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The Piikani Nation - Spiritual Life

Sun Dance, Siksika (Blackfoot) Indians, 1908

Piikani spirituality found its focus in a variety of special gatherings and ceremonies, and one of the most significant spiritual ceremonies for the Piikani centred on the quest to find paint to use on one’s face. To the Piikani, paint was used in daily rituals to gain spiritual help for success in hunting and warfare, or for overall wellness. Ceremonies for the finding of paint were events of great reverence, and would last for four days and four nights in an area in southern Alberta, now known as the Crow Eagle Reserve. Band members would gather, pray, and offer themselves in humility to the spirits to invoke their aid. Then they would begin their search for the paint. One’s prayers were considered answered when paint was found. The entire paint finding ceremony was done in silence or in whispers, acknowledging the sacredness of the event. Once the paint was found, a celebration was held in which people would paint their faces, share berry stew, and sing sacred songs.

Piikani prayers and stories reflected the close dependency humans had to the land and the creatures on it. Life came from the earth, and many Piikani prayers were made to the earth. The earth was asked to keep the Piikani safe on their journeys, and to provide for them. Tobacco and berries were presented as offerings to the earth, a show of reverence for the land that provides, but also a reminder to the people that one must not take without giving back. Traditional territory for the Piikani was the land east of the Rocky Mountains, and a Piikani story tells of how Napi, or Old Man, lost a contest with the people known as the Kootenay. As a result the Kootenay held the lands to the west of the Rocky Mountains, while the Piikani held the lands to the east. More than just a tales for entertainment, stories were a means of articulating essential truths about Piikani existence, and about their place in the world, and about the other creatures and peoples the Piikani shared their world with.

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