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Kakikekaskakowew (Kee-A-Kee-Kasacoo-Way): “He Forever War Whoops”

Artwork It was prophesized a long time ago that there would be five persons chosen to become great spiritual leaders among the tribes of the Western Crees. Perhaps one of them was Kakikekasakowew who was the Head Chief of all the Crees, on the north central Plains.

Kakikekasakowew was an impressive looking man of average height. His face had a commanding stern look and he could be very stern if distracted from his private thoughts and meditation.

He was the bravest of the brave and therefore he was selected to be Keeper of the Pipe Stem (oskiciy). He was generous; he provided sumptuous feasts for his council and for visitors; he was physically strong; "He paraded around half-naked in 30-40 degree below zero," as witnessed by the artist Paul Kane in 1848.

As a Pipe-stem Bearer, the symbol of authority, he travelled with two horses to carry the effects in his office. The pipestem itself was guarded and carried by his favourite wife. The Stem was well wrapped so that it could not be seen by women or children.

During this period, the Blackfoot-Cree Alliance had broken down. The Cree-Mandan Alliance proved unworkable as the Mandans could not agree with the Cree. For one thing the Cree were continually stealing their women, who were attracted to them. It was also a period of wars (1810-1850) for horses, which became more important then the Fur Trade.

The Crowes at this time had 9000-10,000 head of horses. The Blackfoot stole their horses and the Assiniboines and Crees in turn stole horses from the Blackfoot and their allies. It was the height of military and religious societies.

Kakikekasakowew was the product of this era; his second on command was Makitow (Muck-etoo) "Powder" who was considered one of the greatest horse thieves and a brave warrior; which qualified him for a chieftainship. He delivered all the messages Kakikekasakowew commanded. He was gifted with words and effectively communicated with chief's pronouncements and requests. Makitow was a Saulteaux and allied himself to the Great Chief. He was also the father of Big Bear.

It was customary for the keeper of oskiciy (pipestem) to sit on the right side of his lodge opposite the entrance. Makitow would sit next to him. Kakikekasakowew would not stoop down to cut his meat but one of his wives (he had five or six at one time) would cut the meat and place it in a medicine bowl for him. As a pipestem keeper, there was one peculiar taboo he had to avoid, and that is, he must not scratch his own head, which was considered undignified. To avoid this his wives deloused him from time to time. However; custom allowed him to scratch his head with a stick, so he carried a scratcher.

As a warrior and spiritual

Kakikekaskakowew (Kee-A-Kee-Kasacoo-Way): “He Forever War Whoops”

leader, Kakikekasakowew was required to lead his warriors to war; at one such war he lost four relatives; and as a sign of mourning he wore his clothes and did not braid his hair; until at a certain specified time as dictated by custom. When Paul Kane came to sketch the Head Chief, the Chief did put on his formal attire, but did not braid his hair.

At this time, the Chief was travelling from one camp to another; carrying with him eleven pipestems belonging to the minor Chiefs as a sign of solidarity with them. He performed the pipestem ceremony near what is now Fort Pitt. He unwrapped the sacred stems and led a procession from one tipi to another; mournfully chanting the loss of relations who were his warriors at the battle. His words were powerful enough to arouse the warriors to take up arms and fight to preserve their honour before the gods of their ancestors.

Kakikekasakowew cried not only for his dead relatives but to the people to pity him and help him fight those who killed his relatives.

The following day the Head Chief opened the sacred pipes and began to burn cedar on a piece of coal, for incense. Having filled the bowls with tobacco and kinikinik he prayed pointing the stem upward:

"You, who made all things
That walk on this land
All those who fly over it.
Have pity on me
I know so little I am weak
Give me strength to overcome
That which made me cry"
May we have good fortune,
To overcome our fears,
To bring horses, while the
enemy sleeps.
Help our women to live long,
and be virtuous.

All the pipes were filled and the warriors smoked. They donned their war shirts and put on their decorated finery and painted themselves as if preparing for a formal function but this was to display their totems for war.

Unfortunately, for Kakikekasakowew more and more tribes came closer together as the buffalo became scarce. Wherever they met their was a war Before the Head Chief organized an invasion the Peigans, Blackfoot, Bloods, Sarcee and a few Gros Ventre marched to the Cree camp and won a decisive victory. The style of warfare had changed with the horse and gun combined. There were no longer small individual war parties "raiding and fleeing" tactics. It was a sad blow to the Head Chief Kakikekasakowew, his aid Makitow and their minor chiefs. Added to their defeat, they were plagued with new diseases.

This tragedy was the result of the Fur Trade as it caused extinction of the game and diminished the value of the country for hunting.

The sad face of Kakikekasakowew will forever remind us of the victims of change in the New World.

Kane, Paul. Wanderings of an Artist. Milloy, J.S. Military and Trade.
Chronology of the Plains Cree. 1670 - 1870. Oral Tradition.