Implications and Contentions - Reserves
After the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877, the Kainai (Blood), Siksika (Blackfoot), Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee), Nakoda (Stoney), and Piikani (Peigan) were given reserve land. As defined by Canadian Encyclopedia, “reserves are lands set aside for the exclusive use of status Indians. Although the Crown (government) owns the land, it is administered by the particular band that lives on the reserve.” http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/
Many of the Treaty 7 Peoples did not want to live on reserves, for just like their ancestors before them, they too sought to live a nomadic lifestyle and hunt the wandering buffalo. After the signing of the treaty, however, the buffalo herds began to diminish in number and so the government encouraged the Natives to inhabit the lands set-aside for them.
The Tsuu T’ina, Siksika, and Kainai tribes were initially given a communal reserve located on the Blackfoot Crossing near Gleichen, Alberta. This reserve was four miles in width and stretched from the north side of the Bow River to the junction of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan Rivers. The Tsuu T’ina and Kainai Peoples were not happy at Blackfoot Crossing and lobbied the government for their own reserves.
Bull Head, the Chief of the Tsuu T’ina, was a clever strategist who argued that the Tsuu T’ina were a unique Nation with their own language and culture and thus required their own sovereign lands. His efforts paid off when the Tsuu T’ina were granted their own reserve in 1883. Located on Fish Creek and Elbow River, this reserve was near the mountains of Banff, bordered in the southwest by Calgary.
Likewise, Red Crow insisted that the Kainai Nation have their own reserve further south of Blackfoot Crossing. The land he selected was couched in between the Waterton and St Mary's Rivers and it stretched back to the Rocky Mountains. During the first survey of the land in 1882, the reserve almost touched the Canadian-American border. This reserve was initially 708.4 square miles, however in 1883 the land was resurveyed and the Kainai were left with only 547.5 square miles. The Siksika remained at Gleichen, east of Calgary.
The Nakoda and Piikani were given lands that they still live on today. In regards to the Nakoda, one Nakoda reserve is located around the mountainous area of Morley. Reverend John McDougall established a school and church there and the area soon became known as Morelyville. The Treaty 7 Nakoda Peoples have two other reserves in Alberta. These include the Eden Valley reserve, which is near Longview, and the Big Horn Reserve near Bowden.
The Piikani also live on their traditional reserve land, which is found along Highway three in between Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek. During the treaty negotiations they requested the areas around Oldman River, Porcupine Hills, and Crow Creeks, as these were good places to hunt buffalo. Eventually the Piikani settled on their reserve lands and they honed the craft of ranching, as the area is most conducive to that form of agriculture.
People of the Blood
The Kainai (Blood) reserve, the largest reserve in Canada in land area, is the subject of George Webber’s book, People of the Blood, published in 2006. Webber’s photographs capture the physical and spiritual connections between the land and the people while revealing the stark realities of First Nations reserve life. This photograph essay features a sample of photographs and text passages from the book, as well as information about the publication.
The Heritage Community Foundation, with the kind permission of documentary photographer and author George Webber and Fifth House Publishing in Calgary, is pleased to present this special feature photograph essay.
Click on book cover image to enter gallery