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Taking Control of Our Lives

ClassroomNiitsitapi people have survived over 125 years of life on reserves and at residential schools. They have found ways to endure the suffering and oppression. Today, they are finding ways to live and work alongside of mainstream society while maintaining their culture, language, and identity.

Residential schools tried to eradicate Niitsitapi culture. Now, Niitsitapi are taking control of their own education systems to insure the survival of their culture. Today, all of the Blackfoot communities have their own primary, middle and secondary schools. Kainai, Siksika, and Ammskaapipiikani also have community colleges that are affiliated with larger universities. These schools blend the general curriculum with lessons in the Blackfoot language and culture. There is open access to elders and the traditional knowledge is featured. The cultural presence raises students’ self-esteem and, as a result, enhances their scholastic achievement.

Economic self-sufficiency will enable Niitsitapi to truly take control of their lives and find ways of maintaining their language and culture.

In 1991, Kainai began the Blood Tribe Irrigation Project in 1991; the largest irrigation project in Canada. It provides land on which timothy hay can be raised for export to Japan. The project provides jobs and income for the Kainai.

The construction of the Oldman River Dam in the late 1980s adversely affected the Apatohsipiikani land, downstream from the reservoir. A settlement was reached after lengthy negotiations and the money has been invested for the long term benefit of the people. As well, a wind farm on the reserve promises to be a much-needed source of income.

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Blackfoot Culture
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Image of the Blackfoot Territory