A strong independent people, their beliefs are embodied in the circle symbolizing the eternal continuity of life, the circle forms the basis of their emblem. The stretched beaver pelt is a symbol of the Beaver people and the two warbonnets represent the separation story of the Athapaskan and the Tsuu T'ina people. The peace pipe means "peace with all people". The broken arrow means "no more wars".
Sacred materials from the animal, plant, rock/mineral worlds play a vital role in traditional Tsuu T'ina religion. These materials are used both in religious ceremonies as well as forming parts of medicine bundles. The mountains are the source for a number of different sacred materials.
A variety of plants are found in the mountains. As discussed in Part III of this report, many are considered to be medicines by the Tsuu T'ina. Medicines have both medicinal and spiritual dimensions, which often are inseparable. The particular places in which these medicines are collected by medicine people are in certain cases an integral part of the plants particular "spiritual/medicinal power" because of a medicine persons particular spiritual associations with certain plants & places. Like visionary experiences this knowledge is privileged and rarely shared with the larger community. Tsuu T'ina spiritual leaders have commented on the importance of the mountains to them, particularly the Moose Mountain area, as sources for medicines, including Sweet Pine (Alpine Fir), which cannot be obtained elsewhere. Other women (W2) elders recall that medicine people went upthere to pick medicines, it was something like sweetgrass. There is plants, that comes from there, they use for ceremonies, they don't grow anywhere else.... That's why they all went up there... (Spiritual Leader A)
Sacred materials range from feathers, particularly those of the Golden Eagle, to a variety of bird and mammal skins, pelts and parts. In some instances, such as eagle feathers, the sacred material is used in many different religious and ceremonial contexts. In other instances a particular animal species is associated only with a specific medicine bundle. Many of the species come from the foothills and mountains. Some of the species association reflects the role that particular animal had in relationship to the origin of the bundle as well as particular rituals associated with the bundle's opening. For example. Big Knife's Medicine Pipe bundle's wrappings includes a tanned elk hide and bear skin. Objects within the bundle includes skins of a beaver, mink, owl and some other birds, a mountain goat skin band, eagle wing feather, a crane head, and a eagle wing fan (Jenness 1938:81).
Rocks and Minerals
Certain rocks and minerals are important in traditional Tsuu Tina religious practise, the most important of which is "paint", particularly red paint. Most of the red paint used in traditional times by the Tsuu Tina, Siksika, Kainaa and Piikani came from particular sources, including certain places along the Rocky Mountains in today's Northern Montana and Southern Alberta (Reeves and Peacock 1995). None are known to have existed in the Moose Mountain area. The nearest known source was the "Paint Pots" at the head of the Vermilion River in today's Kootenay National Park. These were commercially mined out at the turn of the century. Certain kinds of rocks which come from the mountains are utilized as "bowls" for burning sweet grass or sweet pine. Some Tsuu Tina traditionalists journey to the mountains west of the Tsuu Tina Nation to collect these rocks out of stream and river beds (W3,M1).
A Tsuu T'ina Spiritual Leader (A) remembers as a young child hearing stories about the caves. The Old People said there are spirits in the caves and in order to go there you had to prepare yourselves. Can't just go there, or else a spirit will get you lost,Another Tsuu Tina Spiritual Leader (B) remembers his grandmother telling him that when she was a child she heard stories about the caves in the mountain. Some of them went for miles under the mountains. The Little People and the Big Foot live in the caves.