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No. 145: Treaties, Part Six: Treaty Number 7: Red Crow and Crowfoot

The signing of Treaty Number 7 in southern Alberta was dependent upon the agreement between two great leaders: Crowfoot of the Siksika, or Blackfoot, and Red Crow, a chief of the Kainai.

According to historian Michael Payne, the significance of Red Crow to the negotiations is often overshadowed by that of Crowfoot.

Red Crow, actually, his life and his career have many interesting parallels with Crowfoot. He, too was born about 1830, and he was a very respected leader of his people. He came from a long line and a very distinguished family amongst the Kainai, which also added weight and significance to his opinions. And, like Crowfoot as well, he also was a very respected and renowned warrior, as well; so he kind of had the diplomatic and political and administrative skills, as well as the military skills that made him a respected and very supported leader.

On the eve of the treaty signing, the discussion between Red Crow and Crowfoot lasted all through the night.

He was perhaps just a little bit more reluctant, though, than Crowfoot to go along with what was being put on offer. And he did make a number of demands for changes in what was being proposed in the treaty, including the fact that he wanted his own reserve, where the current Blood reserve is located.

Red Crow agreed that, while the treaty may have been less than ideal, it was better than no agreement at all.

In later years, anyway, Red Crow was very prominent amongst the Kainai in arguing for the importance of education, and for trying to encourage greater economic self-reliance for his people, and he particularly pushed the idea that they could go into ranching as an alternative to the old bison-based economy they had lived under.

But, he was also not an assimilationist. He was probably less influenced by missionaries than Crowfoot. He remained a pretty strong proponent of traditional customs and religious beliefs right up until the time of his death in 1900.

The signing of Treaty Number 7 was a turning point in Alberta's history. It opened the Prairies to settlement, and made it possible for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway across southern Alberta.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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