Oftentimes, when one thinks of Indigenous people in Edmonton, the Cree and Métis may be the first to come to mind. The Blackfoot (Nitsitapi) people are mainly located and associated with Southern Alberta, but their traditional territory reached as far north as the North Saskatchewan River. Many call Edmonton their home today and have family ties across the province.
Traditionally in Blackfoot cosmology, the sun is the father, Napi (Creator), and the moon is the mother. Many of their stories acknowledge the sky and the stars. The stars are often referred to as Sky Beings. Ssopmitapi means Star Person. It’s believed they were sent to earth by Napi to help the Blackfoot people and the bison to have a reciprocal relationship. It’s also believed the star people brought sacred teachings which are still used in Blackfoot ceremonies.
The Manitou stone is a sacred meteorite once located on a look-out point near present-day Hardisty, 195 km southeast of Edmonton. The Blackfoot marked the location with huge stones that resembled 3-dimensional bison shapes made from light-coloured quartz rocks that had markings of the bison skeleton. As well as Sspomitapi, the teachings of this fallen star, the Manitou stone, have given gifts to the Blackfoot people that are still relevant.
In the 19th century, the Manitou stone was moved to Ontario by missionaries who marveled at its size and the esteem it elicited from local Indigenous communities. In the 1970s, the meteorite was returned to Alberta, but instead of it being returned to its original site near Hardisty, it was placed in the Royal Alberta Museum, where it remains.
Special thanks to the Blackfoot Elders who took the time to tell these stories.
- Maahtoomohkitopi (Rod First Rider)
- Minnipokaa (Peter Weasel Moccasin)
- Misamiksiss’taki (Marvin Mistaken Chief)
- Ninnai Kissimmee (John Chief Moon)
- Naminaistohmi (Blair First Rider)
- Aahsaopi (Laverne First Rider)