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  • Writer's pictureCraig Baird

Vermilions Indigenous History

Since it is Indigenous Heritage Month, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the history of Vermilion, before the arrival of Europeans.

Originally, the land of Vermilion was home to the Blackfoot people. The Blackfoot were called the People of the Bison or Buffalo, due to how important bison were to their way of life.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Blackfoot territory stretched from the Rocky Mountains, down into present-day Montana and parts of Idaho, to the east until about Regina. It was a huge amount of land, with the northern part of the territory being the North Saskatchewan River.

On the other side of the river, you start getting into the lower territory of the Dene, and parts of Cree and Assiniboine territory.

If you go about one hour to the southwest of Vermilion, you will find the Viking Ribstones. Sitting on a hill that rises over the area, these stones have been carved with ribs and other bison attributes. It was, and remains, an extremely important location for the Indigenous people.

From the hill, the Indigenous could look out over the land and see the bison herds, and where they needed to hunt. The stones themselves likely served a ceremonial purpose as well and were probably a pilgrimage spot.

Going back to Vermilion, once Europeans arrived in eastern Canada and started giving guns to the Cree in exchange for furs, that changed the territorial dynamic.

The Cree, using guns, were able to massively expand their territory to the north and west, eventually arriving in the area of present-day Vermilion where they pushed the Blackfoot out of.

This sparked a territorial conflict that lasted for decades, and only became more deadly as the decades went on. In fact, the last Indigenous battle ever fought in what is now Canada was fought between the Cree and Blackfoot near Lethbridge.

Eventually, realizing the fighting needed to stop, the Cree and Blackfoot came to a peaceful arrangement, dividing their territory with the Cree getting north of the Red Deer River, and the Blackfoot getting south of it.

Sharing Canadian history through social media, history columns and on my podcast is what I do for a living. Please consider supporting that by donating at www.canadaehx.com (click Donate).

Contact Craig at craig@canadaehx.com

Listen to his podcasts Canadian History Ehx, Canada’s Great War, From John to Justin, Pucks and Cups and Canada: A Yearly Journey on all podcast platforms.

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