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The Great Blackfoot Treaties

by (author) Hugh Dempsey

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
Sep 2015
General, Indigenous Studies, Native American
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price

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“A must-read for historians and their students.”—Annette Bruised Head, Kainai High School Principal, Blood Tribe


The expansive ancestral territory of the Blackfoot Nation ranged from the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta to the Missouri River in Montana and from the Rocky Mountains east to the Cypress Hills. This buffalo-rich land sustained the Blackfoot for generations until the arrival of whiskey traders, unscrupulous wolfers, smallpox epidemics, and the encroachment of white settlers on traditional hunting grounds. These factors led to widespread poverty and demoralization, forcing the Blackfoot to appeal to the Canadian government for protection.

The result of this appeal was Treaty Seven, one of eleven numbered treaties signed across western Canada between 1871 and 1921. Under its terms, the Blackfoot gave up all of southern Alberta in exchange for reserves based upon five people per square mile. In practice, the treaty rendered the Blackfoot powerless and wholly dependent on the government. The Great Blackfoot Treaties examines the context and enormous impact of Treaty Seven, as well as other treaties affecting the Blackfoot during this time period.

About the author

Hugh Dempsey is an author, historian, and researcher. He is the former associate director of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, and is currently its chief curator emeritus. He is also the editor of the quarterly Alberta History. Dempsey was made an honorary chief of the Kainai Blackfoot in 1967 and in 1975 was invested as a member of the Order of Canada. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Great Blackfoot Treaties, Maskepetoon, Firewater, and Crowfoot.

Hugh Dempsey's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“A great read by the Dean of Alberta historians.” —Donald B. Smith, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Calgary

“Hugh Dempsey is the preeminent chronicler of the historical relationship between Alberta's aboriginal peoples, primarily Blackfoot, and settlers. Many authors and academics have covered this territory, but none have done so with Dempsey's empathy and understanding of both sides, combined with a flair for telling a great story.” —Tadzio Richards, Alberta Views

The Great Blackfoot Treaties is a gift we should all appreciate. It not only draws together in masterful fashion the scattered extant evidence, both oral and documentary, Native and white, that Hugh Dempsey has so assiduously collected, but presents a historical picture that is so balanced, so clearly written, and so insightful, particularly from the Blackfoot side, as to be conclusive.” —William E. Farr, Professor, O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana

“[A] vital and nuanced recounting.” —Gordon E. Tolton, author of Healy's West

“Dempsey’s eloquent display of storytelling captures the spirit and intent of both the Blackfoot leaders and government agencies. A must-read for historians and their students.” —Annette Bruised Head, Kainai High School Principal, Blood Tribe

“Dempsey writes with authority ... His writing is detailed but accessible and helps to illuminate this important chapter of our history.” —Nelle Oosterom, Canada's History

Other titles by Hugh Dempsey