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Treaty No. 7 Signed at Blackfoot Crossing

For the week of Monday September 21, 1998

On September 22, 1877, Canadian government and First Nations representatives signed Treaty No. 7 at Blackfoot Crossing. The treaty is an essential part of the relationship between the government and the First Nations of the land south of Red Deer River and beside the Rocky Mountains in present-day Alberta. This land was the traditional territory of the Blackfoot-speaking peoples -- the Siksika (Blackfoot), the Piikani (Peigan) and the Kainai (Blood) -- along with their allies the Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee) and their enemies the Nakoda (Stoney).

Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot)

Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot)
© Library and Archives Canada

The push for treaty-making in Western Canada began in 1870, when Britain transferred its claim over the West to Canada. As settlement and economic development moved forward, the federal government wanted full authority over lands that were still controlled by Aboriginal nations. In exchange for their traditional hunting grounds, Aboriginal nations received reserve lands, farm implements, medical supplies, uniforms, ammunition and cash annuities. These treaties are sacred to the First Nations, and are representative of the partnership which exists between Aboriginal peoples and the federal government.

The 1870s were a period of deep and worsening hardship for the Blackfoot-speaking peoples. Disease, the whisky trade, and the disappearance of the buffalo herds contributed to a decline in population. Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot), a leading chief of the Siksika, feared for his people. When he heard that the federal government was negotiating with other First Nations, he accepted a meeting between government officials and his people at Blackfoot Crossing to discuss a treaty. At the negotiations, Isapo-Muxika became the leading spokesperson for all five nations represented, and urged the other chiefs to follow his lead in signing the treaty.

Blackfoot crossing the Bow River, August 1881

Blackfoot crossing the Bow River, August 1881
© Library and Archives Canada / Sydney Hall / C-013015

Blackfoot Crossing chronicles the history of the Blackfoot-speaking peoples, who call it So-yo-pow-ahx-ko (Ridge Under Water). The Crossing was one of the few places where buffalo, people and horses could ford the Bow River. For many generations, Blackfoot-speaking peoples thus used So-yo-pow-ahx-ko as a place of gathering. After the signing of the treaty, Isapo-Muxika chose Blackfoot Crossing as the centre of the Siksika Reserve.

Blackfoot Crossing has been designated a national historic site, and the Siksika nation is working to develop a historical park there, where an interpretation centre will tell the story of Siksika culture. Isapo-Muxika and the Signing of Treaty No. 7 are also commemorated on the Siksika Reserve by Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaques.

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