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The Piikani Nation - Customs and Traditions

Piikani camp with painted tipis

Like other First Nations plains people, Piikani custom and tradition was centred on a nomadic hunting lifestyle, with a particular dependence on the plains bison. Much of life involved following and hunting bison herds, and products gleaned from the bison were essential for survival. Bison meat was a main source of food, while bison hide could be used for making clothing and covers for tipis. Dung from the animal was a handy source of fuel. If bison were not available, then other animals such as moose, elk, deer, or even ground squirrels were hunted.

Also like other Blackfoot and plains tribes, the Piikani kept a seasonal round of travel and camp life. In the warmer months, they moved and camped on the open plains, while in the winter, they camped in wooded river valleys both for shelter and ready access to wood and water. Camps were usually set up near rivers because trees and animals were more plentiful in such areas.

The tipi was the basic traditional shelter for the Piikani People, and was similar in design to tipis constructed by other Blackfoot and plains tribes of the southwest. Tipi covers were usually made with tanned buffalo hides stitched together with sinew, and liners tied to poles inside the tent acted as insulators. Furnishing inside of the tipi was simple, as it included backrests, mattresses made from dry grass and covered with animal hides, and small places for storage of food and clothing.

Like the other plains tribes, travel and moving camp for the Piikani was primarily done on foot with the help of a dog hitched to small travois. When horses were introduced to the various plains peoples, a larger version of the travois was constructed, and horseback travel greatly improved the range and efficiency of travel for the Piikani.

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