One of the most pathetic stories in Canadian history is about the signing of Treaty Number Seven with the Blackfoot Indians on September 22, 1877. Chief Crowfoot insisted that the meeting take place at Blackfoot Crossing on the Bow River, near present-day Cluny. Four thousand Indians came: Blackfoot, Blood, Piegan, Stoney and Sarcee. Some wore little more than war paint and a breach-cloth. They sat on the ground with the chiefs in front, then the head men, and braves, with women and children in the rear.
Canada was represented by David Laird, Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories. The negotiations took five days, and the treaty which resulted was better than those which preceded it. Each chief was promised a horse, wagon and harness. There was a medicine chest for each band and a grant of $1,000 for three years for provisions to those Indians who engaged in farming. An important additional clause assured the Indians of aid in times of pestilence or famine.
Crowfoot, the leader, was one of the greatest Indians who ever roamed the prairies. When he died, Will Rogers said he was sure there would be a horse and saddle waiting for him in Heaven. While the negotiations were taking place, the Indians were fed by the Government, but Crowfoot would not take anything. He did not want it said that he had been influenced by gifts of food or tea. Finally he made a speech to Governor Laird: “I hope you will look upon the people of these tribes as your children and that you will be charitable to them.” He thanked the Northwest Mounted Police who, he said, “have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter.”
When the Indians were paid their treaty money, they bought what they wanted from the traders and went to the reserves that had been created for them. Within three years, the buffalo had disappeared and the once proud owners of the plains were reduced to killing their horses for food.
“If the Police had not come to the country, where would we be all now? Bad men and whiskey were killing us so fast that very few indeed of us would have been left today. The Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter. I wish them all good, and trust that all our hearts will increase in goodness from this time forward.” – Crowfoot, 1877