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Red Crow (Mekaisto) b.1830 d.1900

Red Crow, head Chief of the Bloods.

Born in 1830 to prominent Blood parents, Black Bear and Handsome Woman, Red Crow would grow to be an exceptional warrior, eventually becoming head chief of the Blood Tribe. During his youth he spent most of his time learning the hunt and skills of the warrior. By the time he reached his early teens he had become a clever and courageous warrior. Throughout his lifetime he established an impressive war record, participating in 33 raids and killing 5 enemy warriors. Perhaps more astonishing than his battle record is the fact that throughout his lifetime he somehow managed to escape unscathed from each battle he participated in. By 1870, having survived the smallpox epidemic that swept the prairies in 1869 and taking his father and uncle, Red Crow had become head Blood chief. Despite having the misfortune of becoming chief at the height of European expansion into the western plains, the Blood tribe gained the serendipitous fortune of having Red Crow as their leader. During this time not only had contact with the Europeans brought great misfortunes in the form of alcohol, weaponry and disease American traders had begun also to spill over into Blackfoot territory, setting up whisky-forts and inciting disorder. The increased number of white men brought with them items and philosophies that would drastically altar the William B. Pocklington, Blood Indian agent, with Blood Chiefs, southern Alberta. L-R back row: One Spot, Minor chief, Blood; Red Crow, Head chief , Blood; Dave Mills, half-black interpreter; E. R. Cowan. social standards of living for the native populations on the plains. To further complicate matters for the Indian peoples, the depletion of the northern buffalo herd accelerated during this period as well so that by the winter of 1880, Red Crow's people, many suffering from incessant inter-tribal warring and alcohol addiction, had reached the brink of starvation. While other chiefs, such as Crowfoot, tried to maintain their traditional ways, believing in the goodwill of the government and depending upon them for assistance and guidance in their time of need, Red Crow was far-sighted enough to realize that times had changed and that, due to the dwindling buffalo herd, the traditional nomadic lifestyle was no longer feasible. Accepting this fate, Red Crow accepted a reserve for his peoples where they shifted from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to become farmers and ranchers, growing vegetables and raising cattle.

A dynamic leader, Red Crow managed to keep peace within his tribe at a time when others, disillusioned by empty governmental promises, rose against the government. During the North West Rebellion in 1885 when he adamantly refused to join the Métis and Cree insurgents (traditional Blood enemies), he was rewarded for his loyalty to the federal government with a tour of Eastern Canada. While on this circuit he had Blackfoot on visit to Ottawa, Ontario. 1886. L-R back row: Father Lacombe, Jean L'Heureux. L-R middle row: Three Bulls (Blackfoot), Crowfoot (Blackfoot), Red Crow (Blood). L-R front row: North Axe (North Peigan), One Spot (Blood). the fortune of touring the Mohawk Institute, a school for native children that so impressed him, he returned to his own people an outspoken advocate of education for his people as a means of survival and advancement in a rapidly changing world.

Resilient and farsighted, Red Crow helped his people stave off the hardships that befell other tribes. Through his willingness to adapt and refusal to accept any form of dependence on the government and by advocating instead farming, ranching, education and hard work as alternatives, his people were much stronger and better prepared for the drastic changes that lay ahead of them and the fading of the traditional ways of life as they knew it. Highly revered by his people and the government, he passed away in 1900. Perhaps the best indicator of his wisdom is reflected in the fact that, after his death, leadership among his people, the Bloods, remained within his family until 1980.

Group of men from the Blackfoot Confederacy. ca. middle 1880s. L-R: One Spot, Blood; Red Crow, Blood; Jean L'Heureux, interpreter; North Axe, Peigan.

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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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