Cecil Edward Denny collection

Born in Hampshire in 1850, Cecil Edward Denny emigrated to the US at the age of 19 and became a farmer in Chicago. Three years later he moved to Canada and joined the newly formed North West Mounted Police. He quickly secured the post of sub-inspector due in large part to his uncle Sir Stafford Northcote, an MP and a founder of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Hist first encounter with Issapumahsika (Crowfoot) was in 1874 whilst accompanying Colonel James Macleod on the long march west. In 1877, Denny was promoted to inspector but he was also asked by Edgar Dewdney to be one of the witnessing signatories for Treaty 7.

Denny came to like and respect the Blackfoot, he sympathised with their new way of life as the Crown’s subjects, he frequently witnessed acts of racism against them, often settled disputes and saw that rations were distributed fairly; even though this rarely happened.

He felt that he was one of the few men who helped to keep the peace and there were certainly many occasions when orders received were ignored e.g. Dewdney once asked Denny for advice in using the Blackfeet of Southern Alberta as a means of forcibly removing “a few Cree some thirty in number around Cypress skulking.” Denny replied to this “Blackfoot Crossing, 1st May. Will not send Blackfeet. Would all wish to start out. Could not keep track of them.”

Denny’s frequent negotiations and actions as peace-keeper earned him respect by the Blackfoot and it seems likely that he acquired the sacred regalia of Crowfoot during his time as a policeman. Denny did not always follow process and procedure to get things done and this certainly did not meet the approval of his superiors.

For personal reasons he resigned from the North West Mounted Police and was appointed Indian Agent for the whole of Treaty 7 in 1884. A few years later Denny resigned not satisfied with how the British Government had treated the Blackfoot, continued expenditure cuts in the NWMP and indeed himself.

His life shortly fell apart mainly due to his drinking habit. In 1922 he succeeded his brother to the title of 6th Baron of Tralee Castle and he died in Edmonton in 1928.


How the collection came to Exeter

Denny, it seems, had purchased the regalia from Crowfoot himself. The two men had become friends under tragic circumstances.

He sent Crowfoot's regalia to his sister in England for safekeeping. This material was loaned to Exeter Museum and was eventually offered for sale. The price seemed relatively high as Rowley, the curator at the time, asked Denny to reconsider the price. After much negotiation, the museum acquired the items in 1904 for £10.

The condition of this purchase was that a glass case should be made especially for the display of the regalia. The museum agreed to this at a cost of £2 13s 6p. In the photograph above we can see Crowfoot's regalia displayed on the right hand side sometime in the 1930s.

Which items are linked to Crowfoot?

Denny's original donation consisted of 29 items, however, RAMM has 13 items currently listed; the remaining items exist but it has been possible in determining if these items relate to the Denny or Dewdney donations. This is due to poor museum documentation at the time. Denny acquired this collection at Bow River, Alberta, sometime between 1874 and 1877.

When the collection was first loaned to the Museum, it was listed in the minutes of the Museum Sub-Committee 1870-9;



Robe of deer's leather

Pair of leggings

Bow case and quiver of otter fur

Bunch of eagle feathers


Four iron-headed arrows

Three hornstone arrow points

Four pairs of moccasins

Pair of mittens

Three whips

Three embroidered bags


Sling shot

Scalping knife

Necklace of beads and teeth



1000/1904/1 Shirt

A buckskin shirt which is stained with ochre and painted with brown stripes, trimmed with glass beads, quill-wrapped hair, fine red trade-cloth, fur tassels, feathers and brass bells. The feathers are covered with dye that comes from the trade-cloth.


Width 1725mm x Height 985mm



1000/1904/2 Leggings

A pair of leggings decorated with horsehair, glass beads and some quillwork.


Length 956mm x Width 470mm



1000/1904/3 Bow

Possibly Siksika, possibly Blackfoot. Three arrows and a bow of hardwood, probably ash, with split-feather vanes attached in threes. The iron arrow points are attached with an adhesive, and then bound around with sinew. Earlier arrow points were made of flint. The coloured bands are marks of ownership.


1000/1904/4 Bow case and quiver

Geometric beaded designs, outlined with a line of white beads, are a characteristic of Crow (Apsaroke) work. The floral beadwork style spread to the Plains from the eastern Woodlands. This kind of bowcase and quiver, made of otter skin and popular with both the Plateau and Plains people, was a widely-distributed style, almost certainly originating with the Crow. The two long flaps were decorated with quill embroidery, later with beadwork, as is the case with this example. Furthermore, the otter skin remains, but there are only fragments of its once luxuriant fur.


Length 1010mm x Width 445mm

Bow case and quiver



1000/1904/5 Bear claw necklace


Necklace consisting of a strip of deer hide strung with grizzly bear claws, imported glass and metal beads, teeth, including an elk tooth, claws, buffalo horn and brass studs. Symbols of courage and status, such necklaces were worn by distinguished Plains warriors.

Bear claw necklace



1000/1904/6a Embroidered pouch

A Northern Plains style pouch of deerskin decorated with the geometric designs of pink, white, dark blue, red and yello glass beads. The reverse side is plain. Brass buttons and a single strap are present along with a frayed edging of red trade cloth. Inside this was a bag containing various ingredients (1000/1904/6b).

Embroidered pouch


1000/1904/6b A pouch

A Northern Plains bag which is made of European printed cotton fabric, with a hide thong tie. It contains fragments of water-worn pink granite gneiss, mica schist, feldspar and bituminous coal, plus a white glass button with a green rim.

Medicine bundle?



1000/1904/7 Quirt

An elk antler horsewhip that would have been a treasured possession. Native to the American continent until becoming extinct there about 10,000 years ago, horses returned to America with European explorers from the 15th century, and were available to the Plains nations from the 18th century.

Length 328mm



1000/1904/8 Quirt

A horsewhip horn, with hide tassels and a braided hide whip. It has a strap of red trade cloth backed with white cotton cloth edged with pink and green binding. The front is beaded in a floral pattern in pink, blue, green, salmon, white and black.Blue and white tassels are strung with large green glass beads.

Length 1020mm x Width 84mm



1000/1904/9 Pouch


An embroidered pouch with a long fringe. This originally lost its accession number but was identified in an early museum photograph.


Length 740mm x Width 135mm




1000/1904/10 Bag

Northern Plains style, this bag was popular as a trade item with Canadian fur trading companies, made by the Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwa and marginal Plains people. On the Northern Plains the smoking of tobacco accompanied every ceremony, and was certainly a feature of the Treaty 7 negotiations. 


Length 590mm x Width 160mm



1000/1904/11 Knife

Cultural group not known. Lashed onto the bone haft is the front part of a black or grizzly bear's lower jaws with a piece of bear skin wrapped around andwith hair attached. The blade is European, stamped ‘JUKESCOUL'. This refers to Jukes Coulson and Co. A Sheffield firm that specialised in exporting trade goods such as hunting knives. Knives, like this example, were frequently imported by the Hudson's Bay Company during the first half of the 19th century. 

Length 420mm




1000/1904/12 Red-tailed hawk feather bundle


Originally labelled as African was identified in 2007 but has not been displayed. Ryan Heavy Head commented on this piece 31March 2011 "This bundle belongs with the knife in this collection." (1000/1904/11).


Height 425mm x Width 260mm

Eagle feather bundle