MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
Crowfoot was about 69 years old when he
died in 1890 and he knew that he was born
somewhere south of the Red Deer River. He
was born a Blood Indian, but after his father's
death he moved north to the Blackfoot lodge
of his mother's new husband.
His elder brother Crow Big Foot was murdered
and Crowfoot the younger brother led a war
party to avenge his brother's death. The followers
gave the name Crow Big Foot to the younger
brother in victory. Police scout, Jerry Potts,
supposedly shortened the name to Crowfoot.
Crowfoot gained a reputation of being courageous
and successful in battle. He always rode a good
white or spotted horse. Crowfoot liked bright colored
clothes and always carried and used an umbrella
as protection against the elements. He was a striking
looking man with penetrating eyes, chiselled features
and long unbraided hair and had a dignified bearing.
When the Mounted Police force arrived at Oldman
River October 13, 1874 the Indians showed scepticism
but were neither friendly or hostile until they found
out the police intentions. Jerry Potts interpreted for
Colonel Macleod while he explained to Chief Crowfoot
that the government was determined to end whiskey
trading and would punish anyone, either white man
or Indian who refused to obey good laws. Crowfoot
reacted favorably with the following speech.
"My brother, your words make me glad. I listened to
them not only with my ears but with my heart also.
In the coming of the Long Knives, with their firewater
and quick-shooting guns, we are weak and our
people have been woefully slain and impoverished.
You say this will be stopped. We are glad to have it
stopped. We want peace. What you tell us about this
strong power which will govern good law and treat the
Indian the same as the white man, makes us glad to
hear. My brother, I believe you, and am thankful."
(Portraits from the Plains page 81 and 82)
Crowfoot's acceptance of the Mounted Police
made their work easier and more likely to succeed.
Crowfoot was a respected leader of his tribesmen
and their neighbors and it showed to the fullest
when they congregated at Blackfoot Crossing
on the Bow River to negotiate Treaty #7 with
On September 19, 1877 missionaries, some
legitimate traders, Northwest Mounted Police
from Fort Calgary, 4000-5000 Indians (Bloods,
Piegans, Stonies, and Sarcee) and the two
Government negotiators, Lieutenant Governor
David Laird (who travelled 24 days to be present)
and Colonel James Macleod all gathered together.
There was a wild demonstration when a few
hundred youthful Blackfoot painted warriors
charged on horseback to the meeting ground
with war whoops and firing guns into the air
as a protest, but there weren't any resultant
As discussions took place some individuals
spoke but Crowfoot had the confidence of all.
On September 22 the Great Chief spoke.
"While I speak, be kind and patient. I have to
speak for my people who are numerous and
who rely upon me to follow the course which in
the future will tend to their good. The plains
are large and wide. We are the children of the
plains. It is our home and the buffalo has been
our food, always. I hope you will look upon the
Blackfoot, Bloods, Piegans and Sarcees as your
children now and that you will be considerate
and charitable to them. They all expect me to
speak for them, and I trust the Great Spirit will
put into their breasts to be good people, also into
the minds of all men, women and children of
future generations. The advice given to me and
my people has proven good. If the police had not
come to this country where would we all be now?
Bad men and whiskey were killing us so fast that
very few of us would have been alive today.
The Mounted Police have protected us as the
feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of
winter. I wish all my people good and trust that
all our hearts will increase in goodness from this
time forward. I am satisfied. I will sign the Treaty."
(Portraits From the Plains page 86)
The Northwest Mounted Police cannon was fired
to end the negotiations and Treaty money was paid
to the Indians: $12 for each man, woman and child;
$25 for each chief and $15 for each Councillor. In
addition each chief got a suit of clothes, a flag
and a medal. This was a great decision in the
event of western Canadian history.
Louis Riel, led the disgruntled Metis in the Red River
insurrection in 1869-1870 and again the Riel
Rebellion in 1885. In order to help his halfbreed
friends to gain their supposed just dues Riel
needed the Crees, Blackfoot and Assiniboines
and other tribesmen as allies. Although the
Blackfoot were on the verge of starvation Crowfoot
remained loyal to the Queen and #7 Treaty and made
it clear to the Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald
by sending him a telegram indicating his loyalty and
principal intentions. He also sent messages to the
Bloods and Piegans of the Blackfoot's intentions.
Despite his neutrality Crowfoot encouraged his people
to help any refugee Crees passing through Blackfoot
land. After the Rebellion the Government of Canada
gave Crowfoot $50 plus a lifetime pass on the
Canadian Pacific Rail lines. The government also
gave Crowfoot, Red Crow, One Spot, North Axe
and Three Bulls, escorted by Father Lacombe, a trip
to Ottawa. The Indians were amazed at the number
of whites there which further indicated to them that a
revolt attempt wasn't feasible.
Crowfoot lost most of his children to smallpox and
tuberculosis. In his final years he travelled among
Bloods, Piegans, Sarcees, Gros Ventres and
Assiniboines in Canada and Montana as a
peacemaker in tribal disputes.
He became sick in 1890 and as his condition
deteriorated the tribe grieved for him. Slow muffled
Indian tom-toms beat constantly while the Chief's
own composition was continuously chanted. There
was sobbing, wailing and armed painted braves
guarding the chief and Medicine Men attending him.
Dr. Henry George was sent from Calgary to attend
Crowfoot diagnosing him as having advancing
pneumonia. He prescribed mustard poultice and some
brandy. Crowfoot accepted the poultice but absolutely
refused brandy as he had always been opposed to
liquor because of its bad effect on his people.
Crowfoot's death bed speech was: "A little while
and I will be gone from among you," he said.
"Whither, I cannot tell. From nowhere we came;
into nowhere we go. What is life? It is the flash of a
firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the
winter time. It is as the little shadow that runs
across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."
Crowfoot's last request of his people was to be
good and remain friendly to the whites.
At his death his best horse was shot so that
he would have a horse to ride when he reached
the "sand hills". (Portraits of the Plains page 90)
Each of his three wives cut off one finger.
Crowfoot died April 25, 1890. He was dressed in
a buckskin suit with a feather head piece adorned
with a stuffed crow and was solemnly taken along
with his saddle and rifle to a burial site at his
favorite site of Blackfoot Crossing where Treaty #7
was signed. A bronze marker was placed on the
grave indicating that he was a "Father of His People".
In 1948 a stone Cairn was erected to his memory at
this same site paying tribute to this man of wisdom,
courage, who made statesman-like decisions and had
great skills as an orator and diplomat.
Crowfoot requested that his brother Three Bulls
succeed him as Chief.
According to Chief Walking Buffalo of the Stonies
"Crowfoot of the Blackfoot Tribe was" the greatest
of them all." (Portraits of the Plains page 79)