January 18th, 2021

Ákáí’nissko (Many Deaths Place)

By Submitted Article on September 8, 2020.


Niitsitapi used the area at the junction of the St. Mary and Belly, or Oldman, Rivers as a winter camp. The site was located along part of a traditional migration route known as the Old North Trail. It was known as Ákáí’nissko (Many Deaths Place) after a smallpox epidemic in 1837 killed up to two-thirds of the Blackfoot people and was marked by many closed stone rings.

When teepees are set up, the base of the teepee is secured and protected from the wind by piling stones around the circular base of the teepee, with an opening in the ring for the door of the teepee. When people die in a teepee, the ring of stones is closed. The closed stone rings at Ákáí’nissko mark the places where people died of smallpox.

In early 1870, Kainai leader Aka’kitsipimi’otas (Many Spotted Horses) gave permission to two American free traders, Alfred B. Hamilton and John J. Healy, to set up a trading post in Ákáí’nissko. A photograph taken by William Hook in April 1879 shows teepees to the east of Fort Whoop-Up with the proprietary designs of Aka’kitsipimi’otas.

Hamilton and Healy built a small trading post they initially called Fort Hamilton. This initial building was a simple 60-foot-square structure with six rooms. The traders made huge profits in their first season, and decided to expand into a larger and more permanent fort. After the first trading season, that initial structure was badly damaged by fire, and the new structure was built a short distance away. The construction of the new fort, which came to be known as Fort Whoop-Up, started later in 1870 and took about two years to complete.

2020 marks 150 years since Fort Whoop-Up was established. You can learn more about the history of the fort at https://fort.galtmuseum.com.

Your old photos, documents and artifacts might have historical value. Please contact the Galt Museum and Archives before destroying them.

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