Stanley Knowlton

Year: 2008
Location: Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump
Profile: Stanley Knowlton is a member of the Blackfoot First Nation who was born in Pincher Creek and grew up on a reserve where, in the 1960s, people still lived much as they had before contact with Europeans. They hunted, fished, and made use of local plants. What was missing were the buffalo that once had provided them with a resource that serviced most of their needs. The Alberta government’s construction of the Oldman Dam, completed in 1991, led to flooding that largely ended local self-sufficiency. Knowlton was one of the only children on his reserve who did well in school because only he spoke English as well as Blackfoot, and the school did not accommodate Indigenous languages or culture. After high school, Knowlton moved to Calgary and became first an automotive mechanic, and then after joining the air force briefly, an employee of Alberta Corrections. He decided to study geography at the University of Lethbridge and then completed an MA in Native American Studies. In 2006, he began working as an interpreter at Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage site. That involved presenting the culture, the archaeology, and the landscape of the region. Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump is an historic buffalo jump located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where the hills meet the prairies.
            In his interview, Knowlton describes the division of labour in a buffalo hunt, and the expertise required both by male buffalo runners and women skinners and processors of captured buffalo whose work required speed and an ability to determine which of the many dead buffalo offered the best meat for their First Nation. The Blackfoot developed uses for every part of the buffalo in their lives. He talks about how many Blackfoot proved to be prosperous ranchers in the early period after the Europeans had hunted the buffalo to extinction. White ranchers resented their successes and persuaded the Department of Indian Affairs to sell off a large section of their lands, ruining the Indigenous ranches. He also explains why his school classmates lived difficult lives and were mostly dead before they reached their late forties.
Keywords: Air Force workers; Alberta Corrections workers; Automotive mechanics; Blackfoot people; Buffalo runners; Dams and Indigenous people; Head Smashed-in Buffalo Jump; Indigenous ranchers; Indigenous workers; Indigenous workers—gender division of labour; Interpreters of Indigenous traditions; Oldman Dam; Schooling—Indigenous people.
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See also: Indigenous Labour History Project; Systemic Racism in Alberta’s History