|Narcisse at the Blackfoot Shirts Conference, Pitt Rivers Museum, 2012|
I am extremely sad to announce the sudden death of Kainai elder and teacher Narcisse Blood (Tatsikiistamik), who was a mentor to Pitt Rivers Museum staff since 2001 across the Kainai Photos Project and then the Blackfoot Shirts Project. He contributed the Foreword to Pictures Bring Us Messages, the book about the photographs project. Narcisse visited the Museum several times and came to open the PRM version of the Blackfoot shirts exhibition with his wife Alvine Mountain Horse and family. A filmmaker whose work was supported by the National Film Board of Canada, Narcisse contributed a video to the PRM exhibition as well as quotes, photographs, and overall guidance. Narcisse also assisted other museums in the UK and gave guest lectures at the University of Aberdeen as well as at Oxford.
Narcisse was a true scholar and the humblest man I ever met. He was exceptionally generous in supporting the Museum’s work in so many ways. Narcisse had a very gentle voice but also a tough, unwavering commitment to Blackfoot people, to the environment, and to improving cross-cultural relationships and understanding. These commitments led him to work on the Glenbow Museum’s collaboratively-produced Blackfoot gallery, to serve on the Mookaakin Cultural and Heritage Foundation and to teach at Red Crow Tribal College, to encourage those who participated in traditional Blackfoot ceremonial ways and to support outsiders as we began to learn about Blackfoot culture.
When interviewed about the Blackfoot Shirts Project, and the hard reality for Blackfoot people that many Blackfoot heritage items are held in museums in the UK, Narcisse said,
My question is “Preservation for who?” If the preservation of these shirts would serve the purpose of bridging the gap that exists in how we understand each other, then it is worthwhile to preserve them. But they haven’t done that.
As museums, if you are teaching, then why is there still such misunder-standing? Why is there still so much ignorance [in] Blackfoot territory?
So it begs that question: “Who are you preserving them for?”
Thank you, Narcisse, for giving so many of us so much to think about. Thank you for teaching us, for your friendship and support and enthusiasm and vision.
Condolences to Alvine Mountain Horse, Narcisse’s wife, and to their family.