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Crowfoot, "Isapo-muxika"
b. 1830 ca. d. 1890

Earliest known illustration of Crowfoot. 1875. From a sketch by Doctor Nevitt, North-West Mounted Police.

Crowfoot was born around 1830 near the Belly river in southern Alberta into the Blood tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy. As a child he was known as "Shot-Close" or "Astohkomi", however after a raid on a Crow camp he became known as Crowfoot or "Isapo-muxika" and, later, Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot Nation.

His father passed away at an early age and his mother remarried into the Blackfoot tribe. Although he was not born into a family of chiefs, he demonstrated his leadership skills early on. As a teenager he began to accompany older warriors on raids against enemy tribes. An astute warrior and natural leader, Crowfoot fought in many battles and amassed a great wealth in horses. He became a minor chief and worked to establish friendly relations with the white fur-traders and missionaries. On several occasions he defended Hudson's Bay Company outposts and missionaries such as Father Lacombe from hostile Cree attacks. By 1869, he had become one of three head chiefs of the tribe.

Portrait of Crowfoot, Blackfoot chief. 1885.A skilled diplomat, Crowfoot dedicated his life to ensuring the safety of his people. Although he was chief only of the Blackfoot tribe, the new authorities in the west, the North West Mounted Police, did not understand the complexities of the Blackfoot Confederacy that included the Blood, Peigan, Northern Blackfoot tribes and their allies, the Sarcee and Gros Ventres. As a result, white men in the area tended to place him in a position of authority that he did not in fact occupy. He worked hard to help his people ward off the devastation of alcohol and inter-tribal warfare and it was primarily due to his respect for the North West Mounted Police that white settlement in Blackfoot territory occurred with little violence.

In 1877 he was invited to negotiate Treaty No. 7 with the Canadian government. The treaties were intended to end all Indian claims to the western Canadian prairies. Although he was optimistic about the treaty, he placed his confidence in the North West Mounted Police to help his The Blackfoot Treaty (Treaty 7), 1877, Crowfoot speaking. Painting by A. Bruce Stapleton. Original owned by J. B. Cross. At left standing is Major Irvine; next to him in buckskin is interpreter Jean L'Heureux. Seated is Colonel Macleod and Lieutenant Governor Laird, in civilian dress. At right is Crowfoot, with interpreter beside him. people reject the liquor and inter-tribal warfare that were beginning to destroy their traditional way of life and tribal cohesion. Unfortunately, shortly after accepting the treaty, a series of prairie fires further devastated the already waning buffalo herd and conditions worsened for his people. By 1879 conditions had become so desperate that Crowfoot decided to move his people into Montana. However, no longer protected by the North West Mounted Police, his people were subjected again to the destruction of inter-tribal warring, the temptations of alcohol and disruptions of horse thieves. With his people facing starvation, Crowfoot brought his tribe back north but to no relief, while away the government had made some jurisdictional changes in the west. The North West Mounted Police were no longer responsible for his people and he did not forge a similar camaraderie with the newly formed Department of Indian Affairs. In fact, many Plains Indian tribes such as the Cree and Métis shared his discontent and, led by Louis Riel, a Métis leader, began to plot a rebellion. Despite his feelingsGroup of First Nations chiefs. Back row, L - R: Jean L'Heureux, Crowfoots Secretary; Red Crow, Blood chief; Sergeant W. Piercy, North-West Mounted Police. Front row, L - R: Crowfoot, Blackfoot chief; Eagle Tail, minor chief of the Peigans; Three Bulls, Blackfoot. Original photograph was found among personal effects of Joseph Royal, son of Three Bulls. Photographer Bill Oliver must have retained the original and did the reproduction,which was copied by Fern Gully. of abandonment and betrayal and his growing disillusionment with government Crowfoot maintained his allegiances and refused to join in the brewing North West Rebellion eventhough his adopted son, Poundmaker, who had recently become a Cree chief and outspoken Rebellion advocate, was later jailed for his involvement in the uprising.

Although a favourite of governmental officials for his diplomacy and loyalty to the government, Crowfoot's last years were not happy. Sickened over the treatment of his people by the government, he spent his last days travelling around Alberta and visiting old friends. Despite his numerous wives Crowfoot only had 4 children who survived childhood, three of which were girls. His adopted son, Cree Chief Poundmaker, died abruptly only shortly after his release from jail in 1886. Crowfoot followed, passing away quietly on his reserve in 1890.

Chief Crowfoot and family. 1884.

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144 - Treaties Part Five, Treaty 7, Crowfoot and Red Crow
Summary: Crowfoot and Red Crow. How did these important leaders affect the Treaty 7 negotiations? Listen to hear their story.

145 - Treaties Part Six, Treaty 7, Crowfoot and Red Crow
Summary: Find out more about the fascinating man who was Red Crow, chief of the Kinai, and his position on the signing of Treaty 7.

or Read the transcripts:

144 - Treaties Part Five, Treaty 7, Crowfoot and Red Crow
Summary: Crowfoot and Red Crow. How did these important leaders affect the Treaty 7 negotiations? Listen to hear their story.

145 - Treaties Part Six, Treaty 7, Crowfoot and Red Crow
Summary: Find out more about the fascinating man who was Red Crow, chief of the Kinai, and his position on the signing of Treaty 7.

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