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Stoney

The Stoney Nation, also known as the Assiniboine, were originally members of the Sioux nation.  Their name is derived from the Assiniboine term "Assinipwat" which means "Stone Stoney sun lodge People". According to their own legends and oral history, the Stoney peoples came from the region surrounding the Mississippi river. During the 17th century they split from the Sioux nation and moved north, where they allied themselves with the Cree who dwelled along the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Together, they forged a strong alliance and became one of the first nations to make contact with the European traders, which meant that they were also one of the first nations to attain European trade goods such as blankets, weapons, and horses.  During the early 19th century the Stoney and Cree pushed further westward, along the Saskatchewan river system where they claimed territory for themselves between the Blackfoot and Gros Ventre tribes to the south and Beaver nation to the north - in the area now known as Alberta.

Decorated Stoney tipisDespite their alliances with the Cree peoples, the Stoney managed to maintain a distinctive language and culture. They continued to hunt and roam the plains of southern Alberta, at times moving further eastward as a result of constant warring with the Blackfoot people who inhabited the same regions. In 1840, the arrival of Reverand Robert T. Rundle had a tremendous impact on the lives of the Stoney peoples. While several other missionaries had attempted to spread organized religion amongst the First Nations peoples of the prairies, they had not enjoyed much success. For some reason the Stoney people immediately took to Reverand Rundle's Methodist teachings and many prominent Stoney peoples even converted to Methodism during this period. It was also during this time that the Stoney Nation began to break into smaller, more manageable bands including the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney bands. In 1876, the federal government engaged the southern bands of Alberta, including the Stoney in negotiations for Treaty 6. While other bands within the Stoney Nation participated, the Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Goodstoney bands refused to negotiate terms. Under pressure from Methodist Minister John McDougall, the three rogue bands that had refused to negotiate treaty in 1876 agreed to accept the terms of Treaty 7 which was negotiated with the Blackfoot and Stoney the following year. While the Stoney bands that adhered to Treaty 6 were provided with reserve land within their own traditional hunting areas, the bands that fell under Treaty 7 were given a collective reserve located on the Chiniki hunting grounds, near Morleyville. 

During the early 1900s, the Stoney Nation experienced the same struggles felt by many of the Indian bands in Alberta after accepting treaty. Faced with an unfamiliar, sedentary new existence and advancing roadways, the Stoney peoples were forced to accept the encroachments of modern technology onto their lands without gaining any of the benefits. After World War II, the Stoney nation began to experience a new self-awareness and strength. They began to organize themselves in order to fight for their rights to hunt and in order to raise public awareness of the many socieal and health problems Stoney Indians faced at the time. During the 1970s the Stoney Nation also became one of the first to operate its own cultural program that encouraged the teaching of the Stoney Stoney lady on horseback language in school, introduced University courses and began a wilderness program. With the expansion of the oil and gas industries in the province, the past several decades have also been financially successful times for the Stoney nation. Oil and gas revenues reaped from the mineral deposits located on the Stoney reserve have helped the Wesley band construct a major cultural facility, the Nakota Lodge. A continuing trend in the Stoney community is an increased participation and control over their own community affairs, even though many Stoney people from smaller reserves have found employment off the reserve. Throughout their history the Stoney people have survived attempts at assimilation but to this day they have proudly retained their language and many of their cultural practices that continue to be passed on and celebrated.

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