At some unknown date in the past, this extraterrestrial rock blazed through the skies in a glowing fireball before coming to rest near Iron Creek, a tributary of the Battle River in eastern Alberta.
This rock has remarkable spiritual and scientific qualities. For First Nations of the Northern Plains, it is a powerful spirit helper and guardian of the buffalo.
Healers called on this spirit helper, known as the Flying Rock or Manitou Stone (the Stone being imbued with Manitou, or Spirit), to assist them and to provide protection against bad medicine. People from diverse Nations visited the Manitou Stone when they passed through the area and left offerings of food, tobacco, and other gifts.
The balance of life that the Stone helped maintain was upset in 1866 when Methodist missionary George McDougall ordered it removed and taken by cart to Victoria Mission east of Edmonton. It was later shipped to Ontario.
The Stone`s removal created deep concern; First Nations spiritual leaders prophesied that war , plague and famine would beset the people. McDougall scoffed but in 1869 more than 400 people died in warfare between the Blackfeet and Cree.
A smallpox epidemic the following year claimed over 3,500 lives. Hundreds if not thousands of First Nations died of starvation when the bison failed to come north due to fires at the border.
The Manitou Stone returned to Alberta in 1972 and is on permanent loan to the RAM. Scientists study the meteorite to better understand a range of issues, from the origins of the solar system to major paleontological extinctions. The Royal Alberta Museum has been exploring how to care for this extraordinary object in a way that respects both perspectives.