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Glossary

Assiniboine, ca. 1880sAssiniboine(Stoney or Nakoda) Indians:The Assiniboine people broke from the Yankton Sioux and thereafter associatedlargely with the Cree. Three hundred years ago they lived inMinnesota at the edge of the parklands and plains, they were deerand buffalo hunters and engaged in some horticulture.

Atsina (Gros Ventre) Nation:Native community of the Algonquian stock and a branch of the Arapaho.Their name for themselves is "Aaninen", Atsina beingtheir Blackfoot name. The tribe was composed of ten bands, allunder one head, who with the chiefs of the bands, formed thecouncil. Once a part of the Arapaho tribe they split from them andmoved north to the Canadian prairies where they hunted and wereattached to the Blackfoot Confederacy. In the late 18thcentury they moved their camp to Edmonton and established traderelations. Continual warring with the Cree and Stoney Indiansdrove them slowly back south, where they formed an alliance withthe Crow and Arapaho Indians. The tribe now lives on the FortBelknap Reservation in eastern Montana.

Band: A group of Indians who sharea common and specified land base, currency, cultural tradition andgovernment.

Beaver chief and family, Peace River area, ca. 1911.Beaver Indians: Also known as Tsattine,the "dwellers among the beavers." Cousins to the Slavey, Chipewyan and Sarcee, who all speak similar, Athapaskan-rooted languages, the Beavers originally inhabited a vast territory between the present-day Alberta - Saskatchewan border and the Peace River. However, the Cree drove them west, aided by the firearms that the Europeans brought to the new world. Subsequently, the Beaver peoples hunted game (moose being a dietary staple) throughout the Peace River country, extending as far as the Rocky Mountains. They were known as exceptional hunters and, although they had a reputation as being a peaceful people,were not lacking in skill when war became necessary. The Beaver peoples, their numbers wracked by disease and starvation, were the last band to sign Treaty 8 in May, 1900.

Blood familyBlood Nation: Nomadic tribe known in their native tongue as Kai-nau or "Many Chiefs"followed the buffalo, hunting them by foot and, after 1700, on horseback. Horses became an integral component of their way of life, broadening their territory, increasing their wealth and inspiring aggression. Prior to 1860 and the infiltration of the whiskey-traders and arrival of the white man, the tribe began to lose its cohesion. Alcohol degenerated the tribe to the level of poverty. The decline of the buffalo combined with alcoholism,disease and persistent warring led them to the 1877 Treaty talks with the federal government at Blackfoot Crossing on the BowRiver.

Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs at Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1875.Blackfoot Confederacy: Plains Indians community composed of five distinct nations. Three nations within the confederacy share a common language and culture and are known as the "Blackfoot Proper" or "Siksika"- the Blackfoot, the Blood, and the Peigan. The other two nations in the confederacy are the Sarcee and the Gros Ventre. At the height of their power the Blackfoot Confederacy commanded territory from the North Saskatchewan River, south to the Missouri, and from the present Alberta - Saskatchewan border to the Rocky Mountains.

Blackfoot Nation:One of the best known of the northern tribes, the Blackfoot were the first nation to meet the fur traders. Also known as the "Siksika",this nation has lived on the Plains for a very long time.

A buffalo boiling pitBoiling Pit: Means of cooking by which a round hole was scooped in the earth into which was sunk apiece of rawhide. The hole was then filled with water and meat placed in it. A fire was then lit nearby and a number of stones made red hot. When the stones were hot enough they were either dropped into or held in the water which would be raised to a boiling temperature in order to cook meat.

Bride-Price: A negotiable sum that Blackfoot, Plains Cree and Sarcee paid to a potential wife's people before marriage. The Bloods and the Peigans practiced an exchanging of gifts between the families of prospective spouses. The Assiniboine on the other hand practiced the "bride service" where the husband helped to support his in-laws for a customary period of time after the marriage.

Painting of a buffalo jumpBuffalo Jump:A steep embankment, over which hunters would drive buffalo. This, along with the Buffalo Pound, were methods employed in the"factory" approach to hunting.

Painting of a buffalo poundBuffalo Pound:A corral,usually made of brush and hides, with a funnel-shaped fence leading to the entrance. Small herds of buffalo could be driveninto the pound and killed.


Chipewyan (Dene) Nation: Northern nomadic tribe whose territory stretched from the Churchill river north to the tundra and from Hudson Bay in the east to Great Slave Lake and part of Alberta in the west. Although a numerous people, they had very little internal social or governmental structure. Their language defined them as a community and their leadership was rarely defined and quite flexible. The Chipewyan name is derived from a Cree term meaning "pointed skins" that some believe refers to the way these particular peoples made and wore their shirts and others interpret as a comment upon how the Chipewyan prepared their furs for trade. Chipewyan culture valued flexibility and personal freedom and they, unlike most other Plains peoples, had no system of organized warfare although they did consider both the Cree and the Inuit to be enemies. After the arrival of the white-man in their region, the Chipewyan population was decimated by smallpox which claimed a reported 90% of their peoples. In 1898 the Chipewyan signed Treaty #8 along with the Cree and Beaver. Under the terms of the treaty the Chipewyan were allowed to obtain land in individual allotments as they shared no official community and did not wish to confine themselves to reserves.

Nalleka, Cree woman, Calgary, AB. June 1885.Cree Nation: Although there is evidence to indicate that the Cree have lived in the parkland regions of the west for sometime, the Plains Cree originated in the east and moved to the Plains through their involvement in the fur trade. While the term "Cree" most likely originated from a French name of unknown origin, Kristineaux, their own term is Nehiyawak or "exact people." There are many branches of the Cree nation spread across the country and are typically divided into the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Swampy Cree and Moose Cree. Originally they were all woodland people and spoke the Algonquian language of Eastern Canada.

Egalitarianism: System of living or class structure that had no important statuses, such as those of "slave" or "noble", which were inheritable. The Canadian Plains Tribes were considered egalitarian. They did not have large quantities of wealth,such as permanent dwelling places or permanent flocks or livestockwhich could be passed on through inheritance.

Factory (or Industrial) Hunt: The killing (and processing) of vast numbers of buffalo in one single hunt. The most common factory hunt methods employed were the Buffalo Jump and the Buffalo Pound.

Indian Act 1876:Controversial Act passed by the Canadian government in 1876 with the aim of assimilating the native population. Native peoples were not consulted in the development of this act that allowed the Canadian government to assume fiduciary responsibility (legal right to act in the best interest of another person) over the Native population. The act changed several things: it imposed significant changes on the way Native chiefs and councils could operate,defined who was an "Indian", "protected"Native lands and introduced Indian agents (government officials who were non-Native and responsible for carrying out terms of the Act). The Act also gave the government authority over the Native peoples of Canada, introduced laws with regard to Indian tax exemption for those Natives living on reserves, forbid Native peoples to sell, manufacture or possess liquor and reintroduced the enfranchisement laws.

Indian Relocation Act:Passed in 1830, this act encouraged the eastern tribes to trade their lands with the government for new lands on the Plains.

Lucy Landon, Kootenay girl, ca. 1906.Kutenai (Kootenay) Nation:The upper and lower branches of the Kutenai (Kootenay) are divided more or less equally between Canada and the United States. The Upper Kootenay are properly a British Columbia People, but throughout the first half of the 18th century at least on band of Kootenay occupied southwestern Alberta, hunting buffalo. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Kootenay have been in southwest Alberta as long as 2000 years.

Sundial Hill Medicine WheelMedicine Wheel:Medicine Wheels are a rare and mysterious cultural feature found throughout the plains of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and northern Wyoming.Imposing and visually impressive there is evidence to suggest that the medicine wheel served a variety of religious and ceremonial functions. At least some medicine wheels date back to around 5 500years ago. Structurally they reflect a diversity of form and size.The term "medicine wheel" has been used since the late nineteenth century to describe a wide variety of aboriginal surface stone structures found on the northern plains. They are generally made up of a central cairn or circle of stone from the center of which radiates a series of rows of other stones. Though the true purpose of these stone constructions remains unknown,some aboriginal groups believe that they symbolize and reflect the dynamics and meaning of the universe.

Metis FamilyMétis Nation: Also egalitarian nomads, the Métis had no real property and took part in the summer buffalo hunt like most other Plains Indian Nations. Similar to the Plains Cree, they maintained a "home base" from which they migrated to take part in the buffalo hunts. The Métis nation is unique to the cultural map of Canada in that they emerged only after the arrival of white man and the intermarriage of English or French Canadians with aboriginal, predominantly Cree, women. The children born of these marriages were called "Métis" which is the French term for "mixedblood".

Nomad: Way of life in which a person possesses no permanent residence. Nomadic peoples have no permanent home (place of residence) and generally live in portable structures. The Plains peoples were all nomadic and survived by following the buffalo herd and living in portable tent-like structures or tipis.

Treaty payment, Treaty 8. Possibly Chipewyan.Numbered Treaties:Initiated as a nation-building attempt after Confederation, the Canadian government negotiated a series of treaties with native peoples across Canada that would allow them rights to natural resources and the lands necessary to build a national railway that would link the country together. These treaties covered most of Canadian lands and delineated whom the government recognized as a"Treaty Indian" or later a "Status Indian".Signing of these treaties took place over a span of 50 years from1871 to 1921. Eleven numbered treaties were signed in total inwhich the Natives had to agree to accept settlement on reserves.Most also included reserve land based on the number of Native peoples in a settlement, as well as agreements for schooling,agricultural equipment and training, gifts and annuities. Although these treaties covered most of Canadian soil, they did not include all Native peoples. The Inuit people never entered into treaty talks and First Nations peoples in most of the northern expanse of James Bay and British Columbia were not approached for treaty negotiations or settlements. The Métis were also omitted from these treaties, their presence and claims to the lands largely ignored until later.

Crow Eagle, North Peigan. 1895. Also known as Maestro Petah.Peigan Nation: Southernmost nation within the Blackfoot Confederacy. The tribe, in Canada, is referred to as the North Peigans while those in Montana are known as the South Peigans. By themselves, the Northern Peigans are the smallest Blackfoot tribe to sign a treaty with the Canadian government, but together with their fellow Peigans in Montana they form the largest tribe within the Confederacy.

Pemmican:A mixture of dried meat(pounded into a fine powder) and rendered fat, along with the addition of berries for flavouring. Pemmican was a staple of many aboriginal and early fur-trader's diets as it could be stored for extended periods of time.

PetroglyphPetroglyph:Part of an art form used by native peoples to express their views of the world around them. Petroglyphs are rock carvings that either communicate ideas or that are an attempt to communicate with the supernatural realm for advice or assistance. Some believe this aboriginal art form to be associated with the religious concept of the"vision-quest", a puberty rite or power-seeking ceremony. These carvings are believed to be "biographic"art forms through which a carver relates an event that may include human figures, weaponry, animals, tipis, horse tracks and other symbols. Good examples of such carvings may be seen at sites such as Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta, which maydate back to around 1 000 BC.

PictographPictograph:Part of an art form used by native peoples to express their views of the world around them. Petroglyphs are rock paintings that either communicate ideas or that are an attempt to communicate with the supernatural realm for advice or assistance. Some believe this aboriginal art form tobe associated with the religious concept of the"vision-quest", a puberty rite or power-seeking ceremony. These paintings are believed to be"biographic" art forms through which the artist relates an event that may include human figures, weaponry, animals, tipis,horse tracks and other symbols. Good examples of such paintings may be seen at sites such as Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta.

Polygamy: Marriage custom by which husbands may take (have) more than one or numerous wives. All of the western Canadian plains tribes practiced this form of marriage.

First Nations Dancers at a pow-wowPow-wow:Modern phenomenon, social gathering that allows participants an opportunity to socialize,dance, gamble and reaffirm their Indian identity in a modern context. The pow-wow tends to generate a pride in being native while blurring specific cultural differences between the different groups of First Nations cultures.

A Red River cartRed-River Cart: System oftransportation and shipping invented by the Métis. Similar to atravois, but better designed to suit the travel conditions of the Plains. Rudimentary cart with 2 wheels designed to be attached toone horse. The wheels had bowed spokes and were "off-set" to give the cart's axle a wider track and to absorb some of the shocks delivered to the cart while carrying heavy loads. The Red-River Cart enabled the Métis to transport great quantities of freight without having to maintain large horse herds.

Reserve:Parcels of land throughout Canada that were set aside and held in trust for the Native peoples of Canada after Confederation. Established in a series of Numbered Treaties and held in trust for the native population by the government through the Department of Indian Affairs, these parcels of land were integrally connected to official "Indian" status and rights.

Sarcee Nation: Also known as the 'tsotli'na" (earth people) or tsuu t'ina (many people) the Sarcee are said to be a splinter tribe of the Beaver nation. According to one theory the Sarcee split from their parent nation and were driven south by the Cree during the mid-18th century. Similar to the Blackfoot in customs and traditions such as the Sun Dance, funeral and marriage rites as well as their connection to the buffalo hunt, the Sarcee spoke in the Athapaskan tongue. They gained a reputation for being a brave people and their territory ranged from Peace River in the north to Red Deer in the south. After signing Treaty #7, they were to share a reserve with the Siksika and the Blood on the Bow River but, instead, resumed their nomadic lifestyle. Eventually they settled on 2800 hectares of land on the western outskirts of Calgary.

Metis Scrip notesScrip Notes: Notes provided by the government to Treaty Indians during the numbered treaty negotiations. The notes entitled the bearer to either 240 acres of land of their choice or a valuation of $240, which could be used toward the eventual purchase of crown land anywhere.

Slavey (Dene Tha) Indians:Also known as the Acha'otinne, or "woodland people." The Slavey peoples inhabited Alberta's far north, their hunting territory encompassing part of the Nunavut (NWT). They were organized into six bands and, like other woodlands people, maintained only small family groupings with no central leadership only electing leaders in times of conflict. The Slavey people developed a reputation of being a peaceful people with a rich tradition of story-telling. They were respectful of each other as well as of outsiders. They were forest-dwellers and had few enemies due to their reputation of being powerful sorcerers. Staples of the Slavey diet included fish, along with moose and caribou, although obtaining enough food was often problematic. The southernmost of the Slavey signed Treaty 8 in 1900, while those further north were left out until 1921, when they signed Treaty 11.

Smallpox: A disease that broke out on the Plains in the summer of 1781 and was followed by out breaks in 1801, 1816, 1836 and 1869. The first outbreak came from the Shoshoniin the south to the Blackfoot. As a result of this initial outbreak, half of the Blackfoot tribe was lost. Subsequent epidemics were carried into the Plains from the east via the fur trade. The epidemic of 1836 killed another two-thirds of the Blackfoot.

Tipi (teepee):The hide tipi used by the Plains Indians is believed to date back to the Oxbow period and was a form of architecture ideally suited to the windy plains environment and to nomadic peoples. Conical in shape and simple to construct and deconstruct, its wood poles and cover of bison hide made it readily accessible and easy to transport. It could be heated in winter by a small central fire. The protruding smoke flaps could be shifted to catch the wind or be closed in rainy weather. Its tough hide walls were well anchored to the ground and therefore it remained snug and stable even during the worst prairie storm.

Tipi Ring: The base of most tipis were anchored to the ground by large rocks in order to keep the structure stable during severe weather. The rocks would be placed upon the outside of the hide covering, at its base. Often, when a tribe left its seasonal home, they took their tipi with them leaving behind the stones that anchored it. Rocks were readily available and generally too burdensome to carry from place to place. As a result of this practice the prairies are scattered with these stone circles that archaeologists now refer to as "tipi rings".

Astokumi, or Crow Collar and wife, Sarcee. With their horse-drawn travois.Travois:System of transportation made from two or more long poles tied together to make an A-shaped frame with a carrying basket in the middle, similar to a sled. Significantly improved the method of transporting tipis and otherpersonal items from place to place.

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