Council Stones & Sitting Eagle
In its early history, the Council acted as military enforcement and protection for the trade routes, but by the end of the 19th century they were concerned with ending the First Nations Wars in Canada, getting people settled, and trying to mitigate the issues brought about by the Europeans. From 1913-1944 under the guide of Dakota Chief Sitting Eagle (formerly “Chaske [Charles] Eagle” of Sioux Valley), the Council entered a new phase, working to ensure the safety of their people and their histories.
After the wars had ended and the nations connected to the Council had been settled on reserves, the remaining Council members needed to decide how to proceed into an unfamiliar future. It was determined that each nation was best equipped to deal with the residual issues from the trauma and loss of their culture, and to reduce the violence and abuse still being experienced. Once the individual nations were taken care of, the Councils concerns turned to their own history of international accomplishments and to who would ensure its survival and integration into the new social structure.
The Council proposed that someone trustworthy within this new society be recruited to protect the sacred artifacts and traditions, as they did not belong to any one First Nation group. Sitting Eagle, who recognized Bill Moncur’s unwavering dedication to understanding First Nations histories and artifacts, recommended that he house the stones and share their unique history. Sitting Eagle and the Council gifted the seven council stones to Bill making him promise to keep them safe and ensure future generations continue to learn from them. Unfortunately, the true significance and arrangement of the stones remains a mystery as Sitting Eagle passed away a few weeks after delivering the final stone. The Gallery honors both Sitting Eagle and Bill Moncur by preserving the stones and their history, and by sharing it with all those who are interested.
A broader story of the stones is outlined in “Turtle Mountain Tales: The Council Stones” by James Ritchie. Before Bill Moncur passed away in 2001, an effort was made by the Moncur Gallery and the Moncur family, to learn more about the ceremonial artifacts in the museum, including the Council Stones. During several interviews with Bill, a more detailed description of his friendship with Sitting Eagle and the process by which the stones were given to him was revealed. It was with great deliberation and discretion that Sitting Eagle and others within the First Nation community decided that Bill could be given the stones to safe guard. Discover more about the complex history of the Council and the Turtle Mountain region, as well as delve into the friendship between Bill and Sitting Eagle. Uncover the incredible story of how Bill Moncur earned the Council’s confidence and was entrusted to protect their sacred artifacts.
Turtle Mountain Tales : The Council Stones
By James A.M. Ritchie
Moncur Gallery – Peoples of the Plains Inc.
(in cooperation with Boissevain Community Archives)
October 20, 2001
Ten thousand years ago Aboriginal hunters and toolmakers were already prowling the face of the retreating ice sheet around Turtle Mountain. Over the succeeding millennia trade grew and widened to produce a network of trails and highways. In the recent historical era, the “Mandan Trail” as it became known, was influenced by efforts among the First Nations at settling international disputes and encouraging trade. By 1800 AD these efforts were refined into the institution called by the Cree, “the Council of All Nations” and by the Dakota, “the Council of Seven Stones.”
Turtle Mountain Tales : The Council Stones was produced as a background report by the Moncur Gallery museum with the assistance of the Boissevain Community Archives. The report concentrates on the physical evidence of Aboriginal history in the Turtle Mountain region, both on the landscape and in museums. In over 300 pages with over 20 colour plates and nearly a hundred black-and-white illustrations, The Council Stones set outs the intricate and interwoven histories of the Algonquin, Siouan, Métis and finally European settlers.
Copies may be ordered directly from the Moncur Gallery – Peoples of the Plains Inc. for $110.00 plus $15.00 postage & handling, or in PDF format on CD for $25.00 plus $5.00 postage & handling.