The Tsuu T’ina Pow Wow is held during the last weekend in July. Many people camp onsite in RVs, tents or traditional tipis. The dancing, drumming and singing are judged events with prizes worth many thousands of dollars. The events are scheduled for 7 PM on Friday, 1 PM and 7 PM on Saturday and 1 PM on Sunday. No alcohol or drugs are permitted on site. A traditional rodeo runs throughout the weekend with bull riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, saddle bronc riding and barrel racing competitions. There are concession stands selling food like bannock, fries with gravy, beef on a bun and other traditional festival foods. You can buy traditional arts and crafts and recorded music. There is a lot of playful activity throughout the grounds as well as a more structured game called the “Hand Game” where two groups of people sit across from each other competing to hide bones or sticks among the group and to guess where the other team has hidden them. Hand drumming accompanies the game, making for a lively atmosphere. Towards the end of the evening there is a fireworks display.

I stopped at the original Trading Post on White Ave. where you can buy native crafts and even a jingle dress. I learned a few interesting facts about the Pow Wow from the owner Barb Teghtmeyer. The Pow Wow attracted 5,000 visitors in 2012 and there were 1,000 dancers registered. Another fascinating fact; an adult sized jingle dress should have 365 bells attached.

The dancers wear traditional outfits with feathers, brilliant colours, reflective bits, jingle bells and lots of buttons and beads. During the inter-tribal dance all are welcome to join the shuffle around the centre of the huge open-sided wooden tipi. Different events are held for men, women and junior boys and girls. Some of the traditional dances are; buckskin, fancy, prairie chicken, grass and jingle categories.

First Nations in Canada each have their own territory and their own administration. There are 45 First Nations in Alberta with a total population of about 189,000 people forming about 6% of the total population. The nations in Alberta have reasonably good treaties and good relations with the provincial and federal governments and the people of Alberta. Everyone is welcome at the Tsuu T’ina Pow Wow. It is a great opportunity to learn about and celebrate some of the aboriginal cultural traditions. People from all over North America attend (the 2011 Drum Champions were from Pawnee, Oklahoma), but most of the participants are likely members of the Treaty Seven Tribes; those located in southern Alberta.

First Nations In Alberta

  • 45 First Nations in three treaty areas
  • 140 reserves
  • Approximately 812,771 hectares of reserve land
  • The most commonly spoken First Nations’ languages are: Blackfoot, Cree, Chipweyan, Dene, Sarcee, and Stoney (Nakoda Sioux)

Treaty 6

  • Signed at Carlton and Fort Pitt in 1876
  • Covers central Alberta and Saskatchewan
  • 16 Alberta First Nations

Treaty 7

  • Signed at the Blackfoot Crossing of Bow River and Fort Macleod in 1877
  • Covers southern Alberta
  • 5 Alberta First Nations

Treaty 8

  • Signed at Lesser Slave Lake in 1899
  • Covers portions of northern Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and part of Northwest Territories
  • 24 Alberta First Nations

Treaty Seven was signed at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877. The five tribes represented in the treaty are:

Kainai Nation (Blood tribe) are members of the Blackfoot Confederacy.  Over ten thousand people occupy about 2,000 square kilometres of land in southern Alberta near the Oldman River. Their administration is located in Stand Off.

Pikani First Nation (Piegan tribe) are also part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Their administration is located in Brocket. Their 470 square kilometre reserve is also on the Oldman River west of the Kainai, closer to Pincher Creek. They speak a dialect of the Algonkian language.

Siksika Nation (Blackfoot) The Siksika administrative office is located near Gleichen, about 100 kilometres east of Calgary.  About 6,000 people live on a 664 square kilometre reserve. They are developing a framework for self government which will replace the jurisdiction of the Canadian Government Indian Act.

Tsuu T’ina Nation (Sarcee Reserve) The Tsuu T’ina are related to the Beaver people of northern Alberta who speak Athapascan. About 2,000 people live on their 283 square kilometre reserve which forms the western border of Calgary and stretches about 45 km west to Bragg Creek. The Pow Wow Grounds are adjacent to Redwood Meadows, a residential community of about 350 homes on reserve lands. Under the 1877 Treaty the Tsuu T’ina shared the Siksika Reserve, but they moved to their current territory in 1883.

Stoney Nakoda First Nation is made up of three bands; Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley or Goodstoney who share a 280 square kilometre reserve along the Bow River between the Kananaskis and Ghost Rivers. They are known by many names including “people of the mountains” and “people who cook with stones” which is a literal translation of the name Assiniboine. They are the most northern representatives of the Siouian speaking people of the Great Plains. Tourism and movie-making form an important economic activity for the band who live in the scenic foothills of the Rocky Mountains about 65 km west of Calgary along the Trans Canada Highway.