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How the Blackfoot Indians Got Their Name

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It's commonly believed the Blackfoot Indians got their name because their moccasins were blackened by the ashes of prairie fires. According to Parks Canada archaeologist Gwyn Langeman, Blackfoot Crossing remains an important landmark in the heart of the Blackfoot, or Siksika, reserve in southern Alberta:

"The Bow River was one of the principle barriers to cross in that Blackfoot territory ranging between the Missouri and the Red Deer and the North Saskatchewan Rivers, and Blackfoot crossing was a place where there was a good ford, a good gravely ridge under water, which is what the Blackfoot name for it means, and I'm not even going to try and pronounce it, but it means ridge under water. And it was a place you could cross with horses or on foot with relative ease. Which was not always possible on the tricky Bow River. So it was a place that had long been used as a meeting place. And there are good places for camping. There's lots of wood and water and vantage and good plants there and it's very important to the Blackfoot."

Blackfoot Crossing lies about 85 km east southeast of Calgary, not far from the Cluny Fortified Earth Lodge. It was here in September of 1877 that Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan, Sarcee and Stoney Indians gathered to meet with representatives of the Canadian government.

"Treaty 7 was signed there, 1877, and the location was chosen by Crowfoot and the Siksika rather than at Fort Macleod where Europeans wanted to do the ceremony, on their territory, but the Siksika said no, let's do it in the heart of our territory. So the treaty was signed there, and it was later chosen to be the centre of their reserve, and so much of the early political structures and education structures grew up around the crossing itself. It's where the first missions and schools were, and government agents, and it's also a site where there was a whiskey post before the treaty was signed so it was a scene of some misery as well at the time, which I think is one of the reasons that feeds into why they were willing to sign the treaty and welcome the Mounties in the first place."

At the urging of the Siksika nation, Blackfoot Crossing was designated a national historic site in 1992.

On the Heritage Trail, I'm Cheryl Croucher.


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