Famed Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal was at the Poundmaker First Nation near the Battlefords, Sask., on Tuesday, Sept 26, 2017. He is considering building a museum in honour of Chief Poundmaker. Betty Ann Adam / Saskatoon StarPhoenix


POUNDMAKER FIRST NATION — Residents of a First Nation near Battleford want their band’s namesake exonerated once and for all.

To that end, they’ve enlisted the support of renowned Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal who sat in a circle with elders Tuesday, hearing stories about the place where a museum he’ll design will one day stand.

Poundmaker’s descendants are working to set the historical record straight about their chief, who they say was wrongfully convicted of treason in relation to the 1885 Metis resistance.

“We want Poundmaker to be exonerated. We want an apology from the government,” said the Poundmaker Chief Duane Antoine, during a break in the day’s activities.

Chief Poundmaker

Cardinal is spending four days this week learning history from elders, travelling the historic trail where 300 Canadian troops travelled toward a dawn attack upon Poundmaker’s camp and standing on the hill where 50 Cree and Assiniboine warriors repelled the attack.

Cardinal, 84, met with high school students, asking them to share their hopes for the building. He says he came to this reserve to hear the voices of the people, old and young, male and female, as he envisions the future building.

“The fact they want to design a museum to tell the history of Poundmaker and Big Bear is very important to me … I feel the public should learn more. It would be great to be part of it,” he said.

“I wanted to make certain the community has a voice, the elders have a voice, the women in particular and definitely the children,” he said. “My process always when working with the people, is bring their visions into reality.”

A film crew was on site Tuesday documenting the beginnings of what is likely to be a years-long process that leaders hope will result in a Parks Canada museum that will house repatriated Cree artifacts that are now scattered in museums across North America and in England.

Two staff members from Parks Canada were present Tuesday.

Blaine Favel, a former chief of Poundmaker, is executive producer of the documentary film project and chair of the capital campaign to build the museum.

“I hope to bring corporate and government support. Hopefully, the community will create an independent historical society to take on the role of co-ordinating this on behalf of the community.”

At this early stage, Favel thinks the building will be comparable to the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre at the University of Saskatchewan — which Cardinal designed — and may cost around $10 million.

“The community is focused on mechanisms to tell their story,” Favel said.

Poundmaker Chief Duane Antoine on the Poundmaker reserve near the Battlefords Sept 27, 2017. Saskatoon StarPhoenix photo by Betty Ann Adam.

Many of the surrounding First Nations, including Little Pine, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass and Mosquito, are also involved in the project.

“There is no difference between our people. We’re all related. They’re all my cousins,” said Little Pine Chief Wayne Semaganis.

“When it comes to the history of our people, we’ve always been united. We’ve stood together,” he said.

Semaganis said it is important the current generation take on the task of correcting history and educating the public.

“As a chief I look at the issues that face our youth, our communities, the racism that crops up every time there’s any kind of confrontation. There needs to be a re-education on really what is our history.”

Chief Poundmaker was sentenced to three years in prison, but was released after nine months, and he died from tuberculosis.

Cardinal came to Poundmaker from Italy where he has been representing Canada in an international celebration of architecture.