Previous Exhibit: Kaahsinnooniksi Ao’toksisawooyawa

Blackfoot Shirts Logo.jpeg

In 2010, the Galt Museum & Archives hosted an exhibit called Kaahsinnooniksi Ao’toksisawooyawa Our ancestors have come to visit: Blackfoot Shirts. In producing this exhibit, the Galt partnered with members of the four Blackfoot communities, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the University of Oxford and the University of Aberdeen to curate and present the artifacts and information.

The project brought together researchers who were based in the United Kingdom with Blackfoot people in Canada and the United States, to explore the cultural history and contemporary meanings of five Blackfoot shirts that were being held in the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford in England since 1893.

The shirts were made of deer and elk hide, decorated with porcupine quillwork; some have human and horse hair fringes along the sleeves, and are ritual garments. The exhibit celebrated these remarkable shirts which were worn by people who achieved various honours in their communities through their activities as warriors and providers. Today, Blackfoot elders encourage their young people to achieve a respected place in their community through education and professional achievement.

Today, there are few shirts of comparable age in Canadian museums and Blackfoot people have had little access to such heritage items at these institutions. Nevertheless, Blackfoot leaders have spoken of them as important for youth and hope that learning about the shirts, and cultural knowledge related to them, will help youth to maintain strong cultural identity.

"These shirts are our curriculum. That's how we learn who we are," said Kainai ceremonial leader Frank Weasel Head, in the lead-up to the exhibit opening in 2010.

The exhibit Kaahsinnooniksi Ao’toksisawooyawa Our ancestors have come to visit: Blackfoot Shirts was on display at the Galt for a few months in 2010. You can learn more about this and other past exhibits on the Galt’s website. You can learn more about Blackfoot culture and history in the Galt’s Blackfoot language classes on Thursday evenings from now through January 2020.