Chief Old Sun
Naato’saapi — “Old Sun”
The name Old Sun has been associated with formal education on the Blackfoot Reserve for generations. Old Sun was a revered medicine man and was leader of one of the largest of the Blackfoot Confederacy bands, largely because of his success as a warrior.
Old Sun was born in central Alberta around 1819. He died in 1897 on the North Camp Flats on the Siksika Reserve near Gleichen. Naato’saapi was said to have received his spiritual powers from a deer during a vision quest experience. He was also known for curing blindness with a sacred amulet.
Unlike many other chiefs, Old Sun did not turn to the role of peacemaker with age, but continued the life of the warrior. His wife, Calf Old Woman, was also a renowned warrior and one of the few women to take a place in the Siksika warrior society.
In the Treaty 7 negotiations, Old Sun, the warrior, deferred to the Siksika chief of the time, Crowfoot, but signed the treaty for his band. His followers settled north of Crowfoot’s band at North Camp Flats.
Old Sun himself was not much interested in farming but assumed the role of patriarch and remained a much-respected medicine man and spiritual leader. He tolerated missionaries on his reserve but never converted to Christianity himself.
Chief Old Sun’s Blackfoot name was literally ‘Sun Elder’ or ‘Sun Old Man’. In the Blackfoot language, it was Naato’saapi. The first two syllables refer to the sun. The final two syllables of the name mean grey or white hair of an old man. They also aesthetically imply ‘to see’, as in to gain insight.
The building that houses the college is steeped in a rich heritage. Some of it tragic, some of it triumphant, but always-focused on education and learning.
The opportunity for formal schooling has been available on the Reserve since the late 1800s. In 1883 Reverend John W. Tims of the Church of England was sent to establish a mission among the Blackfoot Indians. His task was accomplished when Chief Old Sun allowed him to build a cabin which became the first school and, at a later date, was named after Chief Old Sun. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the school.
The present brick school was built to accommodate the growing educational needs of the reserve in 1929. The Anglican Church continued to operate the school until the 1950s when the federal government took over.
The 1960s signaled a new era in Native Indian Education. A move was made to integrate students into the public school system through bussing. As the Old Sun School became vacant, the Blackfoot leaders identified a possible use for the building as an adult learning centre.
As a result, Old Sun Community College began operations as an adult institution on September 20, 1971 and then incorporated as Old Sun Society on March 21, 1973. At first, the College was operated as a satellite campus of Mount Royal College, but in 1978, it became an independent institution run by the Blackfoot Nation. In 1988, the Old Sun College Act was passed in the Alberta Legislature. Wherein, Old Sun Community College would become a tool of self-empowerment as it transformed into a First Nations College.
1912 New school built, Principal Rev. Millard C. Gandier chose the name “Old Sun” in honor of
Chief Old Sun.
1928 School burnt down.
1929 Old Sun Indian Residential School opened.
1952 Second block added to classrooms, teacher’s suite and basement rooms.
1958 Financial Assistance available for vocational training through Indian Affairs.
1962 Native students began attending public schools.
1968 The Department of Indian Affairs supplemented the Department of Manpower and
Immigration to train unemployed adults.
1971 Building reopened as Old Sun Campus of Mount Royal College.
1972 Board of Governors established.
1973 Mount Royal College credits added to curriculum.
1973 Funding received to establish Cultural Program – it became a national experiment as a
1977 The Old Sun Museum was established and housed at Old Sun.
1977 The Post Secondary Education Assistance Program was introduced to encourage native
students to acquire university and professional qualifications.
1982 Pilot program undertaken with University of Calgary; now called the U of C Outreach
1982 Ten students begin Bachelor of Education Program at Old Sun through U of C.
1985 Native Health Careers Program offered for 18 months.
1985 Basic Education/High School credit courses offered through Alberta Vocational College.
1988 Awarded status as private college through the Old Sun Community College Act, Bill Pr.6 of
The Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
1988 Business Administration Certificate Program offered with credits transferrable to the Alberta
Transfer Guide Program transferred to Mount Royal College’s second year diploma.
1989 The Post Secondary Student Support Program was announced by INAC.
1991 Siksika Nation took control of post secondary education grants from INAC and is
administered through Old Sun College.
The selection of Post Secondary Committee members and guidelines established.
Deadline set for June 15th for applications.
1994 Increase in post secondary funding to include students categorized as Bill C-31.
First annual recognition of post secondary graduates at Siksika Nation Fair.
1996 Siksika Chief and Council assumed the role of Old Sun Society Board of Governors.
1997 Blackfoot Language taught as credit course through Alberta Learning.
Old Sun became founding member of First Nations Adult and Higher Education Consortium.
Old Sun became member of First Nations Accreditation Board.
1998 Ten students enrolled in Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program from San Diego
Post Secondary student recognition now included with Chief and Council/Siksika Board of
2000 Deadline of August 15 for receipt of all support documents for post – secondary funding.
Seven students graduated from Master of Arts in Educational Leadership through San Diego
2001 Ten-year post secondary anniversary.
2004 Thirteen students enrolled in Sinte Gleska’s (South Dakota) Master of Education Degree
2004 Eleven students enrolled in Master of Teaching program.
2006 Fifteen year Post Secondary Anniversary.
2006 Eleven students graduated from Master of Teaching program.
2007 Governor General Michelle Jean meets Master of Teaching U of C students.
2009 Niitsitapi Education Assistant Training partnership with Red Crow Community College.
2009 Fifteen students enrolled in the Aboriginal Licensed Practical Nurse (ALPN) Program, a
joint venture with OSCC and Bow Valley College.
Eleven students graduated from the ALPN program.
2011 Twenty – year post secondary anniversary.
40 Year Old Sun Community College Anniversary.