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.