Frustration with crime is growing for a central Alberta traditional Indigenous band after their headquarters were been broken into an estimated five times in recent months.
A building in Mirror, Alta., that serves as an antique store, museum, AirBNB and headquarters for the Mountain Cree Traditional Band (Asini Wachi Nehiyawak or AWNTB) has lost an estimated $100,000 in stolen items and $1 million in lost artifacts with vandalism costing another $50,000 in damages, according to a Jan. 17, 2021 press release.
The building, established by the late AWNTB representative Joe Fromhold in 2018, housed his family archives, museum displays, and an antique store. It has been in hiatus since a dispute with the county over development issues and First Nation rights, states the release.
The thefts were first noticed near the end of 2020.
Odin Von Fromhold took over the care of the building from his father. When his brother Dustin Mountain came in to sell books, he noticed some water damage, but there were also doors kicked in and items missing.
A further examination of the premises revealed an “ongoing loss of material from the store and museum,” stated the release.
“It has been over the last week that we have really seen vandals and thieves pillage the building,” said Mountain.
“Not only are there more items stolen from the store, but now there are priceless archaeological artifacts stolen. Doors and interior windows are kicked in, and we have now seen five break and enters, two with culprits found inside the building.”
The AWNTB alleges that during one incident, three people were found inside the building, and there one inside at another time, and no charges were laid.
“It doesn’t help deter crime,” said Mountain.
The band tracked some of the artifacts to a pawn shop in Edmonton, but have not been able to get their property back.
Mountain warns Mirror businesses to watch their streets and neighbours.
“If these people are getting away with theft of this value what is happening in the rest of the community?” he said.
“As a community, we need to help each other and that means watching for strange vehicles and people.”
The Mountain Cree Traditional Band is recognized by the Government of Canada as a legally constituted Traditional Indian Band, rather than a Treaty Indian Band.
As a Traditional Band, they receive no government funding, and all operations and staffing are on a volunteer basis, with costs covered by individuals who undertake them (inehistory.com/mtn.html).