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Blackfoot (Siksika)
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Blackfoot dressed for chicken danceSiksika is translated as "Blackfoot" in English. In their language, the Siksika they are the Sao-kitapiiksi or "Plains people."  The present day Siksika Nation is located one hour's drive east of the city of Calgary, south of the Trans Canada Highway.  The Siksika Nation has a population of approximately 4,200 members. 

The Siksika are members of the Blackfoot Confederacy,  a Plains Indians community composed of five distinct nations including the Blackfoot, the Blood and the Peigan nations (all of which share a common language and culture) as well as 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.

The Siksika were one of the most famous of the northern Duck Chieftribes, largely due to the fact that they were among the first to encounter and form relationships with European fur traders. Through this contact, the people of the Siksika nation became familiar with the objects, inventions and animals brought by these early European explorers. Where once the Siksika used dogs to carry provisions and traveled in smaller groups, the introduction of the horse allowed the Siksika a more efficient means of travel and transportation of goods. This, in turn, affected other aspects of Siksika society. For example, more time was now spent in social and religious activities and arts and it was easier to form larger bands and family groups as horses and guns expanded their ability to secure larger amounts of food. 

The illegal sale of liquor by "whiskey traders" had a devastating effect on the Siksika people. This was eventually ended with the arrival of the Northwest Mounted Police in 1874. However, this arrival also signaled the opening of Siksika traditional lands to newcomers and settlements. This settlement threatened the traditional livelihood of the Siksika and they petitioned the government for treaty.  Negotiations began in 1876 and Treaty 7 was signed at Blackfoot Crossing along the Bow River and Fort MacLeod in 1877.  Altogether, Treaty 7 involves five First Nations groups: Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Siksika,  Stoney Chief Owl (Bearspaw, Chiniki, Wesley) and Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee). 

The Siksika people developed skills to adapt to the new and often harsh realities of the reserves. In 1912, the Siksika made a decision to sell almost half of their reserve land. By 1939, they were a well-established agricultural community.  The period following World War II brought more challenges for the Siksika. Improvements in health care and reduction in infant mortality resulted in increased population on the reserve.  At the same time, the cost of living increased and the overall result strained the economic resources of the community. Over the last few decades, the Siksika have been active in returning to the prosperity they once enjoyed, establishing a trade school and a cultural center on their lands. The tribal council is active in administration within the community. The Siksika Nation is governed by a chief and twelve councilors, elected by community members for two-year terms. The Siksika Nation is in the process of developing a framework for self-government seeking to remove it from jurisdiction of The Indian Act, which the Siksika regard as legislated by force by the Canadian Government in 1876.

For more information on First Nations issues and history, please visit some of the following websites:
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