Prior to European colonization and the creation of the current Blood Reserve, Kainai (the Blood Tribe) was (and still is) one of four traditional member tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy.
The traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy primarily encompassed areas on the Northern Plains of what is now North America, including the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains and onto the vast prairie, where great bison herds once ranged.
The traditional territory included lands in what are now Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana and was bounded on the West by the Rocky Mountains, on the North by the North Saskatchewan River, on the East by the Sand Hills and on the South by the Yellowstone River.
It was in this Territory where the Blackfoot Tribes fulfilled their purpose for creation and lived their cultural and spiritual beliefs, based on their special relationship that had evolved with “Mother Earth” and her diverse and plentiful resources. The Blackfoot Tribes believed they were a part of their surroundings and not above them. As a result, great respect was practiced for the land and its resources.
In 1877, three (3) of the Blackfoot Confederacy tribes—Kainai (Bloods), Piikani (Peigans) and Siksika (Blackfoot)—along with the Tsuu Tina (Sarcee) and the Stoneys entered into Treaty #7 with the Government of Canada and settled on “Indian Reserve” lands in what is now Alberta (The Southern Blackfeet—Aamskapii Piikani—settled on the Blackfeet Reservation in what is now Northern Montana, USA).
Treaty #7 marked the beginning of a new way of life for the Bloods as their land and resource base was now limited and their traditional livelihood was rapidly disappearing. Kainais’ skahkoyii as we now know it, was set aside for the Bloods and surveyed in 1880 by John C. Nelson, Dominion Land Surveyor for Canada.
The original land set aside for the Blood Reserve was located east of what is now Siksika, along the north side of the Bow River, to near what is now the Saskatchewan border, approximately 100 km northeast of what is now Medicine Hat.
The tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy were forced to adapt to a new way of life, as the great bison herds were exploited and eventually extirpated from most of their historic range and European settlement encroached and prevented the Blackfoot from pursuing their traditional nomadic livelihood and existence.
With European colonization also came the Judeo-Christian ideology and capitalism and a new and different world view of the human species place in the broader order of the plant and animal kingdom.
The highly utilitarian nature of the new European civilization was reflected through its utilization of the newly discovered natural resources, which excluded until recently, the concept of sustainability.
The Prairie ecosystem was viewed as a resource where agriculture could thrive, and as a result, the native prairie began to be developed and cultivated. Agriculture production became the new livelihood for the Blackfoot tribes and they adapted well, due in part to similarities in agriculture and their traditional way of life (horsemanship, herding and plant harvesting).
Although the traditional livelihood and resources of the Blackfoot tribes were disappearing, the spiritual and cultural customs and practices continued, as they are the basis of Blackfoot existence.
1950 - 1960 : A New Way of Life
Up until the mid-1950’s, the Bloods were directly involved in agriculture production and actively farmed and grazed the Blood Reserve with their own human and equipment resources.
The Bloods remained competitive with their non-native neighbors in the area of agriculture production, as the playing field was level so to speak, as the Bloods had access to the same equipment and technology.
As agriculture technology and equipment improved, costs to acquire this new equipment increased and due to limited financial resources, the Bloods could not keep pace with their competitors.
As a result, around the 1960’s, the concept of leasing (renting) to non-Blood members was introduced on the Blood Reserve, where crop production became the responsibility of the new “lessees”.
Numerous Blood Tribe farmers continued their own crop production operations, but were gradually replaced from the 1970’s to the 1990’s by more non-Blood farmers, as improvements in technology continued and production costs further escalated. It became more financially feasible to rent the land, rather than consistently incur annual debt.
Around the 1960’s when “leasing” of the Blood Reserve by non-Blood individuals increased, the need for formal agreements and their administration arose, as outlined in the Indian Act.
The Department of Indian Affairs was the responsible authority in charge of administering these types of agreements, and this is where the Land Management Department evolved.
The first Blood Reserve Lands Administration office was part of the first Blood Tribe Administration operation based out of the old Cardston Post Office. It was at that time when the Bloods became directly involved in administering their own land use agreements.
The current Blood Tribe Land Management Department, that had its humble beginnings in the Cardston Post Office, has progressed and evolved to what it is today. The services provided have expanded and the Bloods have taken on responsibilities addressing land use administration that were previously addressed by the Indian agent. The human resources of the current Department operation are all registered members of the Blood Tribe. No non-Blood members are employed.
The current Blood Tribe Land Management Department is the result of a restructuring initiative that began in 2000 and was completed and implemented in 2003