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The Treaty Makers - Bull Head (Chula)

Chief Bull Head

Chula, or Bull Head, was head chief of the Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee) First Nation at the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877, and should not be confused with the Piikani (Peigan) chief, also named Bull Head, who had died the winter before the treaty negotiations began. Chief Bull Head was born in 1833 to a long lineage and fine tradition of Tsuu T’ina chiefs.  Described as a “wily warrior,” he promoted a nomadic and traditional lifestyle and is remembered for his abiding and steadfast dedication to his people.

Although he was the last chief to respond to Treaty 7, Bull Head was present at the 1877 signing. He kept his peoples’ best interest in mind, which is why he objected to the Treaty’s mandate to place the Tsuu T’ina at the communal reserve of Blackfoot Crossing. The reserve, a mere four miles in width, was located fifty-eight miles east from Calgary and was to be shared with the Kainai (Blood) and Siksika (Blackfoot). Bull Head was a clever strategist and lobbied the federal government for a reserve located near Fish Creek, southwest of Calgary. He wrote a letter to Ottawa outlining the problems encountered at Blackfoot Crossing, and explained that since the Tsuu T’ina had a distinct language, culture, and tradition, it deserved to be treated as a sovereign nation with its own land.

Chief Bull Head’s persistence prevailed, as on 27 June 1883, the Tsuu T’ina were given their own reserve near Elbow River and Fish Creek. The reserve was 108 square miles and was nestled in the mountainous terrain of Alberta’s Rockies. Although the land was difficult for cultivating and the Tsuu T’ina initially did not take to farming, Bull Head inspired willingness in his people to succeed at farming.

Bull Head’s resilience was also exemplified in his dedication to his Nation’s spirituality. Despite the pious missionaries’ attempts to encourage Bull Head to adopt Christianity, Bull Head stood firmly by his culture’s traditional faith practices. As author Grant Macewan explains in Portraits from the Plains: “his Indian concept of a Great Spirit stood the test of reason… He could see no reason for changing.”

Bull Head witnessed both the victories and suffering of his people. He succumbed to consumption in 1911 and his successor was Jim Big Plume. Bull Head continues to be remembered as an outstanding leader and pivotal player in Tsuu T’ina culture and history.

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