Banff: a place to learn about Canada's First Nations


In 1902, Norman Luxton, a local newspaper publisher, opened The Sign of the Goat Curio Shop to trade beadwork and furs with the Stoney Nakoda people. The shop became the Indian Trading Post on the south bank of the Bow River. This venture eventually led to the foundation of the Buffalo Nations Museum.

Luxton was a sort of mountain Renaissance man. In addition to running the newspaper, he was an adventurer and entrepreneur. He built a hotel and theatre in the town of Banff and was an avid student of native culture. More about him here.

The Stoney Nakoda have lived in this area for hundreds of years. According to their website, they are a First Nation of about 5,000 people. They are also known as the Rocky Mountain Sioux and are linked to the Plains Assiniboine. (More)

I was curious about the origin of the name of the Bow River, and found the answer on a plaque near the water:
"The native name for this river means 'the place from which bows are taken.' Douglas fir saplings along the riverbanks were highly valued for making hunting bows."

The river must have been the lifeblood of many people. Its banks are abundant in wildlife and many varieties of plants. From the Rocky Mountains, the Bow flows eastward through the city of Calgary. It then joins other rivers to form the South Saskatchewan River, which empties into Lake Winnipeg. Its waters then flow into Hudson Bay, thousands of kilometres away from the peaks of the Rockies.

The scenery is so beautiful here that it inspires spirituality. You can sense it in the words of the Stoney Nation. This is how they describe their 1877 agreement with the government:

Treaty No 7 is understood by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation as a sacred, living agreement that was intended to create a relationship of trust, mutual respect, and cooperation between our people and the Crown. This sacred agreement, in its oral and written forms, encompasses the presence of the Creator. It grows and changes over time to ensure the original vision of sharing and cooperation is maintained, for “as long as the river flows, the sun shines and the grass grows”.

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