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No. 144: Treaties Part Five: Treaty Number Seven: Crowfoot and Red Crow

Members of the Blackfoot Confederacy who signed Treaty Number 7 were influenced by two highly respected chiefs: Crowfoot and Red Crow.

According to historian Michael Payne, Crowfoot's early career as a leader was shaped in battle.

He was involved in quite a bit of warfare early in his life. He was wounded six times and, as a result of his exploits, he was given the name we know him by, although his full name was Crow Indians Big Foot - which was usually shortened to Crowfoot by interpreters.

But during the 1860s and 1870s, Crowfoot was becoming more interested in finding peaceful, diplomatic solutions to the problems of his people, and he became known as the Peacemaker.

He developed pretty good relations with fur traders and missionaries. He seems to have become actually quite a good personal friend of Father Lacombe.

And he was also, as well, very interested in and supportive of the arrival of the North West Mounted Police in the West, because he saw them as a way of ending a lot of the problems associated with the whisky trade, and this kind of wild trade in buffalo robes that had developed in southern Alberta during the period of time.

Crowfoot was in his forties - the prime of his life - when Treaty Number 7 was negotiated. He was a leader whose word was taken seriously among his people. And, in 1877, he counseled the importance of making some sort of agreement with the Canadian government.

Crowfoot, I think it's fair to say, had some sense of the potential impact of the arrival of thousands of settlers coming flooding into southern Alberta to take up land for farming.

And he believed that a treaty that promised some immediate assistance to his people and settlement on reserve lands - which would be held for First Nations people and would not be opened up to settlement - was perhaps the best option left to his people.

This doesn't mean he thought, necessarily, that it was the ideal solution, or what he would have hoped for for his people, but it was maybe the best deal which was possible at the time.

But there was another chief of equal stature to Crowfoot, and that was Red Crow.

Red Crow was reluctant to sign Treaty Number 7, and so the discussion between the two leaders at Blackfoot Crossing lasted well into the night.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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