Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of LifeHome

 

Frank Tried to Flay and George Left Hand, Blackfoot, sowing seed by hand, ca. 1880s, Glenbow Archives NA-127-1

How we Lived with Other People

After the Treaties

When the Buffalo Disappeared

In 1879 the buffalo disappeared from the Canadian prairies. Our people went to the government for help, but they told us to go to the United States and look for buffalo there. Many people starved.

Winter Count
1879 – When the buffalo disappeared.

Winter Count 1879 - When the buffalo disappeared. From Bull Plume's Winter Count, Courtesy of Glenbow Museum

From Bull Plume's Winter Count
Collection of Glenbow Museum


We Moved Onto Reserves

When the buffalo were gone we had no choice but to move onto the land the government had reserved for us. Our entire way of life changed.

Winter Count
1880 – When they built the first houses.

Winter Count 1880 - When they built the first houses. From Bull Plume's Winter Count, Courtesy of Glenbow Museum

From Bull Plume's Winter Count
Collection of Glenbow Museum


We Survived on Rations

The buffalo had disappeared by 1880. A drought and a worldwide depression made it hard for us to be successful farmers. We were forced to rely on government rations for survival. This increased our dependency on the kinnoona (Indian Agent). It was another blow to our morale.



Blood woman waiting at the ration house, Blood reserve, 1897, Glenbow Archives NA-943-42

Glenbow Archives NA-943-42


How we had to Farm

Farming on the prairies during the nineteenth century was hard if you were using ploughs and horses. It became nearly impossible with the Canadian government's Peasant Farming Policy. Our men had to sow seed by hand and harvest their pitiful crops with hand tools. The government thought this would give our people a better understanding of the land.



Frank Tried to Flay and George Left Hand, Blackfoot, sowing seed by hand, ca. 1880s, Glenbow Archives NA-127-1

Glenbow Archives NA-127-1


Residential Schools

By 1890, more and more of our children were being sent to residential schools. Brothers and sisters were separated, and parents could not visit their children. These children began to lose their connection with their families. Too often, there was nothing to fill the void.


Blackfoot North camp boarding school staff and children, Gleichen area, Alberta, 1890, Glenbow Archives NA-1773-7; Girls' dormitory, Old Sun school, Blackfoot reserve, 1955-57, Glenbow Archives NA-4817-22 Peigan children at Anglican mission picking potatoes, Peigan reserve, Alberta, ca. 1900, Glenbow Archives NA-1020-25

Glenbow Archives NA-1773-7

Glenbow Archives NA-1020-25

Glenbow Archives NA-4817-22


Taking Control of Our Lives

A century after we made treaty with the government we began to take control of our lives again.

  • Piikani took control of their education system in 1986.
  • Siksika opened Old Sun College in 1972.
  • Kainai built the Blood Tribe Irrigation Project in 1994 to provide money for their health, education, and welfare projects.
  • In Montana, the Blackfeet Community College opened it 1974, and through education our people began to find ways of being equal with the non-Natives around us.

 


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