Sikapinakii and The Buffalo Treaty

By Mase Crow Chief

Near the baseball diamond field beside the Siksika Deerfoot Sportsplex Sikapinakii Lowhorn, a full-time artist from Siksika with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from ACAD, was working on a mural from June 12 to June 23 with the help of Latisha Littlelight. Sikapinakii does research on Blackfoot cowboys and general information on Blackfoot people, and illustrations and murals for companies. In April 2024 Create Space Steps Public Art & The Galt Museum chose her to create a mural that commemorates the 10th anniversary of The Buffalo Treaty. In the past few months, she has been traveling between Lethbridge and Kainai to learn about the relationship that existed between Blackfoots and Buffalos.  

The Buffalo Treaties intent was to protect buffalo for them to come back to reserves so plains people could use them for highly important ceremonies and cultural purposes instead of using livestock cows, it originated in Kainai so they could have their own head of buffalo to protect and since 2021 they’ve doubled it and each year they take two. “They say once you understand the plants and the buffalo and the land you live on Blackfoot people will always be able to evolve.” Said Lowhorn.  An exhibition Sikapinakii did at the southern Alberta art gallery caught the attention of Steps and they suggested she apply to create the mural. She’s met with two elders so far from Kainai, Charles Bruisedhead and William Singer have been teaching her about the relationship that existed.

“The Buffalo Bean, a really pretty yellow flower, only blooms when buffalos are being born, and that’s when you have to prepare for the buffalos to come. There’s another type of flower buffalos lay on that’s kills animals in high doses even if a coyote or a human ingested it, they would either hallucinate or die but buffalos sleep on it, they don’t eat it all, they’re smart, it’s poisonous for predators that come to eat their babies. You know when they say Buffalos are wallowing and they like to create little bowls in the dirt because they’re getting dirt everywhere. Well, they say that these buffalos will wallow anywhere and they’ll wallow in plants and the seeds will get stuck in their fur. So, when they move into the next section they start wallowing and rolling in the dirt, then those little seeds are planted. There’s so much stuff that I’ve learned that shows how important these animals are.” Said Lowhorn. 

Sikapinakii will be meeting with more mentors to learn about the relationship, she has a mentor from Siksika Adrian Stimson specifically helping her with the public art side.  “I think I wanna include a lot of the plants, flowers, and medicine that we use traditionally, I am noticing the plants and buffalos go together. I can already visualize it in my head, but I don’t wanna get ahead of myself, I haven’t even sketched anything yet. I’m waiting to gather all this information first, right now it’s just visualizing buffalos and plants.” Said Lowhorn about the mural she’ll be creating.  

Sikapinakii said being in this project has sparked something in her where she realizes we need to have a protocol or some sort of process where we can take better care of our land. “Other reserves are progressive in the sense of protecting and preserving the plants and knowledge with plants. I think we can have that here in Siksika, I know there’s a really good group of people who do planting but I think it can be really big like what Kanaii is doing with their buffalo paddock and just letting them roam freely somehow in time, how about Siksika tries to do that one day. Gears are moving and after this I wanna get more into plants after this. That seedling giveaway was perfect! Even though I am not doing this mural in Siksika, I am doing it in Lethbridge, we are all a part of Blackfoot confederacy and we all believe in the same things, and we should not be so closed in from the other Blackfoot nations. We should all be working together.” Said Lowhorn.  We wish you luck on your mural Sikapinakii! Thanks for letting us take photos! Go check out her mural at the baseball field beside the Siksika Deerfoot Sportsplex!