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L.A. Beat

Traditional Blackfoot shirts on display at the Galt this week

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Five traditional 140-year old Blackfoot deer skin shirts on loan from the Pitt River museum in Oxford, England, are a piece of living history that Galt Blanche Bruisedhead uses a magnifying glass to examine the designs on one of the shirts. Photo By Richard AmeryMuseum patrons will be able to view from June 5- Aug. 29.
 Marked with the accomplishments of the owners, Blackfoot warriors would have had to earn the right to wear them around 1841 when Hudson’s Bay Company head  George Simpson and his assistant Edward Hopkins collected them and brought them to England.
“The first time I saw them, I started thinking of ways to walk home with them, ” Blackfoot Kainai elder Frank Weaslehead told a crowd of media representatives, adding he didn’t think he had earned the right to wear them, though he spent the past six years of his life working to bring them home for a visit. He said  the media usually only focuses on the negative things about the Blackfoot people, however there are many positive accomplishments which could be reflected on modern versions of the shirts.
“A lot of our young people have lost their identities. But we have doctors, and lawyers and sports figures,” he listed adding accomplishments like graduating from university or college  or even high school could be reflected on the shirts. He admired the quill work and designs  on the shirts.
Frank Weaslehead holds up one of the shirts. Photo by Richard Amery“Over 200 years ago, we had a way of life and it was pretty good,” he said.
“The first time I saw them, I was very, very, very moved,” said elder Blanche Bruisedhead.
“Because my grandmothers and grandfathers told me about shirts like this. I was physically moved. These shirts are a gift straight from the Creator,” she said.
“I was really, really happy because of the preservation of this property.
“Frank said he hasn’t earned the to wear them. I say if anyone  does,  he does. He’s put six  years of his life into bringing them here and that‘s a real achievement,” she said.
— by Richard Amery, L.A.Beat editor
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