.

Tricia Hallborg Riviere made the discovery about two years ago on her farm near Radville, Sask. — about 110 kilometres south of Regina.

Hallborg Riviere said she found the object on the ground near a truck tire, "about five feet from our door," when she went outside to move the vehicle.

"And so I just picked it up and, I don't know, put it in my pocket and looked at it later and kind of kept it," she said. "A few people thought I was crazy for thinking it was something more than a rock, but …"

A significant find

When she eventually showed it to her brother-in-law, who happens to be an archeologist, she said he identified it right away as an ammonite fossil.

Hallborg Riviere said she recently decided it belonged in a museum.

That's when she said she learned from a curator at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum that it is considered a sacred object by the Blackfoot people.

The Iniskim is an ammonite fossil that Blackfoot believe has buffalo-calling powers.

"I thought it was cool. I've always been kind of interested in that kind of thing.… I've always been one to look down where I go to try and find an arrowhead or something like that," " Hallborg Riviere said.

"This ended up being even cooler and more rare.… that's why I had a hard time letting go of it."

The museum's curator of Aboriginal studies, Evelyn Siegfried, said there have only been four previous finds like it in Saskatchewan.

A curator at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum said she planned to contact Blackfoot elders about the Iniskim found in the Radville, Sask., area. (Submitted by Tricia Hallborg Riviere)

And Siegfried said it reinforces Blackfoot oral history that they were once this far east.

"I think it's quite nice to see an item like this verify that oral history, verify those stories," she said.

Siegfried said because the relic was found in Saskatchewan, provincial heritage legislation dictates it will have to stay in the province.

"I would be very hesitant to put it on display without talking to Blackfoot elders first, because it is considered to be a sacred object for them," she said. "So it may not be appropriate at all to have it on display."

At the same time, she says the museum is a repository for the province, "and we keep [relics] in perpetuity for the people of the province of Saskatchewan. That is everybody," she said.

"So any Indigenous person can make an appointment with me and to come and view anything that they want to see in the collection. I would open the doors and show them whatever they wanted to."

Prediction of future interest from Indigenous groups

Siegfried, who describes herself as part Cree, said she isn't aware of many requests by Indigenous groups in Saskatchewan to reclaim items in the museum's possession that once belonged to their ancestors.

"They've got greater concerns," she said. "There's poverty. There's so much that's going on on the reserves that archeology is not that important."

However, she said she believes the day is coming when Indigenous people will want their artifacts returned and collections will be turned over to Indigenous organizations.

About the Author

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

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