Negotiations are underway to determine what to do with a rare find on the Blood reserve in southeastern Alberta.
In early June, Korite Minerals, mining Ammolite on the reserve, uncovered the remains of a 73 million year old marine reptile.
"Two of our guys from the reserve work with Korite. They actually saw the skeleton. They uncovered the teeth. They stopped the operation right away," said Rick Tailfeathers, public relations director with the Kainaiwa band.
Tribe administration was contacted and a phone call went out to the Royal Tyrrell Museum located in Drumheller.
What had been unearthed was an eight metre long Prognathodon, a type of mosasaur.
Tyrrell staff arrived and with the help of Korite excavated the fossil and rock, encasing it in protective plastic jackets. However, transportation of the specimen to the museum was delayed when "the tribe realized we might have problems if we let the specimen go without asserting our ownership," Tailfeathers said.
Under the Historical Resources Act, because the specimen was found on federal land (the reserve), it does not belong to the province of Alberta.
After six weeks of negotiations, an agreement was reached between the Kainaiwa, Royal Tyrrell Museum and the province, which sees the specimen relocated to the Tyrrell for storage.
Right now, said Tailfeathers, a further agreement is being negotiated to allow preparation work to be done on the specimen.
Preparation work means removing the rock from the bone, said Marty Eberth, media relations with the Tyrrell Museum.
Any restoration work would be done at the museum's costs, she added, which was a concern voiced by the Kainaiwa tribe, as it didn't have the money to pay for the necessary work.
Whether the specimen, which is estimated at 80 per cent complete, would be displayed at the Royal Tyrrell is still a point of negotiation.
"It's premature to say right now, but it would depend on how it's presented," said Eberth, referring to the state of the fossil after the preparation work is completed.
"It's pretty obvious we would like to see it available for study. Chief Chris Shades has said as much," said Tailfeathers, who noted that displaying the specimen has not been discussed.
Right now, the Tyrrell has in its collection (but not on display) the partial skull of the only other Prognathodon found in southeastern Alberta 20 years ago.
Tailfeathers said that at least two other fossils have been found on the reserve, but those who found them wanted financial compensation before taking anyone to the sites.
Tailfeathers said an Elder who came to the site when the mosasaur was first discovered held that it had been found for a reason.
"That Elder equated (that reason) with science," said Tailfeathers.