Narcisse Blood (Tatsikiistamik) was a Blackfoot Elder, teacher, academic, artist and visionary. Narcisse passed away, along with Michael Green, co-founder of the One Yellow Rabbit (OYR) theatre company and founder of the Making Treaty 7 initiative, Michele Sereda, artistic director of Regina’s Curtain Razor Theatre, and dancer Lacy Morin-Desjarlais in a tragic car accident on February 10, 2015. Narcisse was well known to those of us in Alberta Culture and Tourism who had the privilege of meeting and working with him for well over twenty years. His commitment to sharing Blackfoot culture, his welcoming and sharing approach to teaching others and his ability to bring people together will be dearly missed. Seeing Narcisse on the many fieldtrips he took with students from Red Crow College or the chance to hear Narcisse speak and teach others about Blackfoot culture has all been integral to the work we do here at Alberta Culture and Tourism. Through all of his efforts and all of his talents, Narcisse challenged us to see ourselves differently in our relationships with each other, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. He taught us to be honest about the past but not be limited by the hard legacies left to us. He encouraged us to share stories about the past so we may learn from each other, so Blackfoot people and their stories are shared and heard by others, so we can all understand and appreciate our history better. We are all Treaty people after all.
In Narcisse’s own words, “mokaakiit Iikakimat”, to strive and persevere, may we all take this message to heart as we continue working together to preserve our past, share our stories and build a more inclusive and meaningful understanding of who we are as a community.
The following are a few personal reflections from the staff at Alberta Culture and Tourism who had long standing personal and professional relationships with Narcisse:
“There are those who stand out in time and place and Narcisse was one of those. He left a legacy of hope and future for our Blackfoot ways of knowing things, all those things that teach about humility, the great spirits teachings and reaching out to those who seek out knowledge about the land. He was a true ambassador and champion for his people.” – Blair First Rider, Aboriginal Heritage, Historic Resources Management Branch
“Narcisse leaves a huge void in the Alberta cultural heritage and arts community and in the hearts of all those who knew him. He contributed in so many ways to building cultural understanding–the heart and soul of what we do. Narcisse worked closely with staff at the Royal Alberta Museum and Alberta Justice on developing the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act. With characteristic patience and good humour, he gently but firmly educated Government of Alberta staff on the importance of bringing home sacred Blackfoot Bundles. The First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act (FNSCORA) – the first repatriation legislation in Canada – is a testament to his vision and his dedication. Over the years, Narcisse’s hard work and unwavering commitment brought home to Blackfoot country sacred Bundles from museum collections around the world.
As a member of the Royal Alberta Museum’s Aboriginal Advisory panel, Narcisse sparked ideas for our displays and counseled us on exhibit development. He helped identify themes for the Museum’s future history galleries, advised us on display content, and encouraged us to think in new ways about what we could achieve, working together. We will miss this esteemed colleague and beloved friend very much.” – Susan Berry, Royal Alberta Museum
“For many years Narcisse worked closely with archaeologists from across the province, including staff at the Royal Alberta Museum and the Archaeological Survey. Narcisse was a visionary who saw the value of collaboration. He routinely invited archaeologists to accompany his Red Crow College students on visits to important archaeological sites, such as buffalo jumps and medicine wheels, so that the students were exposed to both traditional and scientific perspectives. He willingly participated on archaeological tours lending his informed and reasoned voice to the interpretation. He has been a major force in the interpretation of sacred rock art sites in Writing-on-Stone Park, and was a key player in the development of the new Visitor Centre. Few if any other Aboriginal leaders had such a profound and lasting impact on the practice of archaeology across Alberta and on archaeologists themselves. His contributions will live on, but his warm and welcoming presence will be sorely missed.” – Jack Brink, Royal Alberta Museum
We would like to send our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Narcisse, and Michael Green, Michele Sereda and Lacy Morin-Desjarlais. Our thoughts are with you during this most difficult time.