Oki! Let's Learn Together

Glenbow's collection connects us to the history and culture of the Blackfoot people

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Acknowledging the land on which Glenbow sits

Glenbow is located in Mohkinstsis (MOH-kin-stiss), now known as Calgary, on Treaty 7 territory. We respect the history, languages, traditions and cultures of the nations on whose traditional land we reside: the Niitsitapi (Neet-SIT-apee) from the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes Siksika (Six-ih-GAH), Piikani (bee-GAH-nee) and Kainaiwa (GUY-nah); the Îyârhe (ee-YAH-hhay) Nakoda (Nuh-KOH-duh) of the Chiniki (CHIN-ih-kee), Bearspaw (BEARS-paw), and Wesley (WESS-lee) Nations; and the Dene (DEN-eh)of the Tsuut’ina (soot-IN-uh) Nation; as well as the Métis (MAY-tee) Nation Region III. Their contributions to the museum and continued support are integral to our success in educating our visitors and sharing the rich heritage of this land. We further acknowledge the vital connections we have to other indigenous people (including other First Nations, Inuit (EE-noo-eet) and Métis), whose visual and intangible culture is represented in our collections and exhibitions.

Glenbow has a special relationship with the Niitsitapi Blackfoot community in Treaty 7. 

Glenbow cares for many objects, artworks and belongings in the museum collection that represent Blackfoot history, ancestors, and the living Niitsitapi culture.

These items are actively visited by members of the Blackfoot community and used in ceremony, and for cultural learning. We rely on Elders and Knowledge Keepers to help us share the stories of Blackfoot history and culture with everyone. 

The Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life exhibition is closed to the public due to Glenbow’s building renovations, but you can visit the Niitsitapiisini virtual exhibition to discover the history, values and traditions of the people who have lived for thousands of years in the northwestern plains of Alberta and Montana. Here, the Blackfoot share their story in their own words; they will take you on a journey through Niitsitapi history up to the present day.

Learning Resources

Here are a few worksheets and resources from our Indigenous Studies School Programs, to introduce some key information about Blackfoot history and culture:

Blackfoot Language and Symbols

Comparing European and Indigenous World Views

Residential Schools Intergenerational Impacts

Download the full Teacher Resource Package

In the video below, Blackfoot Elder and Glenbow educator Sheldon First Rider shares the first story in Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life

Map of Traditional Blackfoot Territory

The story of the Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life exhibition

Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life opened in 2001 and closed in November 2020

Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life was the result of a groundbreaking partnership between Glenbow Museum and the Blackfoot Confederacy. Eighteen Blackfoot elders worked with Glenbow staff to lead the design of the exhibition and infuse traditional knowledge and contemporary lived experiences into an innovative storytelling experience that shared the history and culture of the Blackfoot people. The exhibition has been an important cultural resource for Indigenous and non-Indigenous museum visitors for almost 20 years.

The Niitsitapiisini Blackfoot Gallery Committee started work in 1997. After four years of discussion, research and collaboration, the gallery opened in November 2001. The project team included:

Doreen Blackweasel (Amsskaapipikani), Tom Blackweasel (Amsskaapipikani), Andy Black Water (Kainaiwa), Jenny Bruised Head (Kainaiwa), Clifford Crane Bear (Siksika), Louise Crop Eared Wolf (Kainaiwa), Charlie Crow Chief (Kainaiwa), Rosie Day Rider (Kainaiwa), Carrie First Rider (Kainaiwa), Earl Old Person (Amsskaapipikani), Allan Pard (Apatohsipikani), Jerry Potts (Apatohsipikani), Pat Provost (Apatohsipikani), Pete Standing Alone (Kainaiwa) Jim Swag (Apatohsipikani), Donna Weaselchild (Siksika) Frank Weasel Head (Kainaiwa), Clarence Wolfleg (Siksika) and Herman Yellow Old Woman (Siksika).

What is the plan for the future of the Niitsitapiisini gallery?

The Niitsitapiisini exhibition is an important educational and cultural resource that is key to the future of Glenbow Museum.

  • Glenbow is committed to educating all of our audiences about the history of the Treaty 7 region and instilling an understanding of and appreciation for Blackfoot culture and ways of knowing.
  • The future Niitsitapiisini exhibition will continue to share Blackfoot stories, culture and history in the words of the Blackfoot people.
  • The original exhibition committee worked hard to develop the themes, stories and core elements of the original gallery, and we intend to honour those decisions for the original exhibition and ensure they are carried forward in the new gallery.
  • The immersive experience and the first-person storytelling are integral to the impact of the Niitsitapiisini gallery, and we intend to recreate that in a new exhibition that will open when Glenbow’s building renovation is complete.
  • The process of taking down the original gallery and planning and installing the new Niitsitapiisini gallery will honour the collaborative, community-led process that was developed by the original committee.
  • The original interpretive wall panels and display elements from the Niitsitapiisini gallery will be replaced with updated graphics and relevant updates to wording and concepts based on historical and political developments since the gallery was originally opened in 2001, including MMIWG, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
  • All the stories and belongings in the gallery must be handled respectfully and protected during the renovation process.
  • Our goal with the future Niitsitapiisini gallery is to create the same calibre of experience that the gallery his provided since 2001. The experience will be updated with new resources and new possibilities, to ensure we are both teaching the history of the Blackfoot people and contributing to the future of the Blackfoot people.
  • Evolving and reimagining the gallery will allow us to expand on content related to the history of residential schools in Alberta and to enhance the section on contemporary life and the living culture of the Blackfoot people today.

Why are we closing the original gallery?

  • Glenbow’s building is failing and can’t sustain the needs of the museum. The renovations are badly needed to deal with infrastructure that is putting the collection at risk;
    Many of the mechanical systems need to be replaced, asbestos needs to be removed throughout the building, environmental systems must be upgraded
  • The renovation is extensive, and we can’t leave the Niitsitapiisini Gallery up in the middle of it, as the objects in it won’t be safe.
  • The necessity of the building system upgrades goes hand in hand with a desire to improve the accessibility of the museum and make it sustainable for the long-term future.

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