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Sarcee or Sarsi Indians of Canada

Sarcee or Sarsi. From the Siksika (Blackfoot) words sa arsi, "not good." Also called:

Castors des Prairies, by Petitot, (1891, p. 362).
Circee, by Franklin, (1824, vol. 1, p. 170).
Ciriés, by Gairdner in 1835 (1841. p. 257).
Isashbahátsa, by Curtis (1907-9, p. 180), meaning "bad robes": Crow name.
Mauvais Monde des Pieds-Noirs, by Petitot (1891).
Sussee, by Umfreville in 1790 (1859, p. 270).
Suseekoon, by Henry, Blackfoot MS. vocab., 1808: Siksika name.
Tco´ko, or Tsu´qos, by Chamberlain (1892, p. 8): Kutenai name.
Tsô-Ottinè, by Petitot (1891, p. 362), meaning "people among the beavers".
Ussinnewudj Eninnewug, by Tanner (1830, p. 316), meaning "stone mountain men": Ottawa name.

Connections. The Sarcee were connected with the Sekani and Tsattine divisions of the Athapascan linguistic family and probably separated from the latter.

Location. When first known to Europeans, the Sarcee were usually found on the upper courses of the Saskatchewan and Athabaska Rivers toward the Rocky Mountains.

Jenness (1938) states that the tribe is constituted of the following five bands at the present time:

1. Bloods, Klowanga or Big Plume's band, of mixed Sarcee and Blood (Blackfoot) descent.
2. Broad Grass, Tents Cut Down, or Crow-Child's band, mixed Cree and Sarcee, hence their name, signifying that
  they came from the north where the grass is thick and long.
3. People who hold aloof or Crow-Chief's band, nearly all pure Sarcee.
4. Uterus or Old Sarcee's band, part Blackfoot, part Sarcee.
5. Young Buffalo Robe or Many Horses' band, occasionally called also "Those who keep together."

History. The Sarcee evidently drifted to the Saskatchewan River from the north and, as Jenness (1938) thinks, "possibly towards the end of the seventeenth century." They are first mentioned by Matthew Cocking in 1772-73, but the erection of a trading fort at Cumberland House, followed by others farther up North Saskatchewan River, soon made them well-known to the traders. Early in the nineteenth century the Indians of the section acquired horses and guns, intertribal warfare was increased to such an extent that several tribes united for mutual protection, and the Sarcee allied themselves for this purpose with the Blackfoot. Nevertheless, they continued to suffer from attacks of the Cree and other tribes, and their numbers were still farther reduced by epidemics, particularly the smallpox epidemics of 1836 and 1870 and one of scarlet fever in 1856. In 1877, along with the Blackfoot and Alberta Assiniboine, they signed a treaty ceding their hunting grounds to the Dominion Government, and in 1880 submitted to be placed upon a reservation, where they declined steadily in numbers until 1920.

Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that there was a Sarcee population of 700 in 1670. Mackenzie (1801) estimated that there were 120 Sarcee warriors in 1801 and that their tents numbered 35. Thompson (1916 ed.) and Henry (1801 ed.) allowed 90 tents, 150 warriors and about 650 souls. Sir John Franklin (1824) estimated that they had 100 tents. When their reservation life began Jenness (1938) believes that they numbered between 400 and 450, but they seem to have declined steadily and in 1924 there were 160 on the reserve, "all commonly considered Sarcee though an uncertain proportion were originally Cree and Blackfoot."

Connection in which they have become noted. The Sarcee are noted as the only northern Athapascan band which is known to have become accustomed to life on the Plains, though it is probable that they merely represent a recent case of Plains adaptation such as took place at an earlier period with the Apache and Kiowa Apache successively.

The Indian Tribes of North of America, by John Swanton, 1953

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