Portrait of Siksika Chief Crowfoot symbolizes hope for future generations

·2 min read
The portrait of Chief Ouray Crowfoot shows him in a traditional buckskin outfit designed by his great-grandfather Joe Crowfoot.  (Jo Horwood/CBC News - image credit)
The portrait of Chief Ouray Crowfoot shows him in a traditional buckskin outfit designed by his great-grandfather Joe Crowfoot. (Jo Horwood/CBC News - image credit)

A portrait of Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot was unveiled in Calgary Saturday night.

Dressed in a traditional buckskin designed by his great-grandfather Joe Crowfoot, the current chief is painted standing near Blackfoot Crossing.

The historically significant spot, about 100 kilometres east of Calgary, is where Treaty 7 was signed.

"When I saw the picture for the first time, when I saw the photo, it took me back to that spot. It took me back to, almost took me back to when the treaty was being signed," said Crowfoot, who is the fourth Chief Crowfoot of Siksika Nation.

"I could just imagine what Chief Crowfoot was going through and what our people have gone through from that time of 1877 until today."

The unveiling was accompanied by the Sorrel Rider Drum Group who played the Chief's Song as the curtain came down.

Jo Horwood/CBC News
Jo Horwood/CBC News

For Crowfoot, the celebration is a reminder of how far Siksika Nation has come since the treaty was signed.

"Just in the last month, we've gotten some of Chief Crowfoot's items back from Exeter, England, we had the prime minister come out to Siksika and we settled the largest and oldest land claim in [Canadian] history, we had signage go up in Castle Mountain in Banff saying that that's Blackfoot territory."

Jo Horwood/CBC News
Jo Horwood/CBC News

Artist Chris Keating created the portrait as a personal project.

"When I met Chief Crowfoot, I immediately knew this was somebody that I needed to paint."

He hopes to see it hung in a public space, and for the people who see it to be inspired to learn more about Indigenous culture and history.

"I would like it to connect with people, maybe introduce to them a bit more of the story within where they live and the land that they're on."

The one-and-a-half-metre tall portrait took Keating about 10 months to complete.

Jo Horwood/CBC News
Jo Horwood/CBC News

Dozens of people, including Mayor Jyoti Gondek, attended the portrait unveiling event, something that Crowfoot noted was a less common occurrence historically.

"I don't know of too many chiefs that would have had an event such as this and [I'm] trying to stay humble, not trying to be arrogant, but also trying to be a role model for some of the youth in our community."

With his four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter also present, Crowfoot said the painting symbolizes hope for younger generations.

"Any parent, any chief, any leader, if they're doing it for themselves, they're doing it for the wrong reasons," said Crowfoot.

"It's all about building a better future for our future generations to come."

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