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Traditional Life - The Kainai (Blood) Nation

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The Kainai (Blood) First Nation is one of three Nations comprising what Europeans would later call the Blackfoot Confederacy. Historically, the Kainai and the other Blackfoot Peoples occupied the plains in the south of what is now Alberta for over 11,000 years, and are considered among the oldest inhabitants of the region. Like the other Blackfoot Peoples, including the Piikani (Peigan) and the Siksika (Blackfoot), the Kainai spoke a variant of the Algonkian language. This language was also shared by the Cree who migrated from the Great Lakes in the east to the plains and woodlands north of traditional Blackfoot lands. The name Kainai is based on a term meaning “many chiefs” (aka – “many” and nina –“chief”).

The traditional social life and culture of the Kainai was one that was very similar in practice to those lives and cultures of the other Blackfoot Peoples. The Kainai followed a nomadic existence centred around the hunting of plains bison. Like the other Blackfoot Peoples, the basic unit of social structure for the Kainai was the clan, a group of Kainai with familial ties. Clans were grouped together as an overall tribe, with social support and leadership available for the tribe as a whole.

The spiritual life of the Kainai was holistic as it focused on the central idea that the Creator made the land and the people in intimate relationship with one another. The land could be used by the people but they must not take more than was needed. Spiritual ceremonies like the Sun Dance emphasized the unity between humans and the natural world they lived in, and the dependence the people had on the land in order to survive. Dreams and prophecies carried particular significance to the Plains Peoples, and were seen as a form of guidance from the spirit world.

The strength of the Kainai culture stems from the enduring bond they shared with the natural world for countless generations. Strong leaders emerged from this culture, some of whom have distinguished themselves in the Kainai and larger community from the past to the present. A few of these people are profiled in this section of the website.

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