Peel police seek help with locating missing Nipissing First Nation headdress

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A headdress belonging to the chief of a northeastern Ontario First Nation was allegedly taken from a hotel parking lot west of Toronto, police and community leaders said Sunday as they appealed for help locating the "sacred" garment and the stolen vehicle in which it went missing.

Peel Regional Police said the headdress has significant sentimental value and is of historic importance to the Nipissing First Nation, located about 30 kilometres from North Bay, Ont.

Police believe the headdress went missing around 3 a.m. on Saturday when the green 2022 Jeep Wrangler belonging to First Nation Chief Scott McLeod was allegedly stolen. The Jeep was parked at the Sandman Signature Mississauga hotel while the chief was in town for the Little Native Hockey League Tournament, the First Nation said.

“I ask that the perpetrators of this theft find it upon themselves to kindly return the headdress," McLeod said in a statement. "This can be done anonymously, to the Sandman Signature Mississauga hotel or to one of the arenas where the event is taking place.”

The tournament was expected to begin Sunday at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, with games scheduled in the following days at the Iceland Arena, Tomken Twin Arena, Meadowvale 4 Rinks and Erin Mills Twin Arena.

The First Nation said the ceremonial headdress bears seven white eagle feathers that signify the commitment a leader makes to lead with responsibility following the seven grandfather/grandmother teachings.

Floral beadwork in shades of green, pink, purple and yellow represents the role of women in supporting the leader wearing the headdress, it added.

"The Nipissing First Nation headdress was reconstructed following more than two years of research by elders, academics, historians, and geographers (all familiar with the resources available 100 years ago)," the First Nation said.

Anyone with information about the headdress's whereabouts or video footage of the incident is being asked to come forward.

“This headdress is of great significance for Nipissing First Nation, and its loss has had a deep impact on their community," Peel police chief Nishan Duraiappah said in a statement.

"Recognizing the highly sacred and historical importance of the headdress, I want to assure Chief McLeod and Nipissing First Nation that our investigators have been and will continue to work diligently to locate and ensure its safe return."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2022.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press