Description of Historic Place
Blackfoot Crossing National Historic Site of Canada is located at Blackfoot Crossing, near Cluny, Alberta. The site includes the grassy floodplain of the Bow River valley, south of the river known as Treaty Flats on the reserve of the Siksika Nation, as well as the original location of the ford over the Bow River (Blackfoot Crossing), the flood plain, and terraces to the north of the ford. Within the boundaries of the site there are numerous archaeological resources and historical features including Crowfoot’s grave, Earthlodge Village and Treaty No.7 Signing Site National Historic Sites of Canada and the campsite locations of the five First Nations (Tsuu T’ina, Kainai, Siksika, Nakoda and Peikuni) who signed Treaty No. 7. Official recognition refers to the polygon of land within Siksika Indian Reserve No. 146.
Blackfoot Crossing was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1992 because:
- representatives of the Siksika (Blackfoot), Pekuni (Peigan), Kainai (Blood ), Nakoda (Stoney) and Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee) peoples met here with representatives of the Crown to make a treaty in September, 1877;
- Isapo-Muxika (Crowfoot) and David Laird took leading roles in these discussions;
- the treaty facilitated the peaceful settlement of 50,000 square miles, in return for reserves and the promise of livestock, farming implements and other considerations. [SDC July 2009]
Blackfoot Crossing, a ford on the Bow River, has been a focus of human activity for many generations and a meeting place for many peoples and aboriginal cultures. For this reason the site is of integral importance to the traditions of the Siksika Nation. At the cultural and geographic centre of traditional Blackfoot territory, it was one of the few places where the Bow River could be forded safely. Consequently, it was the site where representatives of the five First Nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Tsuu T’ina, Kainai, Siksika, Nakoda and Peikuni) met Canadian treaty commissioners in September 1877 to sign Treaty No. 7. The site continues to be significant to the modern Siksika community as the natural and cultural resources of Blackfoot Crossing bear witness to a continuous history.
The rich variety of the archaeological resources at Blackfoot Crossing reflects the long history of the site and its importance in the traditions of the Siksika. The social and cultural values of the site for the Siksika Nation are enhanced by the rich variety of the archaeological resources that reflect the long history of Blackfoot Crossing. The remains included medicine circles, boulder effigies, cairns, buffalo and antelope jumps, Sundance sites, and tobacco planting fields. Nearby are the earthworks of the Earthlodge Village built circa 1740 by an as yet unidentified Aboriginal people, which bears witness to the interaction of different native cultures at the Crossing. In more recent history, the grave of Crowfoot and his last campsite and the monument to the Cree Chief Poundmaker are of especial importance to the Siksika Nation. In addition, the sites of the first Oblate mission, a whisky trading post, and an Indian Agency post, are evidence of more recent interaction of native and white cultures.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1992; July 2009.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- its location at Blackfoot Crossing near Cluny, Alberta;
- its setting on the grassy floodplain of the Bow River valley, south of the river known as Treaty Flats on the reserve of the Siksika Nation;
- the natural landscape features that made the ford (Blackfoot Crossing) an important meeting place, including its location, the riverain cottonwood trees, the coulees and bluffs of the valley terraces, and the prairie grasslands;
- the spatial and historical relationships of the site with the Earthlodge Village and Treaty Nº 7 Signing Site National Historic Sites of Canada;
- the historical and cultural elements that are significant in the traditions of the Siksika Nation, including the Indian Agency Post, the first Oblate Mission among the Blackfoot, Crowfoot’s last camping place and grave monument, Cree Chief Poundmaker’s monument, the campsite locations of the five First Nations (Tsuu T’ina, Kainai, Siksika, Nakoda and Peikuni), and the Whisky Trading Post;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent, including medicine circles, boulder effigies, cairns, buffalo and antelope jumps, Sundance sites and tobacco planting fields;
- viewscapes from the ford across Bow River to and from the floodplain, river valley, and terraces on the north side of the ford.