Please join us at the Indian Village during your next visit to the Calgary Stampede. Our native interpreters will guide you through the Village and will explain the heritage and the culture of the Treaty 7 natives. Representatives from each of the five tribes, Kainaiwa (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Siksika, Stoney and Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee), are available to answer all your questions. Following is a brief description of some traditional activities you will experience at the Indian Village.

The Tipi, Plains Culture and Dance
The Tipi


Tipi Pole and Peg Preparation
The lodge pole pine was the preferred wood for Northern Plains tipi poles. The selection of poles is based upon length, base width and straightness. After being cut down, the poles are peeled and left to dry by laying them flat on the ground to keep them straight. Dried poles are then cut to the proper length, which is dependent on the size of the tipi cover. Most tipi require 20 – 25 poles. Pegs were obtained in the same manner, but Saskatoon wood was the preferred choice for pegs. The pegs were decorated by removing rings of bark and applying paint.

Tipi Raising
Three or four starter poles are anchored together by a rope and secured by a stake in the center of the tipi circle. Ten to twenty-one poles are added forming the ribs, front and back of the tipi. The number of poles added depends upon the size of the tipi (i.e. a 15 footer needs 13 poles and 21 poles are used for a 21 footer). Once all the poles are secured to the stake in the center of the tipi circle, the covering is pulled up and spread over the poles. Two poles are used to secure the ears of the tipi canvas, which may be left open for ventilation or closed if bad weather occurs. Once the cover is in place, stones or pegs are placed around the base of the tipi to secure the cover.


Tipi Designs
Tipi designs are determined by dreams. The designs are transferred by ceremony. There are two distinct design areas on a tipi. The bottom band symbolizes the earth and is usually painted black, brown or red. The middle area, which is the largest area, is most commonly red & yellow, but can be brown, green, blue or white. If the dream occurred in water, the background is yellow. On land, the background would be red or brown, or if the design was given by birds or other sky spirits, the background colour is white or blue. The top band, symbolizes the sky and is usually painted black to represent the night sky, which is when most dream visions occur.


Some Aspects of the Plain Culture 

Hide Tanning
Plains peoples were noted for their hide-dressing skills. Buffalo hides were used as robes and tipi covers. Elk, deer and moose hides were most often used for clothing. The hides of fur bearing animals were used for decoration. Hides were scraped, treated with a mixture of brain tissue and fat, and then rolled up and left to cure for a period of time. When they were unrolled, they were cleaned. Some were smoked before being made into clothing. After tanning, the soft skins were cut into pieces and sewn together with bone needles and sinew.

Tool & Weapon Making
Bones and antlers were used to make tools such as needles, scrapers and ladles. Stone was shaped into knives, projectile points and club heads. Wood was used for bows, arrows, spear shafts and club handles. Flint-knapping or flaking is the process used to produce effective points. The preferred material for knife and projectile pints was obsidian (available only in the mountain regions).

Different types of animal skins were used throughout the year for various articles of clothing. Deer and Antelope hides were the choice materials because they were soft & thin. Elk hides were thicker and therefore more suitable for winter attire. Robes made of buffalo skins served as sweaters, coats and jackets. In order to prevent the clothing from shrinking after a rain or snowfall, the items were smoked.


Decoration & Beadwork
Traditional items and methods used to decorate clothing and riding gear include seeds and dried berries, claws, feathers, elk teeth and porcupine quills. Colours were added with flower petal dyes, berry juice or other plant extracts. It was the western traders that introduced glass to the natives. A fully beaded men's outfit could take 2 or 3 winters to complete.

Meat Cutting & Drying
Sharp stone knives were used to slice meat into wide thin pieces. It was then cut into strips and hung over a fire or in the sun to dry. The dried meat was usually stored with wild mint for use in the winter months. The wild mint served to keep insects away from the dried meat. Tribes of the foothills and mountains use spruce boughs for the same purpose that wild mint was used.

The meat is dried using the same process as above but to make Pemmican it was then pounded into a powdery texture. Rendered fat and berries were then mixed with the meat. The advantage of pemmican is that it is light in weight and nutritious and can be stored for relatively long periods of time. As with the dried meat, wild mint was used to keep the insects away.

Before traders brought pots and other cooking vessels, the stomachs of butchered animals were used for cooking. Hot stones were placed in the stomach to heat water however some foods were cooked over an open fire. Wild herbs and berries were used as seasonings and dietary supplements.

Stoney Nakoda
Tsuu T'ina