Red Crow Oct 9, 2008 15:13:37 GMT -5
Post by grahamew on Oct 9, 2008 15:13:37 GMT -5
Red Crow in Chief's Coat, by Ernest Brown, 1895
Red Crow (Mi’k ai’stoowa) was the leading Blood (Kainai) chief of the last part of the nineteenth century.
Born into the Fish Eaters Clan in 1830 at the junction of the Oldman and St Mary River’s in Alberta, he was from a long line of traditional leaders: his grandfather, Two Suns, his father, Black Bear, and his uncle, Seen From Afar, were all Blood chiefs. He had a traditional upbringing and became a renowned warrior in fights with enemies like the Cree, the Assiniboin and the Crow, taking part in 33 raids and killing five enemies during his life. It seems likely that he also took part in an attack led by the renowned chief Calf Shirt (his father-in-law) on American settlers on the Missouri in 1865. He was never wounded throughout his fighting career.
Red Crow was chosen as leader of the Fish Eaters after his grandfather and then his father died during the smallpox epidemic in 1869. Two years later, in 1871, he led a party of Blood that killed 60 Crows in their camp on the Upper Milk River.
Aside from smallpox and enemy tribes, the other challenge facing the Blackfoot during this period was the effects of the influx of whisky. During one drink-induced quarrel, Red Crow killed his own brother, Kit Fox; in another, he killed two men who attacked him; in a further incident, his principal wife was shot dead by a stray bullet. He grew into an even stronger leader from these personal tragedies, saying, ‘I have had enough of war and trouble.’
In 1874, he was pleased to welcome the arrival of the NWMP at Belly River because they endeavoured to end the whisky trade; the friendly relations that developed between him and Commissioner Macleod led to his acceptance of Treaty No. 7 in 1877.
Three Bulls (Siksika), Sitting on an Eagle Tail Feathers (Pikuni), Crowfoot (Siksika), Red Crow (Kainai); by Thomas George Anderton at Fort Walsh, 1884 or in Calgary just before the 1886 trip east - although I'm not aware that Eagle Tail actually participated in that journey.
This view was clearly taken on or around the same date
As was this.
Over the next few years, he became the most important Blood leader, as other bands looked to him for guidance. However, this period also saw the destruction of the buffalo herds and the hunting in the winter of 1879-1880 was particularly poor. In 1880 he selected the site of the Blood reserve at Belly River and by the end of the year had moved onto it with over 60 families. He quickly settled into a log cabin and by 1884 had the largest vegetable garden on the reserve; in 1890, his son, Chief Moon, was competing with white haying contractors; in 1894, Red Crow exchanged some of his horse herd for cattle and by 1900, he owned 100 head out of a reserve cattle population of over 2000.
It would be wrong, however, to see Red Crow as purely an accommodationist. He fought strenuously against the reduction of rations and the substitution of bacon for beef and came into conflict with government agents as he tried to resolve matters in a more traditional fashion.
In religious matters, he was a traditionalist, although he sought the help of the various denominations working on the reserve in secular matters like education and was baptised a Catholic in 1896. Although agent James Wilson stopped the Sun Dance in 1895, Red Crow successfully fought for its restoration in 1900 and he continued the tribe’s medicine pipe dances against the wishes of the agent.
Red Crow by Frederick Steele, ca. 1895. The shirt Red Crow is wearing is a favourite Steele prop, as is the war club.
He kept his people out of the Riel Rebellion, probably as much out of his traditional enmity towards the Métis and their Cree allies as much as his friendship with the NWMP and his allegiance to the Canadian government, and, along with Crowfoot and some other leaders, was invited to visit eastern Canada at the behest of the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was so impressed with the Mohawk Institute in Ontario that he became an advocate for the education of his own people as a means of survival and progress in a changing world, later sending his adopted son, Shot Close, to St. Joseph’s Industrial School at Dunbow, near Calgary.
William B. Pocklington (Kainai agent, seated), North Axe (Pikuni), Red Crow (Kainai), Dave Mills (interpreter) and E. R. Cowan - presumably taken during or just before or after the 1886 trip east. In the print I've seen, North Axe is identified as One Spot, but unless the identifications in the other pictures are incorrect, this is North Axe.
Back Row: Father Lacombe and Jean L'Heureux; middle row: Three Bulls and Crowfoot (Siksika) and Red Crow (Kainai); front row: North Axe (Pikuni) and One Spot (Kainai); taken in Ottawa, 1886.
One Spot (Kainai), Red Crow (Kainai), Jean L'Heureux (interpreter) and North Axe of the Northern Pikuni, 1886.
He is widely regarded as one of the most important native Canadian leaders and by the time of his death only a few weeks after the 1900 sun dance, he had encouraged reliance on ranching and farming as opposed to dependence on the government and he had sought to provide education for his people so they would not be subservient to the whites.
The Red Crow family maintained the role of leadership among the Bloods until as recently as 1980 and the name has been bestowed upon visiting British royalty as a sign of respect: the Duke of Windsor was honoured with it in 1919; Prince Charles received the name in 1977.
Red Crow's shirt worn on the 1886 trip to eastern Canada; now in the British Museum.
The above was largely stolen form various websites which seem heavily reliant on the excellent work of Hugh Dempsey, the leading scholar and historian of the Blackfoot and biographer of Red Crow.