Anything that a New-comer writes of the First nations people of Canada has been called cultural piracy by those Natives who have adopted a harder line in the relationship between Aboriginals and Whites, between brown eyes and blue eyes. I, personally, am of the latter group, a middle-aged White guy, the archetypical offender in the eyes of some Natives; bigoted, intellectually dull, ignorant. Compounding my offences, when writing of the Kainai Nation, I am writing from, at best, second-hand experience, for, though I have many times passed within a stones throw of the vast Kainai reserve, I have never ventured onto it. Most Kainai, at best, feel ambivalent towards Whites: many actively dislike them, these New-comers, these usurpers. What freedom-loving people can blame them? The Kainai, along with most other First Nations in the Canadian West, were starved onto reservations which were but a tiny fraction of their original range, were treated abominably by all levels of government which seemed to heartily wish, and, indeed, expect, that Indians would die off, and the sooner the better. They were stripped of their culture by the meanest of methods, and were, in spite of superficial and varying efforts to assimilate them, consistently stonewalled by the greater society that valued neither their abilities and experience nor their efforts to participate. Not even suffering several years of degradation and humiliation in a virtual prison of a government-sanctioned educational institution qualified the Indian for acceptance. It is no wonder that many Kainai were wrecked on the rocks of substance abuse and self-disgust, and that the survivors are bitterly resentful, sceptical and suspicious of the motives of anything that a White person would do or say, and leery of making further efforts at accommodation. Should Whites all fall into a deep, dark hole to nevermore see the light of day, few Kainai would mourn, and those not for long.
That written, vanity and a need for completeness demand that I set down my version of the story.
The Kainai were, and are, part of the so-called Blackfoot Confederacy,1 and their name means many chiefs for their old habit of each man claiming to be a chief. In the Old Days, according to the authors of Nitsitapiisinni: The Story of the Blackfoot People (eds. The Blackfoot Gallery Committee, Key Porter Books, Toronto, 2001), the Blackfoot, ranged from the North Saskatchewan River some 1,000 kilometres south to the Yellowstone River, and from as high up on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies as they generally wished, out onto the short-grassd high plains of what is now southern Alberta all the way to the revered Sand Hills on the western margins of the present province of Saskatchewan. They called themselves Niitsitapi or Sow-ki-tapisimply the People or Prairie People. B.D. Fardy writes in Jerry Potts; Paladin of the Plains (Mr. Paperback, Langley, BC, 1984) that the Kainai, the largest of the four Nations2 that originally made up the Confederacy, regarded as their hunting reserve the land laying between the Bow River and the Sweetgrass Hills just below the present Canadian/U.S. boundary, and washing eastward from Pikannis foothill territory out onto the grasslands as far as the Western Block of the Cypress Hills3 where they camped in the coulees during the summer and eyed the horizons for the dust of buffalo herds and raiding parties of Iyiniwak, or Ne:hiyawakthe Cree. In mid-summer they were wont to congregate with their confederates at Medicine Lodge ceremonies to renew old acquaintances and alliances, court prospective spouses and reaffirm their devotion to The Creator. In the winter they gathered in clans in the valleys of the Bow or the Belly or some other well wooded, watered place near a herd of bison.
Kainai and Europeans first came into contact likely early in the second quarter of the Eighteenth Century. It was contact by proxy, and the instrument was the Horse, introduced to the Kainai likely by a people they called the Issapo, the Crows. With ponoka omitai-ksielk-dog,4the lifestyle of the Kainai was changed forever. Rather than practicing patient stratagems to trap herds of bison in pounds or panic the animals into stampeding over cliffs, the Kainai could now pursue their quarry across the grasslands and run the beasts to ground. Women could swiftly attend the kill site, butcher the carcasses and transport the meat back to camp for processing. The very real threat of starvation was largely eliminated. A mounted man, especially a mounted man with a gun, found he could afford to support several wives, their industry the source of much wealth in Niitsi-tapi society. Competition for women and accumulating wealth abraded inter-personal relations within Families and Clans.
The Horse also introduced a new sport to Kainai culture: young men, freed of the pressing need to constantly pursue game, could devote time and energy to planning and carrying out thrilling, status-affirming raids on distant camps to get more horses while defending their vast hunting grounds against intruders.5 The practice frayed intertribal relations.
About the same time as the Kainai acquired the Horse, they likely also began hearing rumours of small parties of strangely-coloured people infiltrating into their neighbourhood from the east. Possibly they took notice of Louis-Joseph Gautiers party which saw the distant Rocky Mountains probably from a high hill in what is now the State of Wyoming, U.S.A., in 1743. If members of the Kainai did not personally meet Peter Fidler, David Thompson and Philip Turnor, the Nation certainly heard about the Baymens advance along the northern fringes of Niitsi-tapi territory during the closing years of the Eighteenth Century, seeking pelts and provisions in exchange for useful, even magical items: cutting tools and arrowheads made out of an exotic substance that was much more durable than flint and could be ground on a stone to maintain an edge; hard, shiny beads and other decorations as colourful as rainbows; a material cleverly woven of brightly coloured fibres that could be adapted to any number of uses; cooking vessels; dangerous sticks that killed with lightening and thunder; and a strange-tasting water that flamed and had a strange and alluring effect upon the drinkers thereof. Kainai lands, however, straddled the frontier between Ruperts Land and Louisiana, at the very margin of European influence, and were home to very few animals bearing the fine pelts that the strangers so esteemed, thus putting beyond the Nations reach the precious goods locked up in the permanent posts that the strangers began building along the North Saskatchewan River on the very edge of the Niitsitapi range. In 1800, under the protection of Akkomakki, Old Swan, or Feathers, William Tomison and Peter Fidler of the Hudsons Bay Coy established what they called Chesterfield House at the confluence of the Red Deer and the South Saskatchewan rivers to trade with the Kainai and Siksikah. The venture wasnt very profitable, collecting only next-to-worthless bison hides and some sacks of old pemmican. When the Atsiina, the Gros Ventres, attacked the post in 1802, writes Theodore Binnema in his 1992 masters thesis for the Department of History in the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Conflict or Co-operation? Blackfoot Trade Strategies 17941815, the Coy abandoned the effort until 1822 when it sent Donald McKenzie and John Rowand to build anew near the charred remains of the original post, only to conclude within two seasons that the Kainai truly didnt have anything worth trading for, and were still dangerous to deal with. From then on, most of the trade goods that the Kainai acquired from the British filtered through intervening Peoples.
Wrote George Simpson, the long-time chief factor of the Hudsons Bay Coy., the Blackfoot were a … very interesting people who have excited more curiosity than any other of the natives tribes in North America. Simpson might have thought that, but his traders, isolated in far posts where a life could be instantly forfeit over a misunderstanding, had a different view. Most Indians were distrusted, especially those that were unfamiliar. The fierce Kainai, living far out on the plains were the least known of the Niitsitapi. For their penchant for painting themselves with an ochre that dried rusty red, English-speaking traders called them Bloods, enhancing their fearsome notoriety. Occasionally small bands of them would appear at posts with pelts that they had perhaps purloined from other tribes, but unlike the Piikani who had beaver streams in their territory and were skilled trappers and pelt-workers, the Kainai usually had little but pemmican to trade, and that was worth little. So while their co-confederates were enjoying reliable access to cloth and steel knives and crude muskets and copper pots, the Kainai were left wanting, acquiring most of their few exotic possessions as personal gifts from friends and relatives in the other Nations, or by trading with, or raiding, their neighbours. This lack of trade goods grated on the Nations pride and also materially reduced their hunting range, for the Iyiniwak, the Crees, armed with the Strangers fire-spiting sticks and on horseback since the third quarter of the Eighteenth Century, were moving out onto the Plains from their traditional homes in the woods. Sensibly, the Niitsitapi blamed the Strangers.
Real enmity between Kainai and the strange New-comers was seeded in June of 1806 when a contingent of Lewiss and Clarks Corps of Discovery passed through the southern extremity of Blackfoot territory and one member, Reuben Field, killed a young Piikûni who was attempting to steal one of the Corps horses. This tragedy might have been forgotten, except that the Corp of Discovery was followed White frontiersmen who trekked up the Missouri and began to trap beaver and other fur-bearing animals in the Piikani home range. This the Piikani and their Kainai kin rightly regarded as theft, and blood was often shed whenever Native and New-comer met.
The economic relationship between the Kainai and the New-comers began to change in the 1820s after American industry and society acquired and appreciation for the utility of buffalo hides. Properly cured and cleaned, the hides made cozy buggy and sleigh robes: depilated and tanned, the hides yielded a durable leather that was ideal for all sorts of applications in factories. Buffalo the Kainai could get, and as aggressive American traders built posts closer to, and then deep in, Niitsitapi territory, the Nation was drawn into commerce. Tragically, White traders had long before discovered that a tot of rum or other spirituous beverage tended to make Natives less attentive in the process of barter. At Hudsons Bay posts, because they were so far removed from distilleries and breweries, and because booze was heavy and awkward to move, the use of spirits was largely ceremonial, a polite precursor to the business of trade. American traders faced no such constraints. Alcohol America produced in quantity, and tuns of the stuff could be easily acquired, man-handled onto riverboats and floated nearly into the heart of Blackfoot territory. There, like all trade goods, it found a ready market, but, unlike durable goods such as blankets, guns and metal wares, booze was expendable and quickly disappeared. So desired was it by most Native traders that demand made it relatively expensive, an ordinary robe buying but two cups6 of bust head. The hide trade, accompanied as it was by multiple contagions,7 led to the near destruction of the Nation by the 1860s, and was mainly responsible for the staggering slaughter that set the Bisons hoof on the path to extinction.8
As to all Plains peoples, Iiniiksithe Bisonwas everything to the Kainai, and with the disastrous decline it its numbers,9 deprivation humbled the Nation. Mi'kai'stowa, the Bloods most respected chief, feared that the end of his people had come.
Focussed on unifying the new Dominion and diverted by the Pacific Scandal which would eventually bring down the Tory government of John A. Macdonald in the autumn of 1873, Ottawa paid scant attention to the depredations that the American traders were visiting upon Indians on the prairies, so remote from the Canadian heartlands. In June of 1873, however, a massacre of a score of peaceable Cree in the Cypress Hills by a gang of Montana-based wolfers finally shocked the politicians in Ottawa into forming the North-West Mounted Police, mandating the force to take control of Canadas plains. Suspicious of the intentions of all Whites, Mi'kai'stowaRed Crowdid not welcome the small force of bedraggled Police that stumbled into Kainai territory during the fiery summer of 1874. To the ultimate good fortune of his people, though, he was powerless to stop their advance. The Mounties established Fort Macleod in October of that year as their base of operations and within a year had expelled the whiskey traders from the North-West. This Mi'kai'stowa appreciated and as the months rolled by and the Police seemed to keep their word on the few agreements that they reached with the Kainai Nation, Mi'kai'stowa became less resentful of the Forces presence, eventually investing some trust in the commandant, Major J.F. Macleod, calling him Stamix-oto-kanBulls Headperhaps for an insignia that the Major favoured, perhaps because a chief of the Piikani had bestowed the name upon the policeman. Stamix-oto-kan seemed unwilling, however, to discourage little communities of Whites that began congregating around the police posts at Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, Fort Calgary on the Bow River on the frontier between the Tsuu Tina and Siksikah territories, and, especially, at Fort Macleod in the middle of the Kainai home range. Every month more New-comers arrived, threatening to fill up the land. Farther east, Red Crow knew, the Crees and Assiniboines were making official agreements with the New-comers by which these Nations were given gifts of clothing and ammunition and promises of knowledge of the Whitemans medicine and guarantees that their home territory would be inviolable. Having an agreement like this for the Kainai would be prudent, Mi'kai'stowa believed, and hoping that the red-coated New-comers would be less inclined to violate agreements than their blue-coated brethren to the south, he listened when the Methodist missionary, John Chantler McDougall, came to him likely in 1876 to explain the treaty procedure. The influential Siksikah camp chief, Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot), seemed to favour the arrangement, and when Stamix-oto-kan of the Police encouraged the Niitsitapi to confer with David Laird, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, M'kai'stowa agreed.
The Conference was set gather at Fort Macleod late in the summer of 1877, deep in Kainai lands. At the last minute, though, Isapo-Muxika decided that it would not be propitious to meet at the Whitemans place, and insisted that all congregate at soyooh pawahkoBlackfoot Crossingon the Bow River in Siksika territory. Annoyed by the abrupt change of venue and basically distrusting the New-comers motives, Mi'kai'stowa did not appear, much to the Whites alarm, until the confabulation was into its third day.10 Impassively Mi'kai'stowa listened as Laird,Sspitaa, the Tall Oneexpounded on the New-comers vision of the Blackfoots future. Despite the efforts of his inebriated interpreters best efforts,11 Mi'kai'stowa did not understand the fine details. He did not comprehend that Laird was talking about a permanent transfer of territory, something that was no more possible, as far as the Niitsi-tapi were concerned, than the permanent transfer of clouds. Nonetheless, mainly on the advice of the one Whiteman he trusted, Stamix-oto-kan, Red Crow allowed his mark to be made upon the treaty paper. His chiefs followed suit.12 Believing that the Paper guaranteed that his people would continue to enjoy the full use of their traditional hunting grounds and would be fairly compensated for the wood and the trees that the New-comers were using up, Mi'kai'stowa perfunctorily agreed that a tract of land on the Bow River downstream from Blackfoot Crossing would be the Kainai heartland. Understanding this tract to be a campground only, one that would always be his Nations alone, but to which they were not confined, Mi'kai'stowa then gathered his people and awayd to pursue his autumn buffalo hunt.
In their reports of the proceedings at Blackfoot Crossing, the commissioners opined that there would be bison enough to allow the Niitsitapi to continue in their traditional ways into the late 1880s. But the great slaughter had gone on too long, and though the Kainai remembered the year of 1876 as ikakainiskoy, many buffalo, the herds had reached the critical low point in their population. Without thoughtful management, they could not recover. In 1878 great fires on the Montana plains set by American buffalo hunters trapped most of the animals south of the Missouri, only one sizeable herd grazing the slopes of the Cypress Hills. This herd was hunted relentlessly by every indigenous hunter in western Canada. The Cree and the Assiniboine, the Métis and, since the arrival in Canada in May of 1877 of Tatanka-Iyotonka and his Hunkpapa Lakota followers, the Sioux; all competed with the Kainai and the rest of the Niitsi-tapi for meat from this last larder. Mi'kai'stowa and his Kainai, reads Hugh A. Dempsey in Red Crow, Warrior Chief (Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, 1980) found barely enough game around the mouth of the Red Deer River to sustain them over the winter of 1978-79. Come the spring of 1879 they were in desperate need. Mi'kai'stowa must have had his first inkling of the glib assertions of the Whites could not be taken at face value, for Stamix-oto-kan had promised him that, if he should touch the Treaty paper with his eagle feather indicating his acceptance of the terms, the PoliceMaohksisoka'simiiksi, literally Red Coatswould protect the buffalo with Laws. But the Whites had failed to keep their word. Now the buffalo were no where around. Learning that there was a sizeable herd congregated in the Judith River basin in western Montana Territory, south of the Missouri, the Kainai left hastened thither and spent a year fighting with Crows and Shoshone and Gros Ventre for hunting territory in the Judith. In the Autumn of 1880 Red Crow realized that the bison population in the Judith was crashing, and with 800 of his people he headed back to the Cypress Hills and Fort Walsh to draw his treaty money and consider the future.
While drawing his treaty money at Fort Kipp in the autumn of 1878, Mi'kai'stowa had mentioned to the official there that he was having second thoughts about the location of the Kainai homeland. The property along the Bows valley downriver from the Siksikah might not suit after all. It was a poor piece of land. It had been allotted on a basis of five persons per square mile, and at the signing of the Treaty, 2,058 persons were counted as Kainai, so the reserve, extending two miles on either side of the River, snaked some 100 miles through the heart of the driest part of the N-WT. As well, the Kainai boasted of some 550 warriors13, and Mi'kai'stowa feared that living in close proximity to the Siksika would inevitably lead to friction in the competition for scare resources. Besides, the cottonwood crowded valley of the Belly was the preferred winter camp of the Kainai, and Red Crow therefore led his people to Fort Macleod and let the Police know that he wished the government to relocate his Nations reserve. Ordinarily, the bureaucracy in Ottawa would have deliberated for years, arguing the pros and cons of acquiescing to a request by Natives, but Edgar Dewdney had been appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1879, and he was a man that got things done. The Indian Branch of the Department of the Interior had become the Department of Indian Affairs14 in May of 1880, and Dewdney, quite accustomed to the push and shove of Ottawa politics, drove Mi'kai'stowas request through the hardening bureaucracy. That September the Department dispatched dominion surveyor J.D. Nelson to help Red Crow and his chiefs and Treaty 7 Indian Agent, Norman Thomas Macleod, lay out a new reserve. Calculated using the five persons per square mile formula, it covered 708.4 square miles between the Belly and Kootenai15 rivers on the west and the St. Marys and what is now the Oldman16 on the east, ending nine miles from the Boundary. Mi'kai'stowa and his followers promptly decamped from Fort Macleod and congregated in the cottonwooded coulees of their new reserve,17 desperate to feed their children, frightened of the future in a world without bison, amazed that such a catastrophe could happen.
The Kainai knew the sum total of their Tribes experience was not up to the challenges of dealing with No Buffalo, and their one fervent hope for surviving the coming winter was that these oh-so-superior, know-it-all, seemingly all-powerful New-comers would honour the words spoken at Blackfoot Crossing and provide relief to the Nation in this terrible time. The N-WM Police distributed food from Fort Walsh and Fort Macleod to which supplies were waggoned from Fort Benton in Montana Territory. The Kainai knew, however, that the Mounties were neither equipped nor predisposed to act as welfare agents. A year earlier, in 1879, the Great Mother had appointed a man to help the Kainai, along with all the other Treaty 7 nations.18 He was Norman Thos. Macleod, brother of Stamix-oto-kan of the Police, who had broken his word by failing to protect the buffalo. The Kainai from the beginning suspected the intentions of this brother, doubted his abilities. To the new reserve Macleod sent J.G. John MacDougall, who in the autumn of 1880 set about building a house on the reserve from which, the Kainai were informed, rations would be distributed. Though they had never in their lives done work like it, several of the Kainai men volunteered to help. They caught on quickly, and were soon helping several families fashion Cottonwood log huts similar to those in which the New-comers lived. With the ration house completed and sparsely stocked with flour and dried beef, MacDougall began his real work. He was the Reserves Farming Instructor, tasked with setting up an instructional farm on the reserve to educate the Kainai in ways of the peasant farmer,19 employing a few locals in order to introduce the reward-for-work theory of capitalism. Though the Kainai, like the greater Niitsi-tapi, had never tilled the soil, their endeavours in agriculture having been restricted to the scattering of tobacco seeds in favourable places and returning at the end of the growing season to collect any plants that Nature had grown, MacDougall found no shortage of students eager to learn the New-comers way of survival, and with government-supplied spades and hoes he showed crews how to break garden plots out of the soil of the bottomlands, seeing some 20 acres turned over by the time the snows of winter halted work.
The first winter on their new reserve was tough for the Kainai. Some log huts had been completed, windowless, airless, smoky hovels in which tuberculosis had free reign to attack young and old. For most, however, their traditional tipis still served, though many of the coverings, not renewed for several seasons due to the lack of bison hides, offered scant shelter. The small game – rabbits, deer, and edible birds, never numerous in the coulees, had been pressed to the edge of local extinction, and edible wide vegetation was scarce.20 The small herd of long-horned cattle that the government had purchased from the I.G. Baker Company of Fort Benton in 1879 and had driven north and turned loose for the Kainai to hunt in the Porcupine Hills north-west of Fort Macleod had been long used up. The ration house was the mainstay of the Nation that winter, and the women struggled to make edible meals from the daily allowance of one pound each per person of dirty flour and stringy, bone-in beef that was issued twice a week. For a people whose diet was traditionally mainly meat and plenty of it, the rations were woefully inadequate. It was a miserable life for a people who vividly remembered the confident times of plenty.
The spring of 1881 found the industrious, the hopeful among the Kainai again busy breaking more land, 40 acres all together, and planting it to potatoes and turnips, fencing it to keep horses at bay. With the Agencys encouragement, more shacks were being built in emulation of the New-comers houses. However, while Mi'kai'stowa and his followers had been settling onto their new Reserveofficially I.R. 148A and 148B21the two-thirds of the Kainai population who stayed in the Judith River Basin hunting buffalo began to starve. The buffalo had vanished, herded, some thought, into a great hole in the earth by a Great Spirit angered both at the way his gift to The People had been abused and the admission of Whites to Niitsi-tapi territory. The spare horses had been eaten, and denied rations by the American authorities, horrified and destitute, some 2500 bedraggled Kainai began straggling into the Oldman valley beginning in April of 1881.22 The potato patches were soon dug up and the plantings eaten. Fences were treated as convenient stores of firewood, and the hunters surviving ponies were turned loose to find whatever forage they could in the gardens that Red Crows clans had planted. Desperation began to devour Hope, many of the Kainai embracing the belief that if the Great Spirit refused to release the buffalo from captivity, the Nation should surely succumb, and that any intercourse at all with the New-comers would certainly delay, if not prevent, that release. Desperately hungry, scavenging the carcasses of poisoned wolves and boiling old bones for soup, the Kainai faced their worst winter in memory.
In the stark spring of 1881 the Kainai were faced with three choices. They could give up and follow the bison into Oblivion, they could hang around the doors of the ration houses for all eternity and live hand to mouth on whatever the New-comers chose to spare them, or they could throw off the survival strategies learned over generations uncounted and adopt the agrarian lifestyle promoted by the New-comers. There was no general consensus, of course: the clans had forever followed their independent paths, so even as some of the younger men rode away to steal horses and hunt bison that were rumoured to have hidden themselves in the Cypress Hills, others picked up the unaccustomed tools and, ignoring the warning of those who saw agricultural activities as an affront to the Earth, broke more bottomland for gardens, replanted, repaired fences and looked to MacDougall for guidance.23 He showed them how to harness the oxen provided by the DIA to cross-ploughs and harrows24 imported from the I.G. Baker Company and the T.C. Power & Brother Company of Fort Benton, and break fields out of the valley bottoms on what had now been designated Instructional Farm No. 22. Into these fields he showed the aspiring farmers how to broadcast wheat and oat seeds and harrow them over. It was hard manual labour, exertions that were entirely foreign to hunters and warriors25 who with dismay listened to returning hunters angry reports of No Buffalo in the Cypress Hills or anywhere else. Desperation drove the men into the fields, even as it drove the women to try and learn how to make something appetising from the nasty ingredients distributed from the ration house.26 In the Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended 31st December, 1881 (Ottawa, 1882), it is revealed that McDougall employed ten registered assistants and cost the Department $1368.93 to accomplish his job. It was, unfortunately, time, energy, and money wasted, for the dry ground yielded pitiful crops, and when the meagre harvests were gathered and stored in the ration house, the DIA immediately cut the flour ration to half of a pound per person per day, presuming that the harvests would make up the difference.
It was likely during 1881 that the Kainai began to realize the import of the Whitemans paper to which Mi'kai'stowa and the other chiefs had touched their feathers of assent at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. At the time the pow-wow had been an unimportant affair at which the Kainai had thought merely to again complain to the Police about the Crees and Métis invading their hunting territory and the occasional sale of whiskey in their lands. Though accounts of the proceedings and the successful outcome of the negotiations had been writ large by Whites in their newspapers Down East, in the oral annals of the Kainai as collected by Hugh A. Dempsey in A Blackfoot Winter Count (Glenbow Foundation, Calgary, 1965), 1877 was remembered by the keeper of the Count, Father of Many Children,27 only as the year we had the bad spring.
The phrase … subject to such regulations as may … be made by the Government had been written into Treaty No. 7 regarding the Blackfoots rights to hunt anywhere in their erstwhile territory, and it was against a backdrop of privation that the meaning of these finely-printed words became apparent to Mi'kai'stowa. Since the late 70s ranchers had been establishing cattle herds in what is now south-western Alberta, expecting to profit immensely when the Railway could haul the animals away to markets Down East and overseas. That the herds were privately owned was a concept foreign to the hungry young men frantic for meat to feed their families. Under pressure from the ranchers, the government directed the N-WMP to require the chiefs to restrict their people to the reserve and desist hunting cattle. Red Crow, believing it politic to accommodate the New-comers as far as possible, advised compliance. His opinions, however, were not Law. In an arrangement which the Whites were slow to comprehend, the egalitarianism of Kainai society provided two councils, one for peace, one for war, both informal. In the uncertain times of the early Reserve period, Red Crows conciliatory policies were opposed by those of Medicine Calf and his successor, White Calf, war chiefs to whom the young men, eager to attain the battle honours which traditionally stratified men within the Nation, gravitated in these times of trouble. And these were times of trouble, with children famished, horses disappearing, the land filling up with New-comers and their cattle. What true man could sit idle, choking on his rage, frustration and shame, while the very grass of the reserve itself was being grazed by the alien animals?28 Mi'kai'stowa asked members of the Black Catchers Society, the nations traditional police, to check the cattle killers, but there was no consensus of opinion among the Society, some favouring the culling of the New-comers herds which had, after all, displaced the buffalo.
In his never-ending efforts to provide for their people, Mi'kai'stowa seized every opportunity to bring his nations plight to the attention of officials. Never did a policeman or a DIA functionary appear on the Reserve that Mi'kai'stowa or one of the sub-chiefs didnt point out that the agricultural implements that the DIA supplied were flimsy, that ammunition had not been supplied as stipulated in the Treaty, that rations were of poor quality and not distributed as needed. It was essentially a breach of contract, they argued. The Kainai had given their vast territories over to the New-comers with the understanding that should the Nation need it, the New-comers would support them. Now that their staff of life had disappeared, the Nation needed that support. In August of 1881, Sir John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, the governor-general of Canada, and his wife, Louise Caroline Alberta, stopped in Fort Macleod at the end of their tour of the Canadian west. When Red Crow was presented to their excellencies, he declared that Lady Louiss great mother, Queen Victoria, in whose name Treaty 7 had been signed, was not living up to her end of the agreement, seeming to have forgotten her children now that she had the territory that she had coveted. Kinship had been established by the Treaty, and this involved obligations. Promises had been made of support should the Kainai need it, and that the Nation should be provided with the tools and skills needed for the people to transition to the way of the Whites. Where were these things? The Kainai had been duped, declared Red Crow, the White treaty negotiators emphasizing what the Kainai would gain, not the freedoms and independence that they would loose. If the Great Mother failed to keep her word, how then could the Kainai be expected to keep theirs?
In the culture of the New-comers it was accepted that schooling29, the Three Rs of reading, ritin, and rithmatic were the keys to the self-sufficiency. The Department, however, was unprepared to deliver education, and so was very receptive to groups that volunteered, for slight remuneration, to come into the West to educate the Natives, proposing to combine teaching with much-needed instruction in finding the one true God,
While they were a wild and free people wandering the plains in search of bison, most Kainai had remained unmoved by Christian philosophy. Not that they had heard much, for few were the words that translated dogma into Kainai, and fewer still were the translators able to use them. However, when the death of The Buffalo drove the Natives to congregate on reserves in hopes of relief, they were to become a much easier target for proselytizers.
In 1881 two White strangers came to dwell with the Kainai. One was an acquaintance that the tribe had made the year before in Fort Macleod. John Maclean was Methodist sent out by the London-based Church Missionary Society (CMS) to shine the light of Christian revelation into Kainai eyes and teach them what they necessarily needed to integrate their economic efforts with the greater society, if not personally assimilate into it. After a year of ministering to both the Kainai and the Piikani from his base at Fort Macleod, it is doubtful that Maclean had any great expectation of success. Joining Maclean in his efforts in 188130 was the Anglican Reverend Samuel Trivett, also sponsored by the CMS. He was quick to throw up a crude little day school at Bull Shields camp to which he invited the Kainai parents to send their younger children. Some families did, but Trivetts hopes were largely disappointed. The Kainai, of course, had no concept of school. Children learned from their elders who knew everything that was necessary to know about the Nations lifeway. The idea that children should present themselves at a specific place for a set period of time each day to learn was utterly alien. Children, especially the males, had always been allowed to wander pretty much at will, investigating on their own, helping, hunting, practicing horsemanship and combat; everything a Kainai man needed to know to provide for his family. To be cooped up in an uncomfortable box with a strange man that they could neither understand nor trust was an unacceptable waste of time, and they continued to find their education outdoors rather than trying to understand the strangers gibberish. Trivett resorted to enticing the children to school with hard-tack and meat broth. The smaller children, however hungry, were terrified of men with beards, and as soon as they got their prize, they vanished.
The spring of 1882 found the Kainai in much the same condition as the previous spring. Mi'kai'stowa continued his insistence that the government live up to its end of the Treaty bargain. He complained that rations were still of terrible quality and were scanty, and that cattle belonging to Akers and Dave Cochrane still ran run at large on what the Kainai considered reserve lands. Their agent since 1879, N.T. Macleod, was removed from his position, judged unsuitable by his superiors for his tendency to champion the cause of his charges. What was wanted, the DIA decided, was a firmer hand. Cecil Edward Denny, former N-WM Policeman had such a hand. Among his first acts was to dismiss Farming Instructor MacDougall who, in the Departments opinion, had compromised his position by marrying Ground Diving Woman, one of Red Crows daughters. In MacDougalls place Denny hired W.C. McCord. He helped the Kainai build more snug cabins for winter occupancy, dig and roof three root cellars, and directed the planting of some 250 acres of potatoes and other root crops. These efforts employed only part of the population of young men, and only part of the time, and Denny realized that boredom was the great enemy of good order. He decided to make use of the Natives natural talents. In 1881 some Crees had snuck onto the Reserve and run off with a number of horses. Warriors had set off in pursuit but were unable to catch up with the thieves. It was a blow to the Nations self esteem and Denny meant to restore Kainai confidence by recovering the horses. He hired several men as ad hoc constables, and working in concert with the Mounties, they were successful in getting the horses back. This, coupled with a great potato harvest31 helped make life a bit more sufferable for the Kainai.
The chiefs, too, were worried that the monotony of reserve life was gnawing the souls out of particularly the young men. Gambling on horse races and holding tea-drinking contests occupied their time. Grubbing in the dirt was tedious, and harvesting and gathering was womans work. At the insistence of suspicious New-comers, the police discouraged the youngsters from wandering the countryside in search of saki-auwakahsi (antelope), is-sikotuye (mule deer), and auwah-tuye (white-tailed deer) which, when they were lucky, augmented the miserable rations. Anti-vagrancy laws were applied to apprehend the hunters and introduce them to the concept of gaol. When Kainai out of boredom or curiosity visited Fort Macleod, the people there were less than welcoming, insisting that visitors should not borrow items from clothes lines or store shelves. The young women discovered that they could materially gain by bestowing their favours upon eager White men, which led to domestic friction when they engaged of their own free will, or declined to keep assignations arranged by their men. Alcohol was frequently the payment, gaol frequently the reward.
In the matter of schooling, 1882 saw some progress made in that the Anglicans were able to convince a dedicated school master, the Reverend H. S. Bourne, to settle on the Reserve that autumn. Trivett was developing his talent for carpentry and was building a few more day schools of better quality than his first crude efforts. The Kainai, as was their wont, had settled on their reserve in family and clan groupings, and it was Trivetts intention that every little community should have a school handy. Getting the children to attend regularly, however, remained problematical. Several families, those disposed to abandon the Past, ensured that their children showed up for at least part of the day to learn to speak English and study the peculiar symbols that indicated the sounds of the New-comers language, and at least see that there was such a thing as arithmetic. Many families, though, refused to inflict the missionarys teachings on their children. The bison would surely return, and then what need of the New-comers and their bizarre practices. If the buffalo didnt return, then the Nation was doomed and the argument still pertained. As far as converting Kainai to Christianity, the missionaries endeavours enjoyed the same mixed results as did their pedagogical efforts. To assist the Anglican mission, the Reverend Rural Dean George McKay began visiting the Reserve that year from his home on the Piikani reserve where he had lived for the previous two years, learning the Niitsi-tapi language, striving to confer the Christian gift of everlasting life upon the ignorant heathens. The Kainai, however, had a perfectly satisfactory explanation of the cosmos both physical and metaphysical, and though many patiently watched the Sunday antics of the New-comers, few placed much stock in the rituals. At the same time, their own religious ceremonies began to take on a desperate, mystical nature according to some outside observers. These observers, of course, were mainly the missionaries who dearly wanted to suppress Native ritual as a step to saving the savage souls for Jesus. Especially worrisome for the missionaries was what they called the sun dance, properly the Medicine Lodge Ceremony. Outsiders, they could not appreciate the complexity of the Ceremony, their attention entirely diverted by the one aspect of it in which young men tortured themselves in a rite of passage. This, the missionaries declared, had to stop.
It was perhaps a mistake for Agent Denny and Instructor McCord to bruit the fine potato harvest of the fall of 1882 to their superiors.32 Pouncing on any indication that the Kainai were becoming self-sufficient in those recession-plagued years, these penny pinching Ottawa-bound bureaucrats immediately used the windfall as an excuse to pare down rations during the following winter. Rather than the allowance of one pound of fresh beef per person per day along with the already-reduced ½ lb. of flour, the Department decided that cheaper bacon should be substituted for at least part of the meat ration. This new item the Kainai could not recognize as meat. It was salty and dry and tasted foul. They refused it and insisted on beef, poor though that was. Seeking to augment their families rations, many set off on hunting forays just at the time when McCord wanted them at work breaking new fields and planting the old. Additionally, Denny suspected that his wards were playing him for a fool, the Kainai and the Piikani trading people back and forth so as to inflate their numbers and thereby increase their rations. Children were passed around from family to family for the same purpose. Those suspected of participating in the scheme were penalized at the ration house door and the treaty money payment table. Despite insistent denials and complains, Denny persisted in following the Departments directives, and local ranchers began reporting increasing numbers of butchered cattle carcasses on their leases.
The snug cabins that McCord and MacDougall helped build quickly turned into death traps for the Kainai. Unventilated and smoky, overcrowded and often allowed to slip into filthy squalor by housekeepers used to merely moving to a different location when refuse built up in and around their tipis, the cabins were ideal incubators of pneumonia, tuberculosis, measles, and whooping cough. Coupled with the occasional case of venereal disease that made its way onto the Reserve, these diseases, resistant to traditional medicines, began to kill increasing numbers of Kainai.
Increasing numbers of Kainai were growing dissatisfied with their bargain with the New-comers. Come the summer of 1883 they found that they werent alone when emissaries from the Crees at Battleford began filtering onto the Reserve to sound out the Kainai about a grand alliance to expel the Whites from the West. Some of those restless youngsters who rode with White Calf likely favoured such a plan, but Red Crow and his allies would have none of it. The Ne:hiyawak were the ancestral enemies of the Kainai, horse thieves and woman killers. Though they had had three more years under treaty than had the Niitsi-tapi and were that much more disillusioned, the Cree could not be trusted any more than the Whites.
From the direction of the dawn that summer came the Fire Waggon, istsienakas, a magical machine which set the prairie grass ablaze in its passing. Through the Sand Hills and into territory that the Niitsi-tapi long considered their own, crews laid the iron-railed trail upon which the howling beast rolled. A structure the like of which no Kainai had ever seen carried the machine across the South Saskatchewan River at the place that the People called sawáwmsholy headdressand that the Whites would call Medicine Hat. Onward the CPRs crews came, over the barrens between sawáwms and the Bow River, then following its course across part of the Siksikah Reserve and on to the N-WMP post of Fort Calgary. With it came New-comers without numbers to fill up Niitsi-tapi territory and carry the ranchers cattle away eastward.
Early in the year of 1884 the Deputy Superintendent of the DIA33, Lawrence Vankoughnet, came West on his first tour of inspection. He didnt like what he found, indolent Indians hanging around doing little to help themselves despite the Departments generosity with tools and expertise. They were becoming increasingly dependent on rations, thinking that it was their due, rather than a temporary support. The deputy superintendent knew what to do: cut back. An exacting count of the tribes revealed fraudulent treaty money and ration claims, and these were addressed, even if it meant that some legitimate claimants were shorted. More cheap bacon was to be substituted for beef, and less whinging was to be tolerated. Having resolved these issues, Vankoughnet hastened back to Ottawa leaving the hard-pressed Agent Denny to enforce the edicts and the deal with the consequences; a sharp upturn in the number of rustling complaints lodged by local ranchers. Responsibility for all the Treaty 7 Nations had driven Denny to the end of his tether, however, and, according to Dempsey in Red Crow: …, having written a scathing letter of resignation, he quit in frustration. Dennys letter had some beneficial consequences for his successors, for he was replaced by two agents, William B. Pocklington being responsible for the Kainai and the Piikani. From his offices in Fort Macleod he saw to the needs of his wards, one of his first acts being to have a second ration house built for the convenience of what was becoming known as the Lower Band, encamped on the Belly near the site of the old whiskey post, Slideout, some 20 kilometres south and east of Fort Macleod. This became the Lower Agency. Upstream some eight miles, where the original and temporary ration house stood was known to the Whites as Stand Off, to the Kainai as sap-oyistanding aparttoo named after an old whiskey post near by.
McCord kept himself busy teaching those few receptive Kainai the art of agriculture. One of those eager to learn was Crop-Eared Wolf, Red Crows adopted son, who planted nearly 60 acres in 1884. Though root crops did reasonably well, grains suffered in the dry climate. The only way to increase yields would be to irrigate the fields, a solution not yet practicable in the far south-western corner of the District of Alberta.34
Samuel Trivett, though disappointed at the slow progress he was making with the Kainai, nevertheless commenced to building a new mission and school on Big IslandOmoksenein the Belly River, close to Stand Off, but off Reserve lands. Meanwhile, the Methodist missionary, Jno. Maclean, concentrated his pedagogical and, ultimately unsuccessful, proselytizing efforts at Lower Agency.
As they became accustomed to directing the affairs of western Natives, officials of the Department of Indian Affairs tried persistently to introduce democracy into the formation of band councils on many reserves. Their reasoning was that they could manipulate the process in order to expel conservative chiefs and install men more compliant to the Departments desires. On the Kainai reserve this policy was suspended, for Red Crow seemed to be doing everything possible to push his people forward as quickly as possible. Perhaps to reinforce Red Crows resolve to accomplish that, in the summer of 1884 the DIA decided that he should witness the power of the Whites. With Sitting on an Eagle Tail of the Piikani, Red Crow was invited to travel to Blackfoot Crossing to join the great Crowfoot of the Siksika and board a CPR train probably at Gleichen for a trip to booming Regina and an interview with lieutenant-governor Dewdney. Red Crow had never suspected that so many Whites existed in the world, and when the party was carried on to Winnipeg where 15,000 New-comers lived in stone buildings that towered thirty, forty feet above the level of streets in which carriages drawn by fine, tall horses contested the right of way with street cars and waggons and carts of every description drawn by huge horses and oxen. Fireless lanterns banished night along the main streets and in the hotel in which the chiefs were lodged amid fancy furniture that they ignored. Water came into the room when a tool was properly manipulated. Clear sheet glass, seldom seen on the Reserve and only in small pieces in Fort Macleod, let the sun through the walls, and even the wind, when adjusted. The chiefs were staggered at the wonders. When they returned to their reserves after a couple of weeks and told their stories, they were frankly not believed by many. Everyone, however, understood that Red Crow was convinced that the New-comers could not be resisted.
It may have been whilst Red Crow was away on his amazing journey that Pocklington received an offer from Wm. Francis (Billy) Cochrane, son of the influential Ottawa politico, Matt. Henry Cochrane, owner of the Cochrane Ranche Company. Expanding from its home ranch at what is now Cochrane, AB, some 20 miles up the Bow River from Fort Calgary, in 1883 the company had taken a lease on the Waterton/Belly doab to the west of the Kainai Reserve. His ranges seeming inadequate, Billy Cochrane approached the Indian Agent with a proposition that some 1,000 of his outfits long-horned cattle be allowed to graze on Reserve lands during the coming January. The fee proposed was $10.00 per head. Figuring that he could use the $10,000 to buy rations and sundry tools besides bank a portion for the Tribe, Pocklington agreed. He neglected, however, to consult the Kainai, and when Red Crow returned from his journey, he was mightily displeased with the plan. More of the money, in his opinion, should be given to his council to be spent immediately on waggons and modern, labour-saving machinery, big horses, perhaps, or oxen. Without such an accommodation, he declined any responsibility for any Cochrane cattle on the Reserve. A compromise was reached and in January of 1885 hundreds of Cochrane cattle were turned loose to graze on Kainai grass. Not an inconsiderable number ended up in nearby cooking cauldrons, prompting the Superintendent of the N-WM Police to establish a post at Stand Off that year.
Arguably, 1885 was the year that the Kainai accepted that they were not going to follow the einiua, the buffalo, into extinction. After another winter in which tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough and scarlet fever carried off young and old to reduce the population to 1,776, the Kainai heard the exciting news that the reviled Crees and their Métis allies were rising against the Whites in the Battleford area. White Calf and his cohorts doubtless hoped that the Natives would embarrass the Whites, but they abided by Red Crows edict that never a Kainai would join the fight except, according Dempsey in Red Crow: …, on the side of the Whites, an offer that was turned down with thanks by Agent Pocklington and Police Superintendent John Cotton.35 Too much a of a savvy politician to miss benefiting from the situation, however, Red Crow used the promised neutrality of the Kainai as opportunity to win benefits for his people. The flour ration was doubledeach Kainai again eligible for one pound of flour per dayand the beef ration increased by a quarter pound with the vile bacon seldom substituted; a new ration house was begun some 22 kilometres upstream from Stand Off for the convenience of clans camped at what became the Upper Agency; and negotiations to purchase Dave Cochranes ranch and fold it into the Reserve were quickly concluded.
Though White Calf and his wild young men were willing to forgo the joy of battle in Saskatchewan, Red Crow could not keep them from riding away to steal horses from the distracted Cree in the Cypress Hills. This and other raids were extended south of the Boundary, the Medicine Line, into AatsiinaGros Ventreterritory as relations with that Nation had deteriorated over the years and they had many horses, not a few of which had been purloined from the Kainai. Raiding closer to home, some Kainai hunters were becoming adept at running cattle off local ranches, and the occasional attractive horse. Attempting to curtail these activities, the N-WMP set up a post in the summer of 1885 at Stand Off. For their part, to stem what were mounting to record losses, the ranchers increased their vigilance, and indeed one young aspiring Kainai horse-thief got shot and wounded whilst practicing his art.
As a reward for declining to ally their peoples with the Cree and Métis forces, the DIA treated Red Crow to another trip down east towards the end of 1885. With fellow Kainai chief One Spot, North Axe of the Piikani, Crowfoot and Three Bulls of the Siksikah, Red Crow set off for Ottawa in company with Fr. Albert Lacombe on the now-familiar CPR passenger train. There the members of the party were much caressed for their loyalty, photographed, interviewed, and lionized as examples of what a progressive, noble Indian should be. Gifted and over-awed with the wonders of the Modern Age, Red Crow and One Spot returned to their miserable hovels on Reserve No. 148A early in 1886.
Not lost on the Kainai in the excitement of this eventful year was the implications of a line of railroad extended into their area. On August 28th of 1885 the Galt-owned North-West Coal & Navigation Company laid the last rail in its Turkey Trail at Coal Banks on the eastern edge of Reserve 148A. Though it was only an industrial road intended to haul coal 109 miles across the undulating prairies to the CPRs Mainline at Dunmore near Medicine Hat, the Kainai expected that it would attract many more New-comers to their neighbourhood, New-comers who would cast coveting eyes upon their beautiful, nearly empty Reserve.
The winter had again been brutal on the health of the Kainai, suffering in their airless cabins, bored, the men frustrated, feeling uselessness, watching their children sicken. Not a few wished that the Nation had joined in battle with the Cree, even if it meant death before the gun muzzles of Major-General Middletons Canadian Militia men. At least it would have been a Warriors proud death, not a mean, feeble death from illness and malnutrition. As the spring of 1886 matured the Kainai were faced with new challenges to their freedom of movement. An Indian Agent named Hayter Reed in charge of several reserves in the Battleford area whence had come many of the Cree combatants involved in Riels Rebellion of the previous year, had begun, with the co-operation of the Police, to require that his charges apply to him for a pass to absent themselves from their reserve. A vindictive, intolerant martinet, his policy was largely punitive in nature; pay-back for the discomfort and worse that some Cree had inflicted upon the White settlers and missionaries in the Saskatchewan District. Though this policy, this restriction, was diametrically opposed to the privileges protected by Treaty 4 which guaranteed that the Cree signatories could hunt anywhere in their former territory, Reed argued that the Cree warriors, by treading the Path of War, had violated the spirit of their Treaty, and therefore had lost the Privilege of mobility. That the many innocent Cree were punished along with those relatively few who had aided Riel, Reed excused with the argument that all Natives should stay on their reserves anyway in order to benefit from the training and education offered there-on. This argument found resonance with the de facto head of the DIA, Deputy Superintendent Vankoughnet, who encouraged other Indian Agents to institute a similar policy. Lenient though he was, Wm. Pocklington admitted the merits of the Policy. Besides keeping his charges close to home where the Farming Instructor W.C. McCord and the man who succeeded him that year, James Wilson, could impart their skills, it would spare the Kainai the blight of debauchery and drunkenness in Fort Macleod or the new and booming coal mining settlement of Lethbridge just off the Reserve to the east. As well, it would spare their White neighbours from the mischief caused by curious or hungry Indians. The local N-WMP were amenable to the plan, perfectly willing to waylay wandering Natives, jailing or escorting them back to the Reserve if they could not produce a written Pass, incarcerating them on the least suspicion of rustling, consuming alcohol, or just simple vagrancy.36
These new regulations incensed Red Crow and the Kainai councils. They remembered well the provision in Treaty 7 that allowed them the freedom to travel anywhere in their erstwhile domain in accordance with their traditional life-style. It was unacceptable that the Whites should unilaterally abrogate that provision, an attack on the manhood of the Nation, the right of a warrior to gain the traditional honours by making war and stealing horses. By then, though, most Kainai relied heavily on rations delivered by the DIA, and those clans who could not account for all their members found their caloric allotment reduced. This led to further friction. Though the Whites had perhaps neglected to write the words into Treaty 7, the Kainai were entirely convinced that they had been promised provisions as long as the mountains stand, as the grass grows should ever the activities of the New-comers interfere with the Nations ability to feed itself. As far as the Kainai were concerned, the ever was the immediate now. For its part, the DIA contended itself that it merely undertook to temporarily support First Nations on humanitarian grounds, and that it was in no way obligated to feed folks forever. It was written, however, that the government would supply ammunition for hunting guns,37 but this clause the DIA ignored, fearing that the ammunition would be turned to other uses. The Kainai, of course, and the many other Nations who suffered this deprivation, viewed this as a breach of the agreement. Their justified and continuing complains about the broken treaty provisions earned the western First Nations a reputation as chronic complainers in the bureaus of Ottawa, whose denizens, for the most part, wished that the Natives would just follow the buffalo, and quickly. It was all about the dollars.
It is impossible that the Native populations could have fathomed that the brand new Dominion of Canada, less than a quarter-century old, indebted by the money borrowed to build the very expensiveand come the late 80s, still very unprofitableRailroad out to the Coast to ensure that the national boast ad mare usque mare was not hollow, had to not further alienate its future earnings. It had to pinch pennies and pinch them it did where ever it could. Tragically, it was at the very moment when the Natives had the greatest need of help that they were given the least. And the Kainai knew this, and everyone of them was dedicated to trying to bring it to the attention of any New-comer they met: the railway workers, the coal miners, the cowboys and shop keepers; to make them understand desperation of the Kainai, and help. Despite a daunting language barrier and a seemingly abysmal cultural gulf, they struggled to be understood, to communicate their plight. Instead they were viewed a filthy beggars to which the sneered epithet drunken soon became a common adjective, warranted or not. In ever deteriorating conditions and vitality, they were required to keep huddled on their reserve, learning, along with the Farming Instructors and the Indian Agents, that the grains that grew perfectly well Down East or in the Old Country, withered and died in the parching heat of a southern Albertan summer.
Nevertheless, Stand Off, sap-oyistanding apartbegan to grow. The police had established a post there in 1885 to discourage rustling and perhaps support the DIA personnel in case Red Crow couldnt keep his restive young men from striking out for Saskatchewan. The Anglican, Samuel Trivett, was building a permanent mission and school on the nearby Big Island. In 1886 David Lambert built a trading post on the Waterton River bluffs, records Adolf Hungry Wolf in The Blood People: A Division of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Toronto, 1977), overlooking Stand Off. What business he managed to negotiate must have been scant at times. The Indians had little money except once a year when the Treaty table was set up and five dollars38 paid out to every man, woman and child, the chiefs getting more. Then, Lambert could sell cartridges for the few rifles that the Kainai had managed to acquire and hold onto, tipi canvas, denim and gingham cloth, threads and beads, hand tools, knives and pots, nails: candy or something pretty to a youngster or and child. The rest of the year he bargained for relics of the Niitsi-tapi past and handicrafts which he sold to museums and collectors Back East. Additionally, he could rely on filling the contingency needs of the Agency and Farm 22.
Come 1886 Billy Cochrane had figured out that if he wanted to graze his cattle near or on the Kainai Reserve, he had better employ a few Kainai to ride herd. His regular cowboys couldnt prevent worrying losses, maybe the Indians, who were going to take whatever they wanted anyway, could do a better job. The Kainai realized, of course, that they were stealing and that the Mounties frowned upon the practice and would even, if they caught a Kainai red handed; jail a man. Jails were not pleasant places for a Kainai to spend any time, and best not risked unless the children were crying hungry. For the most part, the Indians hired were very happy to watch over the New-comers cattle. Not dissimilar to hunting. It was honourable, and clean; riding a horse: no hacking away at the dust earth in the valley bottoms, offending the earth beings with sharp tools. And Cochrane would allot them a few culls to drive home, all nice and legal.
Another thing the Mounties seemed to ignore was the horse raids that were ongoing between the Kainai and mainly the Issapo, the Crows. Those young men, not slaving in the bottomlands or lucky enough to be riding Cochranes range, slipped away southward on fast horses, across the Medicine Line and the Blackfeet Reservation to take their pick of whatever Crow property they could get, and then ride away like lightening. It was dangerous and uncomfortable, bivouacking in the brush and stealing into camps of the alert, well armed and unforgiving foe. Horses kicked or bolted, bullets and arrows flew: some youngsters didnt come home, a matter of little official concern on either side of the Boundary. Writes Hugh Dempsey in The Amazing Death of Calf Shirt, and other Blackfoot Stories: Three Hundred Years of Blackfoot History (Fifth House, Saskatoon, 1994), [i]n all likelihood, both the American and Canadian authorities considered intertribal warfare to be … outside the usual realm of judicial procedures. It was hard to tell one Indian from another, anyway, and as long as they werent stealing the New-comers livestock; who really cared? Let them blow off steam, regain some confidence; the Black Catchers would apprehend them in the old way and persuade the most notorious to periodically desist.
With less enthusiasm and optimism, the farming Kainai faced the spring of 1887. Sickness had continued to attack the people that winter, and the DIA was so exacting with rations that many a survivor was convinced that the Department was trying to exterminate the Nation. James Wilson was at a loss as how to grow oats and wheat to maturity, and his Kainai associates were beginning to doubt his abilities. He was trying to get them to work up the fields and get the crops sown, but in a sad miscalculation, the Department shortened the rations in the belief that an empty stomach would drive workers into the fields. Perhaps that would have worked with cowed British peasantry, but it merely sent most able-bodied Kainai men into the hills to hunt. The people that did go to the fields were becoming increasingly frustrated with the flimsy hand tools that the DIA had purchased from the trading emporia in Fort Benton. After a few seasons of hard use they were junk. Besides, the neighbours were using horse-drawn implements to cultivate and sow, and cut and bind hay and grain. Any savings in labour was as attractive to Kainai as it was to Whites, and the Kainai couldnt understand why the Farm was denying them the advantages.
It was the Departments unsure assessment of the Natives capabilities that bedevilled the very progress that the Department ostensibly had been set up to foster. The majority of the Departments employees simply did not respect the Native Peoples ability to survive in the Modern World, judging from the natives recent past. Always in the back of the Departments political mind was the expectation that Indians would necessarily make bad economic and social decisions both corporately and individually, and therefore, like children, had to be protected for their own good. That was the reasoning behind the hand tools only policy: the Kainai simply could not to be trusted with machinery. This struck the progressive Kainai as very unfair. Their Caucasian neighbours were using fast, labour-saving mowers and binders, and they were denied. The Nation had earned money from its agricultural endeavours, but the Department protected those earnings, and was loathe to allow any money to be spent.
Timely rains, however, were becoming less infrequent as the 1880s matured. Some grain crops were showing a fair reward for the effort.
As for the Kainai relationship with the missionaries, it was disappointing for the latter. The Kainai seemed particularly resistant to proselytization, perhaps they thought that the close resemblance of the Christian God to their Creator39 made actual conversion moot. As for Jesus, well; nearly everybody had children. That He was One with His Father and the Gate-keeper of The Eternal was stretching it a bit as far as most Kainai were concerned. Napi could do tricks, too. Methodist Maclean, teaching at the Lower Agency and trying to interest the Natives in his religion may have sensed this intransigence earlier on. Accepting his lack of success, he decided that the best way that he could help the Kainai was to modernize their council. In the aftermath of 1885 he began promoting the suggestion that Indian district councils be set up consisting of missionaries and teachers, DIA officials and a government-approved headman from each Band or clan, to hear grievances and send delegates to an Indian Territorial Assembly. The idea didnt catch on, the DIA resenting his interference, the Kainai suspicious of such innovative modifications to their long-serving, comfortable form of rule.
Perhaps of more import for the near future were the problems in the school room. Initially the Kainai didnt appreciate that education wasnt something that could be given like a pencil: it had to be earned over time. It took the Kainai some years to accept that they, too, could learn to use the squiggly signs that the New-comers inked on paper. The concept of arithmetic, however, was entirely alien. Every student knew that there could be ten of something, and maybe 20 if she cared to involve her toes in her computations, but beyond that, there were only many, very many, incredibly many, or any other descriptor that she cared to use. As for, say, multiplication of fractions, that was only one of myriad mathematical conceptualization that had never been required of anyone in the Nation, ever. It was difficult for the missionaries to teach, and difficult to comprehend.
In May of 1887 a new nation, a self-exiled nation from the United States, began settling family by family on land between the south end of Reserve 148a and the Boundary. The New-comers were Ora Cards contingent of Mormon fleeing persecution for polygamy south of the Boundary, and they plunked themselves down athwart the avenue of communication between the Blackfeet and the Blackfoot. Red Crow was incensed at what he saw as the bare-faced theft of Kainai lands, no matter where Surveyor Nelson had mistakenly pounded the Reserves boundary stakes in the early 80s. All the land between the principal streams of the St. Marys and the Belly rivers, right up to the Medicine Line to join the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana was Kainai land, Red Crow averred, and he was extremely dissatisfied with Pocklingtons explanations, maintaining to his dying day that the land had been stolen. Nonetheless, despite Kainai objections, Mormon families began moving onto the inter-riparian lands, establishing their main community of Cardston right on the Reserves [new] southern boundary.
A treaty negotiated by the Kainai in June of 1887 with the Crow sought to end the horse raiding back and forth. It failed, dramatically and tragically, when the Crow caught a party of Kainai boys returning laden with spoils and killed six of them near the Medicine Line. The loss was a shock to the Kainai clans who had long considered the Crows as inferior warriors. Further eroding Kainai confidence was their inability to dissuade New-comers from cutting trees on the their Timber Reserve, 148B. With the settlement of the Seventh Day Adventists in the neighbourhood, more and more timber began to disappear from the poorly-marked Reserve. The N-WMP had little time to patrol such a remote region, and the Black-Catchers had not the authority capture nor the facilities to hold trespassers, amongst them boot-leggers such as Fred Pace40 and his rival, J.D. Murray, who still found profit pedalling their poisons to Reserve residents.
In 1888, perhaps anticipating a miraculous harvest on the western reserves, the Department of Indian Affairs cut the meat rations by 20%. Unsurprisingly, neighbourhood ranch cattle began to disappear at a dramatically increased rate. The DIA, however, figured that it had the answer for that: Superintendent Samuel Benfield Steele and Division D of the North-West Mounted Police. Steele and D Division returned to Fort Macleod late in the summer of 1888 after successfully quelling hostilities between the Ktunaxa and the New-comers in south-eastern B.C. Superintendent Steele had real military talents for commanding men and solving problems. Upon his return to The Fort, Steele threw his Policemen into a concentrated effort to relieve the Niitsi-tapi of as much rifle ammunition as he could find, interrupt the Natives line of supply through what was rapidly becoming Mormon territory between the Blackfoot reserves and the Blackfeet Reservation, and to enforce the new quasi-legal DIA regulation requiring that every Indian possess a written permission from the appropriate Agent to be absent from his or her reserve. A veteran of the 1885 hostilities around Battleford, Steele could see the advantages of keeping the Natives in their places. As well, he was dedicated to the Christian vision of God, something that the DIA was increasingly anxious to instil in the Kainai. Steele appreciated that the Pass requirements were illegal, but he was not loathe to instruct his troops to cooperate with the DIA.
Steeles beliefs suited James Wilson, the Farming Instructor, to a tee. He had long been concerned with the Heathen superstitions of the Kainai. Without the Fear of the One True God to guide them, the Kainai could never progress, never advance to claim a share of the new order which had overtaken their ignorance. One practice to which the Kainai stubbornly clung was that of the Medicine Lodge Ceremony, what Whites called the Sun Dance. The aspect of it that so deeply offended Wilson was the self-torture that typically young men inflicted upon themselves in obeisance to the Error that ruled their imperfect comprehension of The Truth.41 Besides, at these dances the Indians were prone to gift each other excessively, if not to actual destitution of the givers, at least to the detriment of their families welfare. In Steele, Wilson found a kindred spirit, a literate man perfectly able and willing to suppress the savage spectacle. Quoted by Hungry Wolf in his aforementioned The Blood People: …, Steele wrote in 1889: The impression had gone abroad that the Sun Dance is a religious festival; it may have been regarded as such at one time, but [knowledgeable Whites] do not now consider it as such. It has degenerated into a gathering merely for the purpose of using up presents of tea, tobacco &c., … [and] should be discouraged; it has the effect of reviving too vividly old associations. Old warriors take this occasion of relating their experiences of former days, counting their scalps and giving the number of horses they were successful in stealing. This has a pernicious effect on the young men: … Steeles underling at Lethbridge, Captain Richard Burton Deane of K Company, concurred. In his Deane, Annual Report, 1889 (Pioneer Policing in Southern Alberta: Deane of the Mounties 18881914 [ed. Wm. M. Baker, Historical Society of Alberta, Calgary, 1996]), he wrote, I went to the sun dance on the [Blood] reserve this year, and I came away with the impression that it serves no useful purpose whatever, and might be profitably replaced by some other form of entertainment. No more than half a dozen would-be braves underwent the ordeal, and some of them were only brought to the scratch by obtrusive and derisive encouragement. It has the effect of bringing out all the bad qualities of the Indians, without any compensating advantages. It feeds the naturally cruel nature of the spectators, it panders to the lust of both sexes, and unsettles the marital relations of the Indians themselves; and last, though not least, it acts as an incentive to the triumphant participant to evince a courage to which he is far from feeling in the commission of some lawless act. And so the concerted assault on the Kainai system of beliefs began in earnest.
Supporting this assault were the teachers in a new school that was completed at Stand Off in 1889. The itinerant priests of the Order of Mary Immaculate had long been a familiar sight in Blackfoot territory. Constantine Scollen, after a few years working with Father Lacombe among the Crees, was ordained in 1873, and with Father Léon Doucet forthwith built a crude chapel, Our Lady of Peace Mission, at a Niitsi-tapi winter camp in the foothills west of what is now Calgary, Alberta. There he baptized some 70 souls into the Catholic faith and continued his mission to the Blackfoot, concentrating on the Kainai, until he fell ill with cholera in 1884. Having been based in Fort Macleod to extend Catholic comfort to the faithful of the region since 1881, Father Émile-Joseph Legal took over from Scollen, likely offering some religious day schooling to those Piikani and Kainai families who had ostensibly adopted Catholicism. Legal soon convinced his superiors that the OMI needed to increase its efforts at recruiting more Kainai for the Roman Catholic church. This required a permanent educational presence on the Reserve, and in 1888 or 89, write the authors of Chief Mountain CountryA History of Cardston and District (Cardston & District Historical Society, Cardston, 1978), Legal established his permanent residence at Stand Off. As part of his proselytizing activities, he and his assistant, Brother Morkin, offered some basic education to the curious Natives who came to see what these Whites were up to on their reserve. Those students that showed some promise, and whose families could be convinced to part with their children, were sent to St. Josephs (Dunbow) Indian Industrial School which Fr. Albert Lacombe had established in 1884 near the confluence of the High and Bow rivers downstream from Calgary.
In his 1970 masters thesis for the University of Calgarys Department of History, The Church Missionary Society Among the Blackfoot Indians in Southern Alberta 18801895, Ian Allison Ludlow Getty states that the Reverend Sam Trivett and his assistants opened in 1889 what the CMS, though there was not yet any dormitories built, referred to as St. Pauls Residential School on the Big Island in the Belly. Competition for pupils added to the friction between the two denominations.
Inhibiting the Kainais unreserved acceptance of the Whites religion was the obvious disagreement between the Anglicans Rev. Trivett and teacher Bourne, and the Fathers in their long, black cloaks. It was unclear to the Natives why there was animosity, but the differences in dogma and practice were evident, hindering the acceptance of Christianity among the Blackfoot, suggests Brain Titley in The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney (UBC Press, Vancouver, 1999). Besides, their own belief system had not nearly been proven erroneous to the satisfaction of the Kainai.
Mentions Hungry Wolf in The Blood People: …, April of 1889 saw Kainai warriors ride out on their last great horse raid into Crow country south of the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana Territory. Superintendent Steele was well aware of this activity, and even of the identity of a few of the participants. In June the Kainai held a Medicine Lodge ceremony, and figuring the thieves would show up to witness the sun dance, Steele despatched some men to arrest them. In traditional Mounted Police fashion, writes Robert Stewart in Sam SteeleLion of the Frontier (Centax Books, Regina,  1999), they burst into the sun dance lodge and seized the fugitives while the rituals were in progress. The raid nearly cost the policemen their lives: murderously enraged Kainai chased them from the site. After putting his forces on high alert, Steele sent Inspector Zachary Taylor Wood out to the Kainai camp to summon Mi’kai’stowaRed Crowto The Fort with the wanted men. When he finally delivered them Mi’kai’stowa was in possession of a nugget of White knowledge likely supplied to him by the Indian Agent, William Pocklington: the Police needed a warrant to arrest people, an item that Steele had not bothered to swear out. Mi’kai’stowa and Pocklington raised the accuseds bail and Pocklington defended them at trial, complaining that not only did the Police violate a sacred ceremony, but they had no right to arbitrarily arrest. Steele disagreed, maintaining that there were so many bad Indians that the Mounties needed not to be bothered by the formalities of warrants if order was to be maintained. C.E.D. Wood of the Macleod Gazette reported the proceedings, and the story was picked up by the liberal press Down East and spun into a David and Goliath story, Red Crow and his mistreated Kainai starring as David. Author Robert Stewart doesnt mention the outcome of the confrontation, only adding that the Minister of Justice later declared that Natives, as wards of the government, could be arrested any time, any where.
Increased N-WMP patrols and the imposition of the pernicious Pass requirement extinguished the Way of the Warrior, writes Mountain Horse in My People, the Bloods. In addition to fighting bravely and well, the acquisition of horses by daring do was the manner in which a man garnered honours, graduated to Manhood. With the Police checking them at every turn, these honours were denied, reducing some men to idle regret, the resulting ennui leading to bouts with the bottle and the wagering of meagre resources on reckless horse racing just to waste time. Other Kainai seemed to rise to the occasion, however, if not farming and gardening on the Nations own lands, then venturing into the money economy of the world outside the Reserve. Even as late as 1889 trains of bull waggons still cursed their way up and down the Old North Road between Calgary and Fort Benton.. A few Kainai got jobs driving these vehicles, or escorting them. Others cut down trees and shaped logs to satisfy the CPRs insatiable appetite for ties and bridging timber, worked as casual labourers on building sites in the towns of the district, cleared brush, carried mail and did other day-to-day tasks for the DIA, or cowboyd for local White ranchers, riding herd on their cattle, breaking horses, building fences, toiling on haying crews. Still others, ironically, sold their services to the Police as guides and special constables, occasionally running their absconding relatives to ground. Women helped in neighbouring farm and ranch houses or on the Reserve Farm. In a controversial, tradition-breaking move, sometime in 1889 Red Crow, Mi'kai'stowa, broke two of his horses to harness for agricultural work. The experiment wasnt entirely successful, the horses being too small for heavy hauling, but it did set a precedence among the Kainai for using the treasured horses for tasks other than combat and hunting.
Though the Kainai were routinely discouraged from dancing to celebrate victories or curry the good will of the spirits, sometimes they were required to perform for the entertainment of visiting dignitaries. When Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, 1st Baron of Preston, the governor-general of Canada since 1888, and his entourage came west on tour in 1889, Lady Stanley expressed her interest in photographing Native dancing. The Kainai obliged, mentions John Herd Thompson in his contribution to The Illustrated History of Canada series, Forging the Prairie West (Oxford University Press, Don Mills, 1998), much to the chagrin of the DIA who worried that any Native celebrations would result in a relapse into savagery, wiping out all its hard work. One suspects that Red Crow and his council did not miss this opportunity to point out the failings of the government in fulfilling its Treaty promises.
In 1890 only 1,703 Kainai presented themselves at the Table to collect their treaty money,42 less than half the count of 1881. Granted, the 1881 number was likely inflated by infiltrators from other Bands and children presented two or three times by different families. Perhaps fearing that a poor diet was contributing to the failing population, the DIA increased the meat ration to one and a third pounds per person per day of beef of very indifferent quality: bone, gristle and fat. Flour, still the of the most inexpensive quality, continued to be doled out twice a week at the rate of less than ½ lb. per person per day.
The Methodist administration in the Albertanamely, John Chantler McDougalldecided in 1890 that John Macleans pedagogical efforts could be better invested elsewhere, and ordered the abandonment of the mission at Lower Agency. It was perhaps that Maclean was an indifferent, uninspiring teacher, or perhaps with the Anglicans steadily building their complex on the Big Island near Stand Off, McDougall concluded that the Protestant ethic would be better served by fewer representatives.
Red Crows attempt in 1889 to adopt some of his hunting ponies to agricultural work proved that the animals were too light to effectively power equipment. Come the summer of 189043 more Kainai pleasantly surprised DIA officials by trading some of their hunting ponies for work horses and oxen in order cultivating land for wheat, barely and oats. Chief Moon, one of Red Crows sons, borrowed a used mower and a rake from the DIA that fall and contracted with the Police to supply 40 tons of hay. With his money he bought his own mower, rake, and, presumably, suitably powerful horses, and went into the business, his success inspiring others to follow suit.
A census of the Kainai conducted in 1891 revealed a population of 2,041 on Reserves 148A and B. Though this count was an inexplicable 300 more than the year previously, the overall decline in the number was alarming. Concerned was Dr. F.X. Girard, the DIA physician who reported measles, mumps, diphtheria, morbid diarrhoea and dehydration, whooping cough, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, sundry influenzas and various poxes as the chief killers. Scrofula and erysipelas had become endemic due to the unsanitary conditions of the cabins. Red Crow or his councillors were of course not privy to Girards report, but the decline was starkly evident in the decreasing number of friends and relatives one could daily greet. Repeatedly Red Crow challenged the authorities over their continuing failure to honour their Treaty promises, one of which was the provision of a medicine chest at every agency, and presumably someone skilled in its use. Where was it? Red Crow demanded. Why were his people allowed to sicken and die like dogs? Was it a conspiracy to eradicate the Red Man?
Exacerbating the health issues of the Tribe was the DIAs continuing tinkering with the rations which, as game disappeared, police patrols increased, and crops disappointed, were becoming the mainstay of the Kainai diet. Desiring that the lazy savages should stand on their own feet and quit costing the Dominion so much money, the Department was determined to eliminate what it viewed as a merely temporary expedient44 initially allowed on humanitarian grounds to a People on the edge of starvation, but ingrained by usage during the passing years, and now accepted as the Indians as their due, even though it was no where written into the Treaty. The Kainai insisted that though the Whites may have neglected to write the words on the Paper, the Treaty Commissioners Laird and Macleod had promised the Niitsi-tapi support should ever the Nations need it. It was not the Natives fault that the bison had vanished: they had lived with the beasts since the Naapi made the earth out of the muskrats mud. Only since the arrival of the Whites had the buffalo gone away. That argument was unheard by the DIA and in 1891 the daily per person allowance of beef was reduced to 1.25 pounds, according to Hana Samek in The Blackfoot Confederacy: A Comparative Study of Canadian and U.S. Indian Policy (University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1987), off-set by an increase in flour from less than a ½ pound to ¾ of a pound. It was believed that this adjustment would inspire the recalcitrant among the Kainai to go to work, but for a man deeply unsure of his new role in his own society and possessing no skills other than riding and hunting, hunger only weakened ability, and the whimpering of his famished wards and the knotting of his own belly were evidence that he was destined with the bison drift away into history.
Getty mentions in The Church Missionary Society …, that by 1891 the Reverend Sam Trivett and his assistants had completed the girls residence at St. Pauls Residential School on the Big Island in the Belly. Trivett moved on that year, leaving the principalship and the responsibility for completing the boys dorm to his replacement, the Reverend Frank Swainson. Trivetts departure was not entirely voluntary. He had for years been a thorn in the side of the DIA, writing letters highly critical of the Departments policy towards the Kainai. His letter of February of 1886 to the Toronto Globe had particularly irritated the DIA, eliciting a letter from the Minister of the Interior himself to the head of the Anglican mission in the far N-WT, Bishop Cyprian Pinkham, requesting Trivetts removal. When the bishop demurred, a campaign of slander and innuendo was launched against Trivett in 1890. This probably had the desired effect of disheartening Trivett, as it came from within his own organization, though it was likely orchestrated by outside interests.
The Kainai saw the departure of a second White friend in 1891, as well. After seven years of administrating both the Blood and Peigan reserves, William Pocklington was relieved of his duties with the former and instructed to concentrate his efforts on the Piikani. His replacement on the Kainai reserve was long-time N-WM Policeman, Acheson Gosford Irvine, who had been Jas. F. Macleods assistant at the negotiation of Treaty 7. Irvine, claims Robert Stewart Sam Steele … was forced from the Mounties and asked for his appointment to the Kainai out of concern for the Natives.
In Charcoals World (Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, 1978), Hugh Aymer Dempsey writes that as the 1890s matured, only a handful of Kainai saw reason to hope that Indians would learn to live as Whites and survive in a new and strange world. Most expected the Kainai to die out, and sooner rather than later, for on September 8th of 1892 the CPR laid the last rail in the southern branch of its standard-gauged Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Mekastoe, some three miles west of Fort Macleod. Now, the Kainai feared, they would be inundated with New-comers looking for new land to plough up and fence off. Many Whites, the Kainai knew, had their eyes on the vast tracts of the Reserve.
Among those who didnt expect the Kainai to fade away was Chief Moon and his several imitators whose haying businesses were doing quite well. In 1892 another man joined the ranks of the Kainai entrepreneurs. Possibly an early exploration by the man who was responsible for the establishment of Coal Banks/Lethbridge, Nicholas Sheran, a coal mine had been dug into the banks of the St Marys River on the Kainai Reserve on an unrecorded date. Seizing an opportunity, a man named Heavy Gun won a contract to provide the Indian Agency with 100 tons of coal per year and re-opened the gopher-hole. Using Native miners and teamsters, he developed the mine and marketed the coal to the Agency, neighbouring ranchers and farmers, schools and the Police. Without the burden of taxes and royalties to factor into his selling price, write Alex Johnston, Keith G. Gladwyn, and L. Gregory Ellis in Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry (Lethbridge Historical Society, Occasional Paper #20, 1989), heavy Gun and his successors were easily able to undersell the competition, a situation sometimes righteously resented in the miners in the White community.
In 1889 the Whites had opened a new front in their assault on the community of the Blackfoot. That year the DIA had sent surveyors onto the Siksika Reserve, I.R.146, to parcel the lands up into 80-acre squares with the idea, writes Samek in The Blackfoot Confederacy: …, that the Siksikah should apply as individuals for private ownership of the plots, just like the New-comers on the homesteading lands outside the Reserves. This, the DIA presumed, would instil the notion of private property and personal possession in the Native mind. Not desirable, from the DIA point of view, was the continuing communal ownership which had seen the Blackfoot nations through the preceding generations uncounted. The innovation proved unpopular with the Siksika. Some saw it as a further attack on their tribal unity, an attempt to further weaken the Nation so that it could be more easily assimilated into the New-comers society; others suspected that the survey was a precursor to Indian lands being thrown open to Whites settlers. Few applied for the allotments. In 1892 the DIA turned its attention to reserve 148, and like their brethren in the Bow River valley, the overwhelming majority of Kainai were apprehensive, passively resistant, preferring that what little of their former vast range had been spared them by the New-comers not be broken up by fences and unseen medicine lines. They instinctively preferred to face the Future as a community, rather than as a group of individuals.
Besides breaking the communalistic outlook of the Kainai, the belief being that individuals would be less resistant to advancement once the solidarity of the Tribe of the Tribe had been dissolved, the DIA wanted to shed the financial burden of supporting Indians, wanted them independent with the least possible investment of government monies: the least money spent on instruction, the least spent on grub-stakes of tools and livestock. When the relentless west winds of southern Alberta licked every last molecule of moisture from freshly plowed fields, hurrying the dry clouds eastward towards Manitoba, leaving wilted grain crops desiccating under the pitiless sun, the DIA bureaucrats in Ottawa muttered into their after-work beers about shiftless, lazy, good-for-nothing Indians whining about ammunition money withheld and the lack of a doctor at their beck and call, never a word of appreciation for all the hard work and expense of feeding them and building schools that were never attended. Gritless ingrates! Typical of the inferior races. Should be cut off and left to either adapt or starve, not coddled and caressed like spoiled children. Rations are merely a reward for indolence.
Agent Irvine lasted in his job as Indian Agent for Reserve No. 148 until November of 1892, little better than a year of unhappiness. Whether he shared Ottawas attitude towards the western Indians, or whether he couldnt stand being a cog in the wheels that were grinding the spirit out of the Niitsi-tapi is a matter of conjecture. His replacement, however, knew what needed to be done in order to propel the Kainai into the modern age. James Wilson knew the Kainai, had been their Farming Instructor since 1886, and was convinced that their dedication to their heathen beliefs was the root cause of their inability to progress. He determined to address that dedication, reducing or withholding the rations of any person even suspected of participating in a sun dance or a potlatch ceremony.45 The Kainai are, however, made of stuff sterner than some other First Nations, proud and confident that they are not in the least inferior to any other people be they red, white or black, and they were not easily dissuaded from holding Medicine Lodge ceremonies, carefully guarding date and locale from hostile ears.
Where as James Wilson was inflexibly apposed to the sun dance and most everything associated with the practice of Native religion, Robert Nathaniel Wilson was not. Called Inuskaisto (Long-faced Crow) by the Kainai, R.N. took over David Lamberts Stand Off trading enterprise in 1891 or 92 and continued his predecessors business of swapping Hudsons Bay blankets, tinned comestibles, tea, tools, guns, and whatnot, for cash, and handicrafts and antiquities, the latter which he, too, sold to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, among other collectors. But the Kainai were more than merely a source of income to him: they were fascinating, especially their ceremonies and customs, the details of which he jotted down in numerous notebooks. He learned their language. Sometimes his attentions were resented, and he was forcibly excluded from several venues over the years, especially if his camera was spotted at clandestine, sacred ceremonies. He was able to famously photograph several scenes of sun dancers at the 1892 Medicine Lodge ceremony, and continued recording his observations for many years.
Jas. Wilson was determined to prohibit the Medicine Lodge ceremony of 1893, in his first year as Indian Agent. He threatened to withhold rations, he refused the Kainai access to monies that had accumulated in the Nations accounts; he tried to disrupt the event in any way he could. It was heathen, he argued; detrimental to the Tribes evolution into civility. And besides, the event typically happened early in the summer, just when good farmers should be busy weeding their fields and gardens, and cutting the first crop of hay. His efforts, however, met with stubborn resistance, as they would until he was relieved of his post in 1898.
By 1893 it was becoming evident to all that dryland farming on the Kainai Reserve using methods developed in moister climes was effort wasted. James Wilson likely, perhaps only privately, had reached that conclusion, and the Kainai were certainly disappointed with the return on their labour. Cattle, however, flourished on the melange of blue g[r]ama, June, bluejoint, spear, and other grasses which Sheilagh Somerville Jameson in her Era of the Big Ranches in (The Best from Alberta History, Western Producer Prairie Books, ed. Hugh Dempsey, Saskatoon, 1981), identifies as the constituent herbs of prairie wool. Several reserve residents had already approached Red Crow and the Council with the suggestion that the Nation should get into that business, and though the Kainai were financially able to buy some stock, there was a problem. All monies that the Nation earned by leasing their pasture to local ranchers, most of the wages that individuals made from working either on or off the reserve, the profits that entrepreneurs like Chief Moon and Heavy Gun made, were apprehended by the DIA and deposited into accounts controlled by the Department. E. Brain Titley in The Frontier World of Edgar Dewdney identifies the prevailing spirit of protective paternalism for the absolute belief among the DIA bureaucrats that Indians couldnt be trusted with money. Indeed, there was some justification for this attitude, for it was only 20 years before that the Kainai were on the verge of cultural suicide, drowning themselves in a sea of booze so turbulent that Red Crow, after some initial reservations, welcomed Colonel Macleod and his N-WMPs as saviours. The American whiskey traders, however, were long gone by the 1890s. Times had changed, but Ottawa hadnt. The withholding of money that rightfully belonged to the Kainai was another grievance added to the growing list: lack of health care, under-payment of Treaty monies, imposition of Pass regulations, failure to provided adequate agricultural tools and guns, withholding of ammunition money and rations …
In the fall of 1893 the Anglicans completed a residence for boys at St. Pauls mission and school on the Big Island. Among the first to be enrolled was James Gladstone, the future federal senator. Children delivered to the institution would not be allowed to return to their families after classes, but would be held virtually prisoners on the school property, immersed in the culture of the New-comers. The basic philosophy is captured in a quote from I.A.L. Gettys aforementioned thesis, The Church Missionary Society Among the Blackfoot …, is this excerpt from a DIA Sessional Paper No. 12 from 1890: The boarding school dissociates the Indian child from the deleterious home influences to which he would otherwise be subjected. It reclaims him from the uncivilized state in which he has been brought up. By 1893 the authorities were sanguine to Natives attitude to education, and were hardly surprised when all of St. Pauls available berths were not filled. The cruel reputation of boarding schools was legend on the Reserves since the Roman Catholics had opened St. Josephs Indian Industrial School near the Siksikah Reserve in 1884. Isolated from their families, immersed in Euro-Canadian culture, shorn of their long hair, prohibited from speaking their mother-tongue, uniformed, inmates were subjected to the enforced discipline of bells to signal changes in routine, inspections, scrubbings, menial labour in kitchens, stables and piggeries, laundries and fields. Punctuality was emphasised and expected, and unquestioning obedience: school was a dehumanizing experience, not unlike prison.46 Children were taken from freedom and home life and plunged into the militarily regimented lifestyle of the school wherein most teachers were self-righteous zealots … who, writes Beverly Hungry Wolf in Daughters of the Buffalo Women: Maintaining the Tribal Faith (Canadian Caboose Press, 1996), saw native ways only in negative terms, with no first-hand experience or understanding. Especially for the girls, in whose St. Josephs dormitory the chapel was located, the school experience included a demoralizing dose of demonization of their own religion. Both sexes were pressured to chose a school mate to wed before they graduated, the missionaries figuring that a couple would be more successful than an individual in resisting retrograde influences on the Reserve, or the advances of a competing denomination. Worse, both for the families of the students and the students themselves, was the enforced isolation from their culture. However good the intentions of their wardens, it was an ordeal for Blackfoot parents to see their children incarcerated, denied visiting privileges, flogged for speaking Indian or trying to escape.47
The construction of St. Pauls Residential co-educational institution represented a substantial investment of time and money for the Church Missionary Society, and neither the CMS nor the DIA was willing to see the facilities underutilized. To compel attendance, the Department applied the same unhappy policy it used to coerce families to send their children off to St. Josephs; denying rations to the families of truants. This was a cruelty to a people who were barely able to stave off starvation to as it was, and apparently the DIA never entertained the notion of increasing rations to families who co-operated. That would cost money.
Finally, in 1893, the matter of the medicine chest as promised in the Treaty was resolved: the DIA built a hospital at Stand Off. To run it, the Department turned to the Catholics. The regional head of the Catholic mission in Alberta, Father Albert Lacombecalled Kind-hearted Person by the Niitsi-tapi for all the work he did on their behalfrecruited Les Surs de la Charité de Nicoletthe Grey Nunsto staff what soon became known as Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Hospital or, simply, Blood Indian Hospital. Though vaccinations were still a terribly frightening ordeal for especially the children, they, and the care that the nuns were able to give, fortified and greatly comforted the Kainai as they struggled with the spectrum of viruses and bacteria gifted to them by the New-comers. In addition to their nursing, the Grey Nuns also began to help Father Legal and Brother Morkin teach.
The assault on the Kainai culture continued in its relentless course. Agent Wilson endlessly schemed to disrupt any Native ceremonies he could detect. New polygamous unions were forbade from 1893 onwards, but the Kainai cordially ignored this edict when it suited them. Though the Niitsi-tapi language was employed by the New-comers to reveal the Truth of Christianity to those willing to listen, so, too, it was used to relentlessly ridicule Native beliefs. At school, however, English was demanded at all times, and those relapsing were often brutalized into regret. Euro-Canadian clothing was expected at school, and as the 90s matured became the norm throughout the Tribe as traditional clothing wore out and the Nations garment makers became familiar with fabrics and grew to appreciate the ease of working them. Even old Mi'kai'stowaRed Crowbought a sewing machine, though one suspects that he likely didnt use it himself.
Edward McNeill had become the Farming Instructor upon Jas. Wilsons promotion to Indian Agent in the autumn of 1892. By 1894 McNeill had serious doubts about farming on the Reserve. For several years the Kainai had been petitioning the DIA to let them try their hand at raising cattle. In June of 1894 their wish was granted when Red Crow and three other chiefs of the Fish Eaters band were allowed to swap 50 head of their precious horses for 50 cows. It is unlikely that the DIA allowed this deal solely out of consideration of the Kainais desires. It saw the supply of rations to destitute Indians as a regrettable drain on its treasury, and was eager to have the Tribes self-sufficient again as soon as possible. If ranching would relieve the treasury of a burden, so be it.
Some of the perhaps hungrier Kainai had for awhile been killing cattle belonging to local White ranchers which had strayed onto the Reserve, attracted by the uncropped herbage. Some animals were butchered, some just killed. Come the summer of 1894 it became a competitive sport among the Nations wilder youngsters, and in August mass arrests were effected. It was another excuse seized on by the DIA to continue to withhold ammunition48 despite the clear wording in Treaty 7. The solution for the Kainai was fairly simple: they rode into the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and stocked up.
In 1894, too, Heavy Gun sold his coal mining operation to Black Horses and his son, Chief Mountain. They continued to supply the police and other Whites, the agency and school, the new hospital and even began selling some to Galt Coal of Lethbridge. As well, men trained in the Native-run mine sometimes found off-Reserve work with Galt.
It was perhaps an amendment to the Indian Act in 1894 requiring families to send their children to school or face legal sanctions that was behind an intentionally-set fire in the boys dormitory at St. Pauls in 1895, the year that Rev. Frank Swainson moved on. The damage was not serious and the residence was soon re-occupied, but the principals chair was not, with a succession of temporaries occupying it for the next 15 years. That autumn of 1895, Billy Cochrane lodged a complaint with the Mounties and the DIA to the effect that his Ranche was missing an inordinate number of cattle. Among those identified as responsible were Crane Chief and The Glove, leaders of a rustling gang of fluctuating membership. Another group that was of increasing concern to the neighbours and even ranches as far away as the Cypress Hills was the Duncan Shade (Dog-in-the-Shade) Gang, whose active members, writes Hungry Wolf in The Blood People: …, included Stephen Fox, Crazy Crow, Hungry Crow, Black Rabbit, Shot-on-Both-Sides, Charlie Goodrider, and Percy Creighton. They specialized in horse theft; mainly for status, as they gave many of the animals to friends and relatives. Several were eventually incarcerated at Stony Mountain in Manitoba, the N-WTs sole penitentiary, and the Lethbridge jail. His generosity possible helped Shot-on-Both-Sides to succeed to the chieftainship of the Nation in the 1910s.
Writes Hana Samek in The Blackfoot Confederacy: …, in 1896, after a half-dozen years of early frosts and late springs, of dry summers and wind and dust, Farming Instructor Edward McNeill and his counterpart on the Piikani Reserve declared that farming was a waste of time, exactly what the Kainai had been telling them for years. Indeed, many of the White farmers in the neighbourhood had pulled up stakes and moved on, leaving their rickety buildings and fences to be happily pulled down and burnt by cowboys both Native and White. Stock raising was the way to go, the Instructors concluded. The prairie wool was hardy and abundant, cattle thrived on it, and the Natives generally liked the work. The bureaucrats in Ottawa, of course, analysed the situation and concluded, writes Samek, that … lack of adequate funding, poor administration by inexperienced or incompetent agents and farming instructors, an unsuitable climate, and resistance from the Indians[,] pests and inadequate technology were the cause of the failure. The bureaucrats, evidently, spared themselves the scourge of criticism, excusing themselves from blame by dint of the financial constraints under which they laboured and the enormity of their task.
To try and ensure the success of the foray into ranching, sometime in 1896 the Kainai Agency hired Cliff Clark as Stockman to manage the cattle and teach the Kainai how to care for them. When Billy Cochrane, employing a tactic to which he had resorted in the past, sought to divert the Kainai youngsters attentions from his cattle by contracting the Nation to cut 400 tons of hay for him49 from the Belly River bottom lands that summer, Clark lent some of the crews Agency equipment and oxen and heavy horses. This didnt meet with the full approval of the DIA, however, who wished that Agent Wilson and instructors McNeill and Clark would encourage band members to pool their meagre resources and buy their own mowers, rakes, and draught animals.
A resolution to the disagreement over annual Medicine Lodge ceremonies was reached between the elders and Agent Wilson that summer. Games, particularly races with prizes, would be the focus of the gathering. Additionally, Wilson promised to surrender an agency beef for a feast. The event was somewhat of a failure, however, as the Bloods proved unenthusiastic participants. Despite this, similar sports days were held for the next few years.
In October of 1896 a disillusioned young man called Si’k-okskitsisBlack Wood Ashes, translated as Charcoalshot and wounded Instructor McNeill while on a rampage during which he killed his wifes50 lover, Medicine Pipe Stem, and, that November, N-WMP Sergeant William Brock Wilde. So badly injured was McNeill that he retired, leaving stockman Cliff Clark as the only instructor on the Reserve.
Only some 1300 Kainai collected their Treaty Money in 1896, 400 fewer than six years earlier. Poor diet and a brutal living conditions tended to kill the very old and the very young. The loss of the young was especially serious, as they would have been the parents of the next generation. Many families continued their migratory lifestyle, but within the confines of the Reserve, eschewing the settled, unhealthy life in the cabins. They struck their tents to move to a favoured berry patch in the spring, to the site of the Sun Dance in the summer, to the haying camps, to the ration houses for the winter. Those who had children in the residential school worried about their off-springs welfare, though there was little they could do to allay their fears as communication between parent and child was discouraged by the authorities. Adding to the Kainai parents trepidations was the opening of the Calgary Indian Industrial School (St. Dunstans) in 1896 to which the Anglican administrators of St. Pauls desired to send their graduates. Farther away even than St. Josephs, it was a frightening prospect for the Blood parents, the thought of their children lost in the alien world of booming Calgary.
For his crimes, Charcoal hanged at Fort Macleod on March 16, 1897. Though the necessity for his execution was appreciated by most Kainaihe had killed a policeman, after all, as well as Medicine Pipe Stemit was still an affront to the Nation, one of their own killed by the New-comers.
In 1897 when Father Legal was called from his work in southern Alberta to prepare to become the Bishop of St. Albert which he did, in 1902. He was replaced on the Kainai Reserve by Father Riou who had the satisfaction of watching the last few months of construction on St. Marys Roman Catholic School near the hospital.
Construction of an entirely different sort also took place on the Kainai Reserve during the year of 1897, and one suspects that it wasnt welcomed by the Natives. After leasing for a few years and converting it to standard gauge, on the last day of 1896 the CPR had agreed to purchase the Alberta Railway and Coal Companys old turkey track railroad51 between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge with the intention of extending it westward through the Crowsnest Pass and into the rich ore fields of southern B.C. Between Lethbridge and the Pass, however, lay Reserve 148A. Short on time and money, rather than delay the construction of the line while it spanned the valley of the Belly52 at Lethbridge, the CPR chose to build south-westward out of Lethbridge, trestle the St. Marys River at its confluence with the Old Man, and run its right-of-way across the Reserve. Old Red Crow suggested that fair compensation for the inconvenience of a line of steel cutting across the Kainai range would be $15 for each man, woman and child. A year later, according to Deane, Monthly Report for Macleod, July 1899 (Pioneer Policing …), Red Crow was still awaiting a response. What kind of a settlement was finally reached is not yet known to this scribbling ignoramus, but the Kainai were not offered access to the trains in the form of a station on the Reserve, and for thirteen years53 they had to put up with endless prairie fires started by the coal-fired beasts.
In 1898 the dormitories of St. Marys Mission Indian Residential School were completed at Stand Off. The classroom block of the school rose to three storeys, the top most sheltered within the mansard roof. Here taught the Grey Nuns. On either side were lower wings, the dormitories, also mansard-roofed, also the domain of the Nuns. Across the road was a chapel. With the completion of St. Marys the competition for pupils between the Anglican and the Roman Catholics intensified, to the continuing discomfort of the Kainai who investigated Christianity, most of who could not yet grasp what the evident animosity between the two denominations signified.
Indian Agent James Wilson was replaced in 1898 by ex-Mountie54 Robert Nathaniel Wilson, the trader who had been living on the Reserve and actively recording the details of Blood culture since the early 1890s. By the time of his appointment, Long-faced Crow, Inuskaisto, was fairly fluent in the Niitsi-tapi language, evidence that he was at least trying to understand the Kainai and, hopefully, be of better service to them than his predecessors.
Though R.N. Wilson was generally well disposed towards his charges, he still had to abide by the DIAs policies, one of which, the informal Pass system, was deeply resented by the Kainai. They were a free-born people with the Treaty guarantee that they could roam at will over there former territory, provided they not molest the New-comers. It was an infraction of the Treaty to restrict them to the Reserve. Another rub was the way that tribal earnings were distributed, with the chief and council seeming to be favoured above the ordinary person.
Under the tutelage of stockman Clark, the Kainai cattle industry was becoming well established. Most of the animals were direct descendents of the herds of Spanish long-horns that American ranchers had driven north into Montana Territory when the grasslands of Texas began to fail in the 1870s. The long-horns were wild and dangerous, hard to handle, hard to confine, and not particularly hefty. Like their neighbouring White ranchers, the Kainai were very interested in improving their herds, so big Hereford bulls were imported to infuse desirable characteristics into the herds. As a breed Herefords were less belligerent, meatier at maturity, and fairly hardy, able to withstand the dramatic fluctuation in weather that is the hallmark of southern Alberta. Cross-bred with the wily long-horns, the resultant off-spring were often range-savvy without the mean streak, and large. Come 1899 the Nation had 1454 head running on the Reserve. Many of the animals were branded ID for Indian Department and were the property of the government to be used in supplying rations or sold for the benefit of the Tribe. The rest of the herd was owned by individual Kainai ranchers, the animals branded with the Lazy B with the ranchers unique number appended.55 The only downside to the Reserve ranching operation as far as the Kainai were concerned was that, like any surplus grain that Reserve farmers were able to offer for sale, any cattle that a Native rancher wanted to dispose of had to be handled by the Agency. The monies realized56 were deposited by the Indian Agent in the account of the individual rancher, to which the account holder had no direct access. To withdraw money an Indian had to apply to the Agent who would judge the validity of the request and act accordingly. This patriarchal attitude tended to stifle initiative, especially if receipts from sales were kept secret, but clandestine deals were not uncommon, with the money realized being reserved by the rancher for his private use.
Despite their resistance, apparently the Kainai were the victims of land reduction in 1898, for the booster pamphlet Picturesque Cardston and Environments: A Story of Colonization and Progress in Southern Alberta (N.W. Macleod, Cardston, 1900) mentions a Ceded Strip of unspecified size along the St. Marys River given up by the Blackfoot that year. Thought to be rich in coal with at least two working mines, Bulls Head and the Josephine, it had long been coveted by Mormon businessmen in the region. The Kainai, had a different version of this generous surrender. On the 27th of July of 1899 a delegation led by Mi'kai'stowaRed Crowand Calf Shirt arrived to consult with Superintendent Deane at Macleod. As noted in Deane, Monthly Report for Macleod, July 1899 (Pioneer Policing …), one of the complaints made at that meeting was about a 20-mile long, gateless four-strand barbed wire fence built by the Indian Agency along the southern boundary of the Reserve. Not only was the fact that the Fence was gateless a matter of concern, but it was built well inside the reserve boundary leaving, as Deane interpreted Red Crow to observe, … room … for a nice little ranche. For whom, wondered Red Crow, were these alienated lands intended, and who was paying for the fence?
The Twentieth Century
Niokskatas! Where are our noble warriors of former days? Where are the people that assembled in our camps by the thousands? Where are the buffalo that covered our plains? See the fences of the white man stopping our trials. See the white mans cattle upon the prairies, and the towns everywhere throughout our land. Niokskatas! Our great men ore gone, our people are dying, our lands are no longer ours, and we, too, shall soon pass away!
The perhaps fanciful Kainai lament above was recorded by the Methodist missionary John Maclean in his Canadian Savage Folk: The Native Tribes of Canada (William Briggs, Toronto, 1896), and is a fitting dirge for Mi'kai'stowa who drowned in the St. Marys River on August 28th, 1900. Without the man who had guided them for 30 years, the Kainai faced with a fragmenting leadership a future even more uncertain than their past.
Sanctimoniously dedicated to the destruction of the last vestiges of Kainai confidence was Arthur B. Owen, the pastor at the Anglicans St. Pauls mission. Owen, assessed by N-WMP Superintendent Deane of Lethbridge in Deane, Monthly Report for Macleod, July 1898 (Pioneer Policing… [p. 92]) …as having more zeal than breadth of mind or tact[,] knew in his soul that what the Kainai most needed to progress was to submit to the One True God. He was determined to make them accept that fact. An implacable and vocal foe of the Sun Dance, his efforts doubtless exacerbated the suspicion with which the Kainai viewed the New-comers confused religious teachings.
Doubtless, as well, must have been the chagrin of Agent Wilson and Pastor Owen when they got wind of the Kainais plan to hold a Medicine Lodge ceremony during the long days of 1900. A party of Bloods had consulted Superintendent Deane in the middle of May, under the mistaken impression that Wilson had said that they needed Police permission to congregate. Deane referred the Kainai back to the Agent who evidently procrastinated. He had mistakenly informed the Kainai at the conclusion of the previous years sports day that he would not give them one of their own cows to BBQ at the conclusion of the festivities. Old Red Crow and the chiefs viewed this as a promise broken and seized upon it as a valid reason to renege on their promise not hold sun dances. Besides, the Kainai allowed the priests to practice their religion on the reserve, therefore the Kainai could practice theirs, albeit without the self-mutilation that so offended the Whites. Permission was denied, but the ceremonies went ahead, anyway, and though Agent Wilson did not call upon the police to break it up, he did withhold ten days rations and confiscated the 12 head of cattle that the Kainai had acquired for their feast.
Unfortunately, the DIAs perception that Indians were little better than children continued to dog the Kainai into the new century. Though the number of cattle on Reserve 148A had reached some 3,000 by 1901,57 Native ranchers were still not permitted to sell their excess animals on the open market, or even slaughter them for their own use. Notes Samek in The Blackfoot Confederacy: …, Indians were required to deliver animals to the Agency slaughtering facility in exchange for vouchers which would permit them one pound of meat per daypresumably for each member of the owners householduntil the dressed weight of the carcass was accounted for. Too, the DIA would occasionally buy a cow from a rancher for general distribution from the ration house to the many families who were without cattle, and to the schools such as the Anglican day school where teacher Napien Hardiman still used hard tack and beef broth to entice hungry youngsters to attend classes.
Researcher Yvonne B. Hill used the official 1901 Canadian census to record in her Alberta District Indian Agency Enumerations (Ancestor Answers, Lethbridge, 1998) that there were 230 permanent dwellings on the Kainai Reserves that year sheltering 288 families, indicating that some families still lived in tents at least some of the time, cohabitating with extended families at other times. Total population was but 1154. Of those, 23 boys between ages eight and sixteen, and 24 girls aged six to eighteen were resident in St. Pauls Episcopal Boarding School, while nine boys and four girls aged seven to twelve were at St. Marys. Away from the Reserve, 21 boys and six girls between ten and 18 years of age were enrolled in St. Josephs Indian Industrial School near the settlement of High River some 100 miles from Stand Off, and ten boys between ten and 18 years old, including James Gladstone, the future senator, were even farther away, in St. Dunstans, the Calgary Indian Industrial School. Though the parents hoped that the deprivations that their children were enduring at these institutions would benefit them in some way, they harboured deep misgivings about the situation, and with just cause, it turned out, for Dr. Peter Bryce, the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of the Interior from 1904 to 1913, would discover that fully 24% of all industrial school students in the North-west would not survive the experience. One in four died, most from tuberculosis which spread like wildfire through the confined populations of the schools, some from mishap or abuse, some from loneliness and despondency.
Back on the Reserve, perhaps to emphasise who controlled the lives of the Kainai, perhaps to accustom them to a wider variety in their diet, in 1902 the DIA introduced eight ounces of dried beans and peas into the daily rations, while reducing the portion of beef to some 13 ounces, and flour to 6.5 ounces. In 1903, Dr. Oliver Cromwell Edwards, the husband of the famous suffragist Henrietta Muir Edwards, was appointed by the DIA as the medical officer of the Kainai.
As well in 1903, despite Kainai misgivings, the DIA entered into a ten-year agreement with the McEwan Cattle Company to graze 7,000 head of cattle on the Kainai Reserve. This brought in $5,000 per year, most of which was banked in the Nations account, inaccessible to the people that had to put up with alien cattle eating down the range. This arrangement brought a problem to the fore: since the Kainai had begun herding cattle in the mid-1890s, mange had been an increasing threat. Caused by mites, Chorioptis bovis, Demodex bovis, and Psorergates bos, it can ruin the hide, as well as discomforting cattle to the detriment of weight-gain and making them susceptible to other maladies. It is highly contagious, and one suspects that McEwan insisted that the disease be addressed. The only known preventative was forcing cattle to swim through a dip of lime and sulphur mixed into heated water, a stinking, miserable chore for the cowboys assigned to the task. Still, the treatment was efficacious and benefited the Kainai cattle as well as McEwans. As the decade matured, other New-comer-owned herds joined McEwans on Reserve 148A. Local operations such as Bells Bellevue Ranch, McNabs Horseshoe Dot Ranch, Knight & Watsons Quarter Circle Two Bar outfit, and the Mormon Church Ranch58 all took leases on the Kainai Reserve. The Natives looked askance as the range deteriorated, leaving their own cattle hungry, and the money piling up in their Agency account, beyond their control. Contributing to the degradation of the range was the line of narrow gauged railroad that the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company ran across the south-eastern corner of the Reserve in 1904 to extend service from Raymond to Cardston. The CPR standardized the line in 1905.
On September 1st, 1905, the Province of Alberta was constituted from the far south-western corner of the North-West Territories. Under federal mandate, this re-arrangement of the New-comers administration meant little to the Kainai except that thenceforth they would be subject to provincial hunting and fishing regulations, further limiting their opportunities for taking wild game. It is highly unlikely that Weasel Fats hall on the Reserve resounded to any kind of celebration to mark the occasion.
The Indian Act of 1906 attempted consolidate the welter of previous acts and amendments into a rational document upon which to found a sustainable policy to deal with the needs of Canadian First Nations people. According to John L. Tobias in Protection, Civilization, Assimilation: An Outline History of Canadas Indian Policy, his contribution to As Long as the Sun Shines and Water Flows (eds. I.A.L. Getty and A.S. Lussier, University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 1983), this Act began to recognize that not only did the system of reserves prevent Indians from integrating into the greater society, but it damaged the economy of the surrounding neighbourhoods. The solution was, of course, to break down the homogeneity of the reserves by legally subdividing them into farm-sized lots and encouraging individual Indians to assume ownership thereof. This initiative received a tepid response on the Niitsi-tapi reserves, the residents still clinging to the belief that they personally stood a better chance of survival if they maintained their tribal unity.
In the opening years of the Twentieth Century, Dr. Charles Saunders efforts with his colleagues on the Dominion Experimental Farms began to achieve successes in developing an early-maturing wheat. Crossing Red Fife and its wonderfully easy milling and superior baking qualities with the fast-growing Red Calcutta, Sanders et al developed a particularly attractive strain, Marquis. Though it would not be generally released to farmers in southern Alberta till 1911, its promising qualities were evident a few years earlier. Personnel at the DIA may have been aware of Saunders accomplishments, for come 1906, after nearly a decade of uncertainty, the bureaucrats in Ottawa re-embraced the notion that the Kainai should be farming. The terrible winter of 1906-07, which saw the wholesale death of range cattle in southern Alberta, was particularly hard on the Kainai herd which had to survive on a range eaten down by the animals of the lessees. This set-back and a few preceding years of adequate rainfall may have convinced at least a minority of Kainai, mainly those who had been exposed to farming theory in the residential schools, that the DIA might have a point, that it was time to try farming again. In 1907, the year that the Anglican-run Indian industrial school in Calgary, St. Dunstans, closed, the Department withdrew enough money from the Kainai account to purchase a big steam-powered traction engine and a breaking plow. With this smoke-belching monster some two square miles of virgin sod on the Reserves uplands was broken and 15 families were assigned 40 acres each, most prominent among them being Chief Bull Shield. The DIA hoped that the success of these families would encourage emulation and the Reserve would simply vanish. Most Kainai, however, recognized the scheme as thinly veiled attempt to assimilate them into the New-comers world.
At the same time that the DIA resolved to eradicate the Kainai Reserve by subdividing it and privatizing the resultant lots, the Department became sensitive to the argument of New-comers neighbouring the Reserve that since more than half of the Kainai population had died off since the Reserve was laid out in 1881, it was now much too large: all that under-utilized land should be freed up for people who would develop its potential, rather than letting it languish uselessly while aspiring White settlers remained landless. Until the revisions of 1906, the Indian Act had defended the size of reserves. Now, should two out of three residents be willing to sell part of their reserve, the deal could be done. The problem was to get a majority of the Kainai to agree. Crop-eared Wolf, Red Crows adopted son, succeeded to the chieftenship of the Nation that year of 1907, and the DIA instructed Agent Long-faced Crow Wilson to broach the matter with the Kainai council. Reserve No. 148A contained 350,400 acres: 40,00059 trimmed from the southern tip near Cardston would not be missed, and would return to the Nation perhaps half a million dollars, part of which, the DIA hinted, might be made available to the Chief and council for discretionary spending. The council convened a general meeting in May, writes Samek in The Blackfoot Confederacy: …, which broke up in acrimony. Another meeting was called for June at which a vote would be taken. This gave the DIA a couple of weeks to educated the apprise the Kainai of the multitude of advantages of selling off excess territory, and to hint to those inclined to oppose the sale that they might find the ration house doors closed to them should they remain recalcitrant. Nevertheless, the final tally was 39 votes pro, 139 con. Why the number of votes totalled but 178 out of a population of at least 1500, Samek doesnt speculate.
The pressure on the Kainai to surrender part of their reserve did not end with the 1907 rejection. With the crops on the newly-broken lands failing in the drought of 1910, the Kainai decided in a flawed vote to lease likely sections of their reserve to outfits exploring for petroleum.60 Canon S.H. Middleton arrived to take over the principalship of St. Pauls Residential that year (or perhaps a year earlier), succeeding a decade of temporary appointees. He stayed for years, marrying Catherine Underwood who had arrived at Stand Off in 1905 to manage St. Pauls girls residence, in 1912. In 1911 the Government of Canada attacked the security of the reserve system yet again when it amended Section 46 of the Indian Act to permit the governor-in-council to alienate Indian lands for municipal rights-of-way or works. Might it have been this issue that was the last straw for Agent Wilson, or did his employer just get tired of his interminable lobbying on behalf of his wards? Whatever were the details, in 1911 he was replaced as the Kainai Indian Agent by W. Julius Hyde.
Come 1912, despite the set-backs suffered in 1910, some 2,000 acres of upland sod had been opened up for cropping with the traction engine and breaking plough. That spring their Instructor told the Kainai farmers to plant mostly wheatlikely the Marquis cultivarand oats. Those without draught animals applied to borrow the Agencys, and any equipment that they did not own, the rental of which would be deducted from their Agency accounts once the harvest sold. The Instructor was probably quite dismayed when he found out that a large number of his wards were going to be absent from the Reserve for a couple of weeks flanking the first week in September, just when the first of the crops should be swathed, bound and stooked to await the threshing crews. The reason? The first stampede in Calgary was to be held, and the Kainai, along with every other First Nation in the southern part of the province, was invited to take part in the parade. Ya-hoo! And several of the Reserves best cowboys were going to try their hands at winning part of the $100,000 in prize money that Calgarys Big FourPat Burns, Geo. Lane, A.E. Cross and A.J. McLeanhad put up. When the Kainai first received their invitation and indicated their intention to go, the DIA objected, fearing that the Indians would tarry in town, defiled and debauched by its delights, ignoring their duties on the Reserve. As well, trick roper Guy George Weadick, the events promoter, wanted the Indians to appear in full regalia to add colour and a touch of the exotic to the proceedings with their dancing and drumming and horsemanship, something that horrified the DIA with the spectre of its wards regressing into savagery after decades of decades of hard work done by the Departments employees to divorce them from their wicked past. Weadick accepted none of this guff, called in a few political favours and watched the DIAs objections vanish. The rodeo and its parade were big successes, thanks in no small part to the contributions of the Natives. To cap it all off for the Kainai, one of their own, Tom Three Persons, won the saddle bronc competition, the only Canadian to win top honours in an event. Back on the Reserve that autumn, the harvest was retrieved successfully, totalling some 20,000 bushels of wheat and 14,000 of oats.
Shot-on-Both-Sides became the Kainai head chief in 1913, the year that the McEwan lease expired. It had supposeèdly paid the Kainai $5,000 per year, but rarely did the Kainai see any of that cash. Mostly it was squirreled away by the Agency, used to buy provisions to restock the ration houses, to buy threshing machines and other implements for the Farm, and livestock. When the Kainai again that year declined to sell their excess lands, the Agency leased part of the range to the Winnipeg-based company of Gordon, Ironsides and Fares61, and Knight and Watson, a local cattle company. These outfits immediately turned their herds loose on the Reserve, insouciant of the carrying capacity of the land. Reserve residents were hired to help the company cowboys mind these herds, one of the several neighbourhood jobs, including delivering mail throughout the region, that was available to the Kainai. Some men worked for Chief Mountain in his coal operation on the St. Marys or toiled in a Galt mine at Lethbridge. Others worked for the Agency on the Farm, on the threshing crews, or herding the DIA or Native-owned cattle for not much more than the $1.50 per day than they were paid in 1908, according to Hugh Dempsey in Tom Three PersonsLegend of an Indian Cowboy (Purich Publishing, Saskatoon, 1997), considerably less than White cowboys earned on nearby ranches. Seasonally, some Kainai, Agency pass in hand, got work weeding or harvesting in the Knight Sugar beet fields around Raymond and Magrath, across the St. Marys River opposite the Reserve. However, writes David B. Iwaasa in The Mormons and their Japanese Neighbours (Alberta History Vol. 53, No. 1, Winter 2005, ed. H.A. Dempsey, Calgary), they …proved insufficient and often ineffective at the work and were soon replaced by Japanese labourers.
In 1914 W.J. Dilworth became the Agent for reserves 148A and B. On August 4th Britain declared war on Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This declaration automatically involved Canada in the conflict, and though First nations people were specifically exempt from military service, eight young Kainai volunteered just for the adventure and to get off the Reserve and out from under the paternalistic eye of Agent Dilworth. Three were killed.
To feed the hundreds of thousands of young men struggling to kill their counterparts in the bloody mud on the German side of the barbed wire in Flanders, the government through its numerous departments encouraged, demanded, an increased output of edibles. The DIA was eager to do its part, and prevailed upon Agent Dilworth to spur his charges to the greater production of grain and beef.62 The Kainai could boast of an extensive haying operation in 1914, and was running a herd of 4,00063 prime cattle64 and some 3,000 horses. They were quite willing to expand these operations, and even up their production of grain, which they did, to 65,000 bushels of wheat in 1916, 27,000 of barley, and 7600 tons of hay. This was not good enough, however, with Whites of every persuasion pointing out that vast tracts of the Reserve were left untilled, unused in a time when the Motherland was in of desperate need. Indeed, claim the authors of The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7, the Kainai cattle operations had been a sore point with neighbouring ranchers for years for the Nation had become self-sufficient in beef, able to supply their own ration houses and even sell animals under the table into the local market. This cut into the neighbours bottom lines and they resolved to cripple the Kainai industry. They pointed out that much Kainai land was lying idle in this time of national need.
In 1917 the DIA began pressing the Kainai to surrender some 90,000 acres in two blocks, one at the north end and one at the south end of the Reserve. King George V, grandson of the Great Mother with which the Indians had signed their Treaty, needed the land to feed his soldiers and reward the returning heroes. Dilworth and his associates exploited and widened the gap between the Nations progressives who appreciated the benefits that improved infrastructure, housing, and modern machinery could bring to the Nation with the estimated one million dollars that the sale would realize, and those who believed that retention of land was essential for the survival of the Kainai as a people. The Agent had a lot of power in those days, Dempsey quotes Senator James Gladstone65 of the Bloods in Tom Three Persons, and could make life miserable for a man. This Dilworth did, when bribery failed, threatening residents with reduced rations and further limitations on contact with children incarcerated in the residential schools. When a forced plebiscite rejected the sale, the DIA declared the vote invalid and redoubled its efforts. A second vote obtained the two-thirds majority needed to alienate the lands, but the tactics that had been employed to gain the outcome desired by the government were so blatantly illegal that the Chief Shot-on-Both-Sides and his council were able to so embarrass Ottawa with charges of intimidation and bribery that a judicial enquiry was called and forced to quash the decision. The DIA shelved further efforts were shelved and left the Nations reserve intact.66
In 1918 the government opened a new front on its assault on western reserves. The Indian Act was again amended to enable the DIA to initiate the process of enfranchisement by coercing able-bodied Natives to accept an allotment on the Reserve from which they would be expected to make a living without assistance, lightening the burden on the public fisc. They could then be saddled with Canadian citizenship; enfranchised. This program met with but limited success on the Niitsi-tapi reserves.
At the same time, W.M. Gardner,67 with the blessing and encouragement of the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott, and his boss, the Minister of the Interior, Arthur Meighen, had evolved a plan to put White farmers on unused reserve lands. It was called the Greater Production Campaign and the DIA simply implemented it, threatening the First Nations with expropriation of their property if they did not acquiesce. On the Kainai Reserve the Campaign began, reports Brian Titley in A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada (University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, 1986), on May 30th, 1918 when an outfit of breaking plows began ripping up 4800 acres of virgin sod in an effort to get a greater production farm into crop as quickly as possible. Right across the best grazing land the ploughs gouged their furrows, rolling the prairie wool under, exposing the roots to the sun and the wind. Former agent R.N. Wilson, still resident on the Reserve, protested that the effort was an attempt to ruin the Kainai cattle business, the foundation of the Nations prosperity, as much as it was to increase grain production. If the arrogant Kainai First Nation was impoverished, conspiracy theoreticians suppose the DIA to have reasoned, it would likely be more amenable to selling off some of its land.
Most Kainai were, of course, incensed. For awhile they had been suffering interference to the detriment of their cattle operation. Animals had been illegally seized, they claimed, and their industry sabotaged. Worse, Reserve residents had been impressed into the work gangs which plowed up their range for the Greater Production Farm. James Gladstone, the future senator, among them. Already the Nation was suffering discrimination against its cattle operation, and that members should still be treated like serfs was intolerable. Adding insult to injury, in 1918 Agent Dilworth arranged the sale of a portion of the Kainai herd for $44,000 with the promise that the Nation would see a return of $50 per head. That did not happen, however, much of the money being reserved for the purchase of calves which did not happen to the satisfaction of the Kainai.
In 1919 the Spanish flu fell upon the Kainai as it did upon every other ethic group and race in Canada, rich or poor, urban or rural. When it finally abated fewer than 1200 Kainai were alive in the world, many still living a semi-nomadic life on the 553¼ square miles of Reserve 148A. There were so few able-bodied workers that the new fields of the Production Farm were left unfenced that spring and the cattle ate the emerging wheat plants which would likely have withered anyway in the arid weather that gripped the region that summer.
J.E. Ostrander replaced W.J. Dilworth as Indian Agent to the Kainai in 1919 and James Gladstone was made stockman, just as one of the worst winters on record struck southern Alberta. Blizzards howled down out of the North, driving cattle into coulees and abandoned shacks in futile attempts to escape the blast, dying in droves packed one upon the other in fence corners and snow-choked ravines. The disaster revealed the true extent of overgrazing on the Kainai Reserve where even horses, which have the intelligence to paw through crusted snow to locate forage, perished for want of food. In the aftermath of the blow the DIA took $21,000 of Band money to buy replacement cattle, but only those favoured by the Agency, claims Dempsey in Tom Three Persons, got any animals to begin new herds. Many families gave up ranching in disgust, while others dipped into their private monies to buy breeding cattle.
In 1921 J.T. Flaunt became the Indian Agent on reserves 148. The Pass Law was 35 years old and most of the 1100-odd Kainai counted in 1920 had lived under the heel of the illegal regulation all their lives. The majority having chosen to resist enfranchisement, they had no representative in the halls of government, no one willing or able to voice the injustice of their situation.68 In November of 1921 four Kainai men were sent to the Lethbridge Jail for participating in a give away dance, against the Law since the early 1890s, a blatant infringement of their rights as human beings to bestow their goods as they saw fit. A sizeable portion of the Kainai still wandered their Reserve, existing on bannock, beef and tea, handouts from the ration house. Only a few fortunates grew gardens of vegetables, much of which they were expected to give to friends and relatives upon harvest. Poverty was communal. With the end of the Great War grain prices, like those of base metals from the mines and smelters of BC, plummeted. Some 15,000 acres of the best rangeland on the Reserve had been broken to grow crops, worthless for cattle, worthless for growing crops of grain that wouldnt return the cost of production. Many Kainai farmers quit, falling back on the ration houses to feed their families. In 1920 and 21 were the worst years, a preview of the weather that would devastate the Prairies a decade later. Some areas in southern Alberta harvested bumper crops in 1923 just as prices were beginning to recover, and in 24 the Kainai who managed to stay in the farming business, reports Dempsey in Tom Three Persons, reaped excellent profits, even managing to sell part of the harvest without Agency interference.
Come the late teens and early 20s, it appears that the Government of Canada finally came around to the idea that the Indian was not going to disappear, that the DIA was not in the business of palliative care, tasked with seeing the First Nations people off the Earth as painlessly as possible. Abetting the change in attitude was the increasing prosperity of the Dominion and international criticism. Natives were dying in droves under the paternalistic guidance of the DIA: why, and how can extinction be prevented? The Why was obvious: institutional poverty without hope ensured unhealthy living conditions which fostered deadly contagions like tuberculosis, small pox and the flu. The How part of the question was much more difficult for the DIA to address. Had the Department done its best already to aid the Indians? Perhaps it had, but that best was the product of an attitude of the God-ordained superiority of one race over another, and attitude which was absolutely ingrained in the Department, inculcated into succeeding generations of bureaucrats by their predecessors. It would take time for the DIA to drag itself into enlightenment, a process that many say is still ongoing as these words are written, in 2006. Immediately, however, in the 1920s the Department addressed the failing health of its wards. A Medical Branch was established within the Department in 1927 which, under the direction of Dr. E.L. Stove, instituted a system of travelling nurses who patrolled the Reserves, administering medications and advising the Natives on matters of hygiene and nutrition. Hospitals were built. On the Kainai Reserve a new facility near Cardston had been completed in 1926, the Grey Nuns continuing their service there.
Despite the DIAs campaign to promote health, come 1931 a Native was still six times more likely to die of tuberculosis than a White.
Although records are incomplete, it appears that Chief Mountain had shut down his coal mine on the St. Marys by 1924 when a new St. Pauls Residential, sometimes called the Old Agency Anglican School, was built with aid of Federal government. Of brick, it rose and impressive three above-ground storeys in a large, squared U, gable-roofd wings facing the front, dormer windows breaking up the plane of the roofs. Big IslandOmoksene was abandoned and Reserve land was allotted for the buildings and the schools farm, the idea being that the institution would be self-supporting. Two years later a new, plain, four-storey St. Marys RC School was brick-built on the Reserve some seven miles north of Cardston and was granted the same arrangement for farm land as St. Pauls Both institutions offered education only to grade eight or age 16, which ever the student first achieved.69 In 1942 St. Pauls began offering its students education to the grade ten level, and in 1948 Kainai students were permitted to travel to Cardston to take classes right through to grade 12. With more and more of the increasing Kainai population choosing to take up residence at Stand Off, a new day school was built there, opening in 1954, allowing elementary pupils to live at home. In 1959 St. Marys expanded their curriculum to offer grade 10, was renovated with a new classroom block added in 1960 and in 1961 offered classes right through grade 12. It was still run by the mean nuns, remembers Beverly Hungry Wolf in Shadows of the Buffalo: A Family Odyssey Among the Indians, by she and her husband, Adolf (Wm. Morrow & Co., Inc., New York, 1983). Very much old school, the nuns attempted to terrify Christianity into little heathen children with strict rules and extreme punishments. However, mentions Hungry Wolf, the childrens … fear of the nuns was strangely balanced with a deep respect for the sacredness of their lifestyle, a Kainai attribute, she suggests, of honouring bravery and spiritual power. In 1962 the DIA began a campaign to integrate Native pupils into the surrounding public and Catholic school systems. This sounded the death knell for Kainai reserve schools. Three dates are given for the final closing of St. Pauls: 1967, 1972 and 1974. Most senior students were then bussed in to attend Cardston High, which had been expanded with DIA financial assistance in 1973, and come the fall of 1985 counted nearly 600 Kainai pupils in its student body. St. Marys had cut many programs and classes in 1968, but may not have finally closed until 1975.
The CPR extended its Stirling subdivision line westward from Cardston to Glenwood(ville) in 1926. Rather than inflicting the bother of the line upon the land-holdings of the Mormon farmers surrounding the southern tip of I.R. 148A for whom it was chiefly being built, the Company obtained permission to meander the rails some 13 miles across the Reserve. It did, however, at least on the paper of the maps, set in two sidings on Kainai lands: Ninastoko, and Omoktai. The line was abandoned in 1976.
In 1926 John E. Pugh was appointed Indian Agent to the Kainai. At that time, and likely from time immemorial, members of the tribal council had been elected for life. Very conservative, they appeared to Pugh loathe to try anything innovative, certainly resistant to any suggestions that might come from outsiders. In fact, in 1925 the Council had discontinued the well-attended Blood Indian Stampede70 because its schedule interfered with that of the Sun Dance. In an effort to implement new ideas, Pugh began persuading the council to allow the election of an advisory committee of younger, educated Reserve residents. Pugh succeeded in convincing the elders and in 1927 the committee was formed.
When Pugh became the Agent in 1926 210 Kainai men were registered as farmers. Most were working only very small plots, using rickety old horse-powered machinery and their own brawn.71 The Greater Production scheme had seen to the breaking of hundreds of acres, mostly at the south end of the Reserve down by Cardston. Here Kainai farming families gravitated during the 20s, much to the chagrin of the Native ranchers when fences appeared, stubble fires ran out onto the range, and farm dogs harassed the cattle. In 1929, though, the Reserves crops were good, and as was the policy of old, most of the harvest earmarked for external sale, some 110,000 bushels, was turned over to the Agent to do the deal. With prices rising nicely, Pugh set his sights on $1.40 per bushel, and resisted the Farmers pressure to just sell now so they could clear their debts and see where they stood. But no. The price had risen to $1.34 by Monday, October 28th. The next day the stock markets crashed, Black Tuesday, and the price slipped to $1.18. Unwilling to take a bath, Pugh held on, betting that the markets would rebound. But the Depression had arrived. Prices continued to slide and Pugh got an average of but $0.84, literally pocket change for some of the Farmers by the time they settled with their creditors.
Ralph D. Regan replaced Pugh as Indian Agent and watched as the Kainai, like everyone else who tried to make a living off the land in southern Alberta during the 30s, struggle. White farmers had the option of just walking away from their land, heading for the Peace River Country, perhaps, to homestead again, or sneaking into green B.C. to look for work. Indians didnt have that luxury. They had to stay on their Reserves and suffer. World War Two came as a relief to most, as the skies of Alberta became the training grounds for Commonwealth airmen and money poured into the region. South African airmen especially, one suspects, felt right a home when they found out that the Natives were confined to their Homelands by a Pass regulation, thought the illegality of the system was becoming widely recognized.
By the 20s the majority of the Kainai had pretty much given up their wild ways. The much beloved sport of horse-raiding had been largely forsworn; it was, after all, treated as rustling in the Kings courts of law: one could end up in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary for many a long year. Open inter-tribal warfare had, of course, been long suppressed, and though animosities persistedas they still dobattles were restricted to the base ball diamonds, hockey rinks, and the parking lots outside of dance halls after a day at the rodeo. The sentiments which inspired Chief Bull Shield to offer his Bands help to the government in crushing Reils uprising in the spring of 1885 were largely forgotten. Though the civilizing influence of the Missions played an important role in this change of heart, part of the reason also lay in the fact that the Kainai were melting away. Referring to H.A. Dempseys slim Indian Tribes of Alberta, White-introduced disease and unhealthy living conditions had reduced the Kainai population from an estimated 2500 in 1878 to 1,800 in 1885 to 1100 by 1920. Indians were fading out of the West. Had the trend continued, the Kainai would be now extinct.
Even before the dirty Thirties had begun killing crops and choking the Prairies in dust, the economic gap between White and Native farmers was widening due to the adoption of gasoline powered tractors and the improvements in agronomic efficiency that they allowed. Discouraged by the DIA from investing in self-propelled machinery, the Kainai stuck with their horses which were at least edible when the Land produced nothing. Kainai men served with distinction during WWII and won for their Band a recollection of the promises made by Ottawa in Treaty Number Seven. Ammunition and clothing allowances which an uncaring government had allowed to lapse shortly after the treaty ink had dried were converted into money and gradually paid, health and education services were improved and a genuine effort was mounted to release Indians from the closet in which White society had confined them. By the Wars end both R.N. Wilson, the former Agent, and R.D. Regan, the Agent during much of the 1930s, had left the Reserve.
In the new Millennium, with a population reaching towards 9500, increasingly well educated and able to conduct themselves effectively in the cut and thrust of Canadian politics, the Kainai have long been in the forefront of Aboriginals insistence that governments live up to their treaty agreements. Like most status Indians72, the Niitsi-tapi long ago concluded that they had been hoodwinked out of their inheritance. At Blackfoot Crossing in 1877, the Niitsi-tapi understood that they were donating their excess hunting grounds to land-desperate New-comers in return for material help in adapting to the new order. But, to quote A.D. McMillan from his Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada (Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver, B.C., 1995), ... it appears that there was a great difference between what [Natives] were told they were signing and the actual written words of the treaties. Gifts such as flags and medals enhanced the illusion that these were pacts of friendship and mutual assistance between nations, while the written provisions more closely resembled deeds of sale. Once the ink had been dusted dry and the Treaty paper folded away into an Ottawa cabinet, the Whites tended to forget their promises in the excitement of occupying a new land, may of them believing that Darwins natural selection would soon eliminate the Indians and the need to honour the Treaty obligations.
Natives proved hardier than the Bison, however, and havent merely faded away like images in a poorly fixed photograph. In fact, just the opposite; in 1985 the Kainai numbered 6342 people, which, though a mere fraction of their pre-contact population, is nearly a six-fold increase since 1920. Today, 2007, as with many world populations, there are more Kainai on the Earth than have ever before been counted. Despite a system of church-run residential schools which seem to have concentrated more on destroying the Natives self esteem and parenting skills than providing education, the Kainai have somehow survived. They have long administered their own affairs through an elected council headed by a chief and monitored by the regularly printed Stand Off paper, the Kainai News. Thanks to its relative wealth and the strength of its numbers, the Nation is influential in both the Indian Association of Alberta and the Assembly of First Nations, the national Aboriginal league. Reflecting Kainai involvement in mainstream politics, the Nations James Gladstone became the first Native member of Canadas senate in 1958, the year long-time chief, Shot-on-Both-Sides, died, and was replaced by his son, Jim Shot-on-Both-Sides.
Better health care has swung the Kainai population from net losses to net gains. Come 1960, when Canada unilaterally enfranchised its First Nations people, a new hospital was being planned for Stand Off and soon completed. Though many families still relied on making money by cutting hay and brush on local ranches, logging, or picking fruit in Washington, the Nation was developing options for its members.
As part of the Indian Association of Alberta (AIA), the Kainai cut their Political teeth on the Trudeau Liberal governments 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy which proposed to integrate Canadian Natives into, quotes Thompson in Forging the Prairie West, full social, economic, and political participation in Canadian life. The Paper was a radical initiative that would have destroyed reserves, the special legal status of Natives, dismantled the Department of Indian Affairs and turned responsibility for First Nations over to the individual provinces with the aim of fully assimilating Indians into the Canadian mosaic. The response, the AIAs Red Paper, effectively countered Ottawas arguments with demands that the treaties be honoured and re-interpreted to meet the needs of the Natives in the modern era. One outcome was the creation of the National Indian Brotherhood.
Though the Band-owned Kainai Industries now employs several score hands at its prefabricated home plant at Stand Off,73 and ranching and farming occupy and reward other Band members, many Kainai have struck out for the bright urban lights in an effort to taste some small nibble of the good life. Of those, some have not met with success. Lacking in skills and education, they fall prey to the cycle of substance, physical and emotional abuse which sees Natives of both sexes greatly over-represented in Canadas penal system. Finally successful in wresting from the courts at least part of the responsibility for administering justice in the Reserve, the Kainai convoke sentencing circles which impose punishments upon malefactors according to traditional mores, and operate the Kainai Corrections Centre for Band members in the final months of their provincially or federally stipulated incarceration.
Come 2004 many families were still able to make their living farming on Reserve No. 148A, 200,000 acres of which had been broken, a tenth of which has been irrigated from the Waterton Reservoir, much of it dedicated to alternative crops such as field peas. Kainai farmers are progressive, and most run cattle on the 130,000 acres of Reserve lands given over to grazing. Diversification seems to be the by-word when it comes to the Kainai integrating their economic activities into the World outside the Reserve. Conservationists at heart, in conjunction with the Cochrane Ecological Institute of Cochrane, Alberta, the Nation is attempting to reintroduce Swift foxes, poisoned out of local existence in the 30s, to the Reserve. Fourteen were released in 2004. Some Kainai are now in the semi-precious gem business since ammonite shell jewellery became popular.74 At the southern end of the Reserve, the St. Marys River has cut down to the Bears Paw Formation, the bed of an ancient sea in which the arthropods lived, providing a handy little industry for the Kainai, both in mining the shell, and patrolling the river bottom to make sure others dont. Others are involved in winning fair value reimbursement from the oil and gas industry to which the DIA had been overly generous in the matter of leasing and exploration permit fees in earlier decades. In this age of American militarism, many young Kainai join the armed forces across the Medicine Line to escape the dead-end of reserve life. Sometimes they come back with skills useful to their people, sometimes they come back broken, sometimes they dont come back.
On October 21st, 2004, in one of his last acts as Chief, Chris Slade officiated at the grand opening of the Saipoyi Community School,75 the latest in a quartet of schools built on the Reserve, not including Mikaisto Red Crow Community College, founded in 1986 and now, in partnership with the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge, a degree granting institution with campuses both at Stand Off and in Lethbridge.
And so life goes on, a constant struggle, with more children being born to the Nation than can be accommodated by the Reserves economy. Families look to the Tribe for support, but the Tribe doesnt earn enough money to take care of everyones wish list. It redirects the demands to the Federal government which it sees as responsible for Indian welfare, but the sad fact is that for these many decades Natives have been dealing with a government whose powerbase lays down East, and on the rare occasion that a western-oriented Conservative government temporarily seizes the reins, it is much more interested in reducing taxes and benefits, and tends to shove Native concerns onto the back burner. Despite his people having been continually marginalized by generations of Canadian governments, Myron Wolf Child, founder of the Aboriginal Peoples Party of Canada, contested the federal Riding of Macleod in the federal election held on the 23rd of January, 2006. His bid was unsuccessful, but a valiant foray none-the-less.
Return to Coalhurst, or continue on to Lethbridge.
Associated articles: The Blackfoot, and The Piikani
Kainai is an independent website dedicated to the Kainai Nation.
The Official Blackfeet Nation Website
Treaty 7 Home Page
Blood Chronology of Education