The Pulse: March 22, 2024

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  • -5°C: Mainly cloudy with 30% chance of flurries. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 5. Wind chill minus 16 in the morning and minus 11 in the afternoon. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/Yellow: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and yellow for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) Awareness. (details)
  • 8-3: The Edmonton Oilers (42-21-4) defeated the Buffalo Sabres (33-33-5) on March 21. (details)
  • 5pm, March 23: The Oilers (42-21-4) play the Toronto Maple Leafs (39-20-9) at Scotiabank Arena. (details)
  • 4pm, March 24: The Oilers (42-21-4) play the Ottawa Senators (28-36-4) at Canadian Tire Centre. (details)

The Royal Alberta Museum in downtown Edmonton.

Returning Indigenous artifacts from RAM important but complicated, experts say

By Stephanie Swensrude

Candace Wasacase says when she visits the Manitou Stone, she can feel its energy.

"If you've ever been in the presence of it, you cannot be angry in the presence of the stone," she said.

Thousands of years ago, the 145-kilogram iron meteorite fell from the universe and landed on a hill somewhere near Hardisty, Alta., Wasacase said. "It was the original site to gather, to pray. It was always seen as a place of peace, healing, and understanding amongst the tribes of the time, prior to colonization," she said. "This was the heart and the spirit, sort of the centre of Indigenous spirituality."

A Methodist missionary stole the stone from its original location more than 150 years ago. The Royal Alberta Museum in downtown Edmonton now houses the stone, also called Manitou Asinîy (Creator's Stone), awâsis kôhtakocihk kîsikohk (the child who fell from the sky), the Iron Stone, the Iron Creek Meteorite, and the Shining Rock. The museum keeps the stone in an area near the admission desk, so people can visit it without paying. The stone rests on soil from near where it hit the earth. Museum staff smudge the stone twice each week.

But while the museum is the repository for artifacts found in the province and houses 12 million pieces of history from more than 40,000 archaeological sites, it won't be the Manitou Stone's home for long. Two years ago, the Alberta government agreed to return the stone to the land. Wasacase is CEO of the Manitou Asiniy-Iniskim-Tsa Xani Centre, the organization charged with building a new home for the stone. She told Taproot the centre is taking shape, with many moving parts involved. The centre needs to raise money, secure land, and create a marketing team. A project of this importance is going to take time and care, Wasacase said.

"A lot of this is about building on hope, building on stories that we need to take back for ourselves," she said. "It's about building community trust and community relations because I think there's sort of a sense of loss that hasn't been properly expressed."

Wasacase, who's a member of Kahkewistahaw First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, said the theft of the Manitou Stone had long-lasting consequences for Indigenous people on the Prairies. "At the time, it was prophesized if the stone was ever taken that great harm would come to Indigenous people — that the bison would leave us, there would be famine, disease, war between the tribes, and all those things happened," she said. "The path to restoring that is to reclaim culture, identity, language, pride, and all of those things are represented in the body of this stone."

Repatriation of Indigenous artifacts is becoming more common in Canada. A treaty medallion, Chief Poundmaker's staff, and a baby carrier are among the items returned to Indigenous communities across Canada in recent years.

Wasacase said repatriation of the stone is vitally important for Alberta and Indigenous nations. "I really think of the work of the Manitou Stone as marrying the idea of reconciliation and reclamation and repatriation," she said.

But right now, repatriating artifacts is not as simple as asking for an item to be returned and museums or other organizations following through. Archaeologists say that's because of legislative requirements, security restraints, and the sheer number of artifacts.

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Headlines: March 22, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee told reporters that there have been no encampment-related deaths since the province opened its downtown navigation centre and police began an encampment crackdown in January. McFee also said addressing overdoses, encampments, and crime requires going beyond "one-dimensional" approaches. Advocates have told Taproot that the province's navigation centre and the frequency of encampment removals has led to "abject misery" for many and cut vulnerable people off from support systems.
  • Data from Alberta Justice shows the number of deaths among homeless Edmontonians has increased significantly in recent years, from 37 in 2019 to 302 in 2023. The size of the homeless population also doubled during the pandemic, reaching 1,390 in late 2019 and 2,868 as of January this year, according to Homeward Trust.
  • The City of Edmonton is facing a "once-in-a-generation" cost to replace a third of its LRT fleet, and at the same time lacks funds to replace hundreds of aging diesel buses. A total of 37 LRT cars have been approved for replacement, over five years, at a cost of $240 million. However, the current capital budget includes funding to replace only 22 buses, instead of the 322 that need to be replaced, council's urban planning committee heard this week. One opportunity for council is an expected pot of federal funding for permanent public transit, which will be available in 2026-2027, but it's unclear how much Edmonton could receive. Council will get a detailed briefing on options in May. Meanwhile, the city continues to seek $82 million in damages from the bankrupt American electric vehicle manufacturer Proterra.
  • The owners of the Edmonton Riverboat, formerly called the Edmonton Queen, announced that the vessel is up for sale, although the asking price and sale timeline are unclear. The 210-tonne, 52-metre paddlewheeler has been hosting special events and river valley cruises since 1995 and has changed hands multiple times. The boat was renamed and underwent significant renovations under current ownership, which acquired it in 2016 for $553,000.
  • Three security guards were injured at the Stanley A. Milner Library just after 5pm on March 19. Library officials say the guards sustained minor cuts as they tried to remove a knife-wielding man from the building. Police have not released any information on charges.
  • Edmonton Global CEO Malcolm Bruce met with Strathcona County council this month as part of a listening tour to gather concerns from member municipalities that are considering leaving the regional development agency. Councillors questioned Edmonton Global's communication, the value of an external board beyond the county's own economic development staff, and funds Edmonton Global spent on the 2022 Forward Slash event. "We sometimes are more transactional and not treating them as a partner as much as we should be, and that includes information sharing," said Bruce. "It's not working as well as it needs to, and I take that point."
  • An opinion piece in the LGBTQ-focused publication Xtra Magazine suggests that Westlock's ban on Pride crosswalks is likely to inspire similar actions across Alberta. "It does not go unnoticed that as soon as one conservative government at a provincial or municipal level decides that it's okay to attack queer and trans people, no matter how they dress it up, it creates a permission structure for others to follow suit," wrote journalist Dale Smith. After Westlock's Feb. 22 plebiscite, a similar proposition came before Drumheller council, which affirmed its support for the LGBTQ community after hearing opposition to the idea from residents and organizations.

Correction: This file has been updated to reflect that while the City of Edmonton needs to replace 37 LRT cars and 322 buses, which is more than is currently budgeted for, it is not necessarily in a position to have to choose between LRT cars or buses.

Correction: This file has been updated to reflect that three security guards attempting to remove a man from the Stanley A. Milner Library were cut rather than stabbed in a March 19 incident.

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: March 22-24, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening this weekend in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.