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Artifacts returned to Three Tribes Museum

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Tribal historian Calvin Grinnell and Three Tribes Museum administrator Marilyn Hudson unfold one quilt from a large collection of tribal artifacts returned to the museum in New Town on Tuesday.

NEW TOWN — A set of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara artifacts came home to New Town on Tuesday when the son of an honorary tribe member returned a large set of gifts the tribes gave his father.

Three Tribes Museum administrator Marilyn Hudson took inventory of each item as Rainer Ebel tried to place the items in context with the documentation he has from his father’s time getting to know the tribes.

The gifts were in appreciation of Dr. Gerd Ebel’s medical work with the tribes while was based in Watford City from the mid-1970s to ’90s, the younger Ebel said.

Much of the Three Tribes Museum’s collection was acquired when people returned gifts like Ebel did with his father’s Tuesday.

“Our tribes are well-known for gift-giving,” Hudson said, “especially for people that help them.”

Ebel was even made an honorary member of the tribes.

“He was really appreciative of it,” Rainer Ebel said.

According to Gerd Ebel’s 2010 obituary, he devotedly served as a doctor in Watford City and McKenzie County for 21 years, and delivered more than 1,000 babies.

“He worked tirelessly at all hours of the day and night to deliver the utmost care to the residents,” the obituary said.

Rainer and his wife, Suzanne, traveled to New Town from Edmonton, Alberta, to return the artifacts.

The group unfolded quilt after quilt at the museum Tuesday, admiring the various colorful, hand-sewn patterns.

The collection included about 20 quilts and blankets, plus a handmade vest and moccasins.

The tribes also gave Gerd Ebel two headdresses.

One especially, with eagle feathers, is a great honor to get as a gift, tribal historian Calvin Grinnell said.

The artifacts are thought to be made locally in the 1970s and ’80s.

The museum will likely keep the Ebels’ collection together, Hudson said, “because it’s quite a story.”