Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of LifeHome

 

Our World

Videos

To see what our territory looks like today and to learn more about our culture, watch these video clips.

Belly Buttes

The Belly Buttes were created when Katoyissa (Blood Clot) ripped open the belly of the giant bird that was threatening our people. Its heart became Heart Butte in Montana and its intestines became the Belly Buttes. Each summer the Kainai have their Akoka’tssini (the time of all people camping together) at the foot of the buttes.

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Writing On Stone

After Katoyissa made it safe for our people, he went to rest at Katoyissiksi (Sweet Grass or Sweet Pine Hills). From time to time he awakes and writes on the sandstone outcrops, foretelling our future. Over the centuries, we have added our own stories as an honour to the help Katoyissa (Blood Clot) has given us. 

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Summer Plains

The original prairies were home to a wide variety of grasses, each of which flourished under different climatic conditions. They became dormant during drought, but were replenished with only a little rain. This was an incredibly rich environment for all kinds of animals.

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Crowsnest Mountain

When Ksiistsikomm (Thunder) took one of our women to his home at Ninastako, Omahkai’stoo (Raven) volunteered to help get her back. Omahkai’stoo left his home at Crowsnest Mountain and used his power of the cold to defeat Ksiistsikomm. Today, our Thunder Medicine Pipes remind us of our close relationship with Thunder and Raven.

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Winter Territory

The cold weather and blowing snow makes the open prairie inhospitable during the winter. Sudden storms could trap a person away from shelter. Our people moved into sheltered river valleys where water and wood were nearby. Men would ride out from the camps to go hunting.

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Setting Up a Tipi

Tipis are incredible structures. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They can withstand winds that blow at over 100 kilometres an hour. Tipis are portable and can be easily set up and taken down. Although we live in houses today, we still put up our tipis for special ceremonial occasions.

Collection of Glenbow Archives, Okan, 1961

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Hand Game

Hand games have been with us for thousands of years. Some of our Napi stories are about his gambling adventures. Today hand games are an important part of almost any social gathering. It takes a great deal of skill to be a good hand game player.

Collection of Glenbow Archives, Okan, 1961

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Transcription:
And one of the more popular past times is the hand game, a form of gambling.

Four sticks are used, two marked and two unmarked, and the leader of the opposing team must guess in which hand the unmarked ones are hidden.

If he guesses correctly twice in a row, his side wins the right to hold the sticks. Every time he makes a wrong guess his team looses one of the tally sticks. When one side has captured all the tally sticks, the game is over.

Okotoks

Once, Napi gave his buffalo robe to a Rock, and then took it back. The Rock became angry and chased Napi across the prairies, flattening anything that tried to stop it. Finally the meadowlarks managed to blow the rock apart, scattering its pieces across the plains. The largest fragment is near the town of Okotoks, Alberta.

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Women's Buffalo Jump

One of our ancient stories is about how men and women came to live together. This happened at a place where the women were working at their pisskan — a place now called Women’s Buffalo Jump. The men and women all selected partners, but because Napi was so arrogant, he was left without a partner. 

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Buffalo

Buffalo were one of our most important animals, giving us almost everything we needed for food, clothing, and shelter. Millions of them covered the plains and it sometimes took two days for a herd to pass our camp. Today only a few small herds live in national parks or on ranches.

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