Chief Poking Fire Pokes – But Only Ashes Left (1954)
Fire ‘Deliberate,’ Says Chief | Chief Poking Fire Pokes – But Only Ashes Left
Chief Poking Fire’s Indian museum at Caughnawaga is no more.
A stubborn two-hour blaze levelled the Iroquois village landmark shortly after 9 pm Saturday. The colorful chief told The Gazette that he believed the fire had been “set deliberately.” He said RCMP officers on the reservation were investigating the possibility of arson.
“Somebody went to the ‘Pow-Wow’ after I left at 6 p.m., spread coal oil all over the palisade and touched a match to it,’ he declared. “There’s nothing left of it now-it’s all ashes.”
The museum, which as attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world since it was built 14 years ago, is “a complete loss,” said the chief. “I can never replace all the valuable Indian relics, that were the property of my ancestors.”
The fire broke out on the palisade wall at 9 15 p.m. and within minutes the whole museum was “a mass of flames.” A one-storey tin-roofed wooden building, which housed the Indian souvenirs, also caught fire and burned to the ground.
Chief Poking Fire said the reservation, 12 miles southwest of Montreal, has no fire brigade and help was summoned from fire departments at nearby Chateauguay and Lachine.
“It was no use use tough” he exclaimed, “by the time firemen arrived, the whole museum was on fire and they only prevented it from spreading.” The museum itself was only a small building measuring 40 by 35 feet.
Hundreds of residents and passing motorists crowded both sides of the highway to watch the fire, which was brought under control about 11:30 p.m. No one was reported injured and no one was in the building at the time.
The chef said that as a result of the fire he had lost scores of valuable relics, which included irreplaceable Indian masks, five war canoes, guns used by his ancestors, bear rugs and deerskins.
Chief Poking Fire said he had planned to go back to the museum Saturday night, but changed his mind. “Whoever set fire to it knew rarely go there at night and took the opportunity to set fire to it.”
“Even if the RCMP find out who did it, it still won’t bring back all my relics,” he explained.
The attraction was billed as “The One and Only Real Indian Village.”
Source: The Montreal Gazette, Nov 1, 1954
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