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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Blackfoot Places
Featured Article
Looking at a map of Alberta today, one will come across many interesting place names, many of which are a reflection of the diverse history and heritage of the peoples who have come to make Alberta home. Many of the province's earliest place names draw on Aboriginal sources. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, it was typical of many First Nations
peoples to give names to places with which they had a strong spiritual connection. For the most part these names described the natural features of the land, or commemorated significant historical events, passed from one generation to the next.  Many of these place names remain in existence today and here we would like to share some of these with you.

Buffalo jumpWhere the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains, not far from present-day Fort Macleod, you will find the world's oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jump known to exist.  From the beginnings of the site nearly 6000 years ago to the present-day interpretive centre, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is not only a site about the past of the Blackfoot, but about its present and future cultural revitalization and renewal.

Another place of significance, particularly to the Blackfoot peoples, is Medicine Hat in the southeastern corner of the province. The name of the city itself is a translation of the Blackfoot word, "saamis", which roughly translated means "headdress of a medicine man." While there are many explanations as to the significance of this particular name, one of the more interesting explanations for the naming of Medicine Hat, would have us believe that the name actually describes a fight between the Blackfoot and their historical adversaries, the Cree. During this fabled fight, a Cree medicine man lost his plumed hat in the river and, since that battle, the Blackfoot have referred to the place as "Medicine Hat" in honour of that fight.

Relations between Canada's museums and its First Nations have been fraught with challenges. In the early 1990s, the Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives in Calgary, Alberta adopted a policy to "involve First Nations in the collecting, planning, research, implementation, presentation, and maintenance of all exhibits, programs, and projects that include First Nations culture." The recently completed Nitsitapiisinni "Our way of life" exhibit is one of the important results of this collaboration between museums and the Blackfoot peoples.  The exhibit is important not only as a place of cultural memory and tradition for the community, but reflects the very contemporary and urban presence of the Blackfoot people in Calgary. 

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