Long before the arrival of Europeans on the Canadian prairie (the wide grasslands of what is now called Alberta, Saskatchewan and ManitobA), the First Nations people lived in a harmonious relationship with their natural surroundings. Every item of their culture, from sewing needles to homes was obtained from nature. Their homes were called teepees and were like large tents made from the skins of deer. These people – tribes with names like the Blackfoot, the Peigan and the Blood people – were nomadic, which means that they travelled from place to place following the animals they hunted or the growth of the berries and fruits on the bushes and trees.
They had horses, although horses came to North America after escaping from the Spanish explorers who brought them here to explore the areas around Mexico and Texas. Boys and girls were both expert riders. They did not use saddles or reins or stirrups; they rode “bareback”. Their clothes were made from deer skins and buffalo skins and decorated with the parts of other animals – tails from squirrels and gophers, quills from porcupines and the delicate bones of birds.
These children of nature did not ever have to go to school. They did not have to study to get into a prestigious college, nor did they have to worry about finding a job after graduation. This does not mean their life was easy. The winters were very long and very cold and there were sometimes wars between tribes. There were also the very great dangers involved in the buffalo hunt. Warriors rode at top speed (with no saddle) beside the huge buffalo shooting arrows to bring them down. The chances of a buffalo turning suddenly or of falling off the horse were very great. We must remember that there were also no hospitals in those days.
Even so, the young people of the tribes must have enjoyed a very pleasant lifestyle: fishing and gathering berries in summer, hunting in the forests in the early morning, dancing around the fire at night and listening to the old people tell stories and legends from long ago.