Calgary, AB., October 8, 2020 -Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) Chiefs are disappointed that a vandal desecrated an important cultural site placed by the Blackfoot peoples to historically mark their territory and to share with Calgarians.
A city cyclist and his distraught son witnessed someoneattempting to destroy the ancient Blackfoot marker on Tuesday where people come to acknowledge the Siksikaitsitapi, to meditate and offer gifts to their spirit.
The Blackfoot “medicine wheels” depicting the four Blackfoot Nations of the Siksika, Kainai,Piikani and Amskapa’Piikani have been built throughout Blackfoot territories since “time out of mind.” The new circle was arranged next to a half-buried circle of stones that was left behind hundreds of thousands of years ago and rebuilt at Nose Hill Parkin 2015. But due to vandalism, the marker was restored in a ceremony in 2019.
“We’re not surprised but certainly very disappointed that this has happened again. It is not the first time Blackfoot cultural sites have been desecrated and we actually had to repair and replace this marker recently,” says Piikani Chief Kyio’ Taamisoowa, Stan Grier. “This contradicts efforts for reconciliation and our relationships we try to foster under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Murdered and Missing Women Inquiry, the Blackfoot Protocol Agreement with Alberta and the good will we have with the City of Calgary.“Certainly there are legitimate concerns at the heart of this historical debate over systemic racism and the current form of coded racist language and violence toward Indigenous Peoples. However, we understand that this is the work of a lone individual and hoped that the person responsible would be held accountable but on a more positive note, we can only pray that another restoration will bring light to our rightful place and create more awareness and sensitivity within this young man, of its cultural significance.”
The “medicine wheels” have been built throughout Blackfoot territory for thousands ofyears and more recently, restored in areas such as south Texas, Montana, Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Nose Hill Park as important cultural sites.
Kainai, Blood Tribe Chief Maakiiniimaa, Roy Fox stated his concern and pledged the site will be restored. “We will be meeting with our Elders and Chiefs to decide on how best to move forward. Once we have all protocols in place we will gather at the site and will have a ceremony to restore this important landmark we share with Calgarians for acknowledgement, prayer and offering.”
Blackfoot Confederacy CEO Jack Royal said that the original circle is evidence that the Blackfoot peoples used Nose Hill as a lookout, a Buffalo Jump, campsites, cairns, vision quests and to mark who we are since time immemorial, “This is really really a borderline hate crime that breeches a sacred site that’s very significant for us and it’s disheartening too see continual vandalism but we will use this as a positive teachable moment to create education, awareness and sensitivity. In appreciation, we would invite Mr. Anderson, who witnessed the vandal and recorded the destruction. I would even invite the troubled young man to witness the restoration and participate in the ceremony for healing and reconciliation”. Royal says the Blackfoot Confederacy will make an announcement soon to restore the site for its members and general public to enjoy.
Visitors are asked not to disturb the stone circle and is open to everyone.You can make an offering of incense, tobacco, food or fabric at the centre of the circle, and take a moment to reflect.
The City of Calgary parks department has said it is working on an interpretive sign to teach visitors about the cultural and historical significance of the landmark.
Meanwhile, Calgary police said the vandalism incident likely will not qualify as any kind of criminal offence because “the medicine wheel is not personal property.”