Historical Photos from the Siksika Nation

The Blackfoot Confederacy, or Siksikaitsitapi, is comprised of the Piikani, the Kainai, and the Siksika Nations, as well as the Aamskapi Pikuni in Montana. Since time immemorial the Siksika were the children of the plains and were likely the first Indigenous people encountered by European explorers as they ventured westward. Their traditional territory spanned from the North Saskatchewan River all the way south to the Yellowstone River in Montana; and from the Continental Divide in the west to the Great Sand Hills in what is now Saskatchewan.

Old Sun, head chief of the North Blackfoot (Siksika), Alberta, 1883

Historically, the Siksika were bison hunters and warriors, often clashing with rivals such as the Cree or Assiniboine. They relied on the bison to provide the necessities of life and would follow the great herds from one hunting ground to the next. Their culture was passed down from one generation to the next orally, as they had no written language. This included the importance of sweat lodges, Sun Dances, and the use of medicine bundles, among other spiritual practices. After Isao-muxika (Chief Crowfoot) signed Treaty 7 on behalf of the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1877, the Siksika people were confined to their newly established reserve at Blackfoot Crossing, which is east of Calgary.

Blackfoot girl with cat, Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1880

As with many other Indigenous people across Canada, the Siksika Nation’s culture has been threatened by the policies and practices of colonialism, including the Indian Act, residential schools, reserves, and the pass system. These acts have had ongoing impacts with Indigenous communities and have resulted in multi-generational trauma for many Indigenous people. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are examples of the ongoing work of reconciliation in this country.

Rabbit Carrier, Blackfoot man, Alberta, 1886-1890
Blackfoot (Siksika) family migrating, southern Alberta, 1885
Blackfoot (Siksika) man, Gleichen, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot (Siksika) Soldier Clan dance, Gleichen, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot (Siksika) camp near Gleichen, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot (Siksika) group, Gleichen, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot (Siksika) man, Gleichen, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot men on horse, Alberta, 1890
Blackfoot dancers near Indian agency, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Drying meat, Blackfoot (Siksika) reserve, Alberta, 1900s
Little Back Bone and Frank Raw Eater, Blackfoot (Siksika) reserve, Alberta, 1900
Chief Yellow Horse, Blackfoot (Siksika) reserve, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot house and tipi, Blackfoot (Siksika) reserve, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot dressed for chicken dance, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Three Blackfoot men on horseback at Springfield Ranch, Beynon, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot surface grave, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1905
High Eagle, Blackfoot, with rifle, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot during Lord Minto’s visit to reserve, southern Alberta, 1900
First Blackfoot Ranch, Gleichen area, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot “pow-wow” near Blackfoot agency, southern Alberta, 1900
Farm on Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot student with teacher, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot individual, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Willie Mayfield, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
William and Mary Waterchief, Blackfoot reserve, Alberta, 1900
Little Axe as a minor chief, Blackfoot (Siksika) reserve, Alberta, 1900
Blackfoot man standing outside in traditional clothing, southern Alberta, 1893-1894

For similar collections, please see previous posts about the Tsuut’ina Nation and the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Grand parade of Blackfoot, Alberta, 1907

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.



About Tyler Dixon 217 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.