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The Nakoda Nation - Customs and Traditions

Stoney man and woman

Stoney ancestors were nomadic as they moved in family groups to obtain the necessities of life, stayed at special sites, and roamed throughout traditional lands.  They often came together as a Nation at traditional meeting places to discuss important matters and to renew spiritual, social, and cultural ties.

The Stoney Nakoda Nation had a long tradition of contact with the land and had a deep respect for it. Spirituality for the Stoneys was associated with the land and ceremonies like the Sun Dance showed this. Speaking of the Sun Dance: “It is a time for acknowledging their blessings and to give thanks. Just like birds of feather who make nests in the trees and sing their sweet songs, praising the Creator, so do the Indian people” (The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty,1996:91). Sweat lodges were also used for spiritual purposes, as they were not only part of a long tradition but also created a joyous spirit for all the participants.


Like the Blackfoot tribes, the Stoney Nakoda’s main shelter was the tipi. The tipi provided protection from rain, snow, and wind; it was made of cured animal hides stitched together with sinews and was supported by the long, slim trunks of young pine trees. In the middle of the tipi floor was a fire pit that provided warmth, cooked food, and cured meat or fish.Tipis were particularly efficient for a nomadic lifestyle because they could be set up or taken down in a relatively short space of time and were well insulated and waterproof.


Early travel for the Stoneys was on foot and as a result all tasks including hunting, moving camp, warfare, and other activities requiring movement were done this way. Traveling by foot was a much slower and strenuous mode of movement. The introduction of the horse after the 1700s changed the mode of transportation to a much faster and efficient means of travel. Consequently, the Stoneys enjoyed an increase in terrain and resources.


Artwork for the Stoneys primarily reflected their relationship to the land and the people. The majority of the crafts were produced locally by the members of the Stoney Nakoda Nation – Chiniki, Berspaw and Wesley Bands – and offered an insight into the traditional beadwork, designs, and patterns of the Tribe. The materials used were very unique and ranged from locally tanned hides to beads made from local berries such as juniper, silverleaf, and creeping willow.

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