CHULA (AKA: Bull Head, Little Chief & Stamixo’tokan). He was the head chief of the Tsuu T’ina at the signing of Treaty 7 in 1877. Chief Bull Head was born in 1833 to a long lineage, and a fine tradition of Tsuu T’ina chiefs. The Tsuu T’ina were originally from a northern Deane tribe (Beaver people) who split hundreds of years ago. Oral tradition story tellers recall that after a disagreement between two of the chiefs brothers (possibly over the accidental death of a prized dog). An estimated two hundred members of the tribe led by one of the brothers moved into the territory of the Niitsitapi (Siksika/Blackfoot).
Here is the Tsuu T’ina’s own creation story:
About 3,000 years ago when the Athabascan were one Nation (Tsuu T’ina means ‘a great number of people’), a great separation occurred in the north.
As the People were crossing a frozen lake in the deep cold winter, a small child noticed a horn sticking up from under the ice. He cried for the horn to play with, and to stop the child from crying, his grandmother took out her stone axe to try pry the horn free, thinking that someone ahead of them had dropped the horn.
What she did not realize was the horn was attached to the head of a monster sleeping under the ice. The grandmother unknowingly woke up the monster and it stood up, busting through the ice and separating the People.
Instead of re-grouping, the Athabascan branched out and settled to our present day locations.
This story of separation is similar in all Athabascan history. For example, The Dene say the horn was an Elk horn attached to a frozen carcass. Their story says that the weight of the carcass, combined with the grandmother chipping the ice and the weight of the People crossing, was the reason the ice broke through. The Navajo have the same story, except the horn was on a Buffalo carcass. The moral of the story is ‘ never spoil the children.
After the great separation, the Tsuu T ’ ina travelled south with a smaller population and came into Blackfoot territory. This area covered the North Saskatchewan river south to the Yellowstone river in Montana, and from the Rocky mountains east to the Cypress Hills and on into Manitoba.
Previous historical sources refer to the group as the Sarcee. “Sa arsi” is a Blackfoot word meaning “not good”, often interpreted as “Stubborn”, perhaps referring to the Tsuu T’ina’s resolve not to be displaced despite raids and battles. Over time the Tsuu T’ina were adopted by the Blackfoot as part of their confederacy. During that time they lived in the area of Great Slave Lake and the edge of the Rocky Mountains. In 1865 Bull Heads older brother was killed by the Cree, by 1870 he had adopted his brothers name “Bull Head” and became chief. Described as a wiley warrior his war tally includes thirty battles, five enemy kills, three scalps, and numerous horses, and war trophies captured. As chief Bull Head promoted a nomadic and traditional lifestyle and is remembered for his abiding and steadfast dedication to his people.
By November 1880 Bull head and his people were starving, the buffalo were long gone, and his tribe aimlessly wandered the plains. Bull Head and his warriors approached Fort Calgary and told the four guards that if the tribe was not given food they would take over the Fort, Hudson Bay store and the I.G. Bakery. Thirty two soldiers responded from Fort Macleod to quell the unrest and find a resolution. As a result the Tsuu T’ina were allowed a winter camp at Fort Macleod, and in spring 1881 Bull Head and his followers moved to a temporary reserve S.W. of Fort Calgary.
When the government and Chief Crowfoot settled on a permanent reserve for the Blackfoot in southern Alberta the Tsuu T’ina initially went along and they shared a reserve near Gleichien, but there were problems. Bull Head, using his persuasive skills, lobbied the federal government for a reserve located next to Fish Creek, southwest of Calgary. He wrote a letter to Ottawa outlining the problems encountered at Blackfoot Crossing, and explained that since the Tsuu T’ina had a distinct language, culture and tradition they deserved to be treated as a sovereign nation with its own land.
On June 27, 1883 the Tsuu T’ina were given their own reserve near Elbow River and Fish Creek, the reserve was 108 square km. in the rolling foothills along the mountains. Although the land was difficult to cultivate, and the Tsuu T’ina initially did not take to farming Bull Head inspired willingness in his people to succeed. Being next to the town of Calgary brought drinking, prostitution, and grifters to influence the first nations people. Bull Head himself made the paper several times with alcohol getting the better of his considerable size and strength, although his warrior nature was generally unaffected. At the same time he also protected his people. Once when a wash basin was taken to be turned into a drum for a ceremony he confronted the arresting officers looking for the thief by telling them “(His people) need a drum more than the town folk need a wash basin” and that was the end of that.
By 1895 the Tsuu T’ina were devastated, indian agent Samual Bringham Lucas observed “Until recently they considered themselves doomed to extinction in the near future and did not appear to wish to exert themselves to avoid what they considered their inevitable fate.” Although Bull Head was described by Superintendant McIllree as “…a very bad man who exhibits a most pernicious influence over people”, it was that attitude which saved his tribe and his land. Despite the struggle and starvation the Tsuu T’ina never gave up, and continued to survive and adapt. They also resolved to never give up their land, and to this day a carin of stones on the reserve has grown over time added to by the tribal members in rememberance to always keep their bit of land. Bull Head always maintained his traditional religion and values. Bull Head is to be remembered as an outstanding leader and pivotal player in Tsuu T’ina culture and history. He succumbed to consumption in 1911 and his successor was Jim Big Plume.

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