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SOTAI-NA (Sotenah; called Rainy Chief), a leading chieftain and warrior of the Blood tribe of the Blackfoot nation; b. c. 1809, a member of the Mamyowi (Fish Eaters) band, probably in what is now southern Alberta; d. 1878 in the same area.

As a young man Sotai-na was known as Makoyiksiksinum (White Wolf), a name he received after a battle in which he killed a Crow Indian of that name. In this fight, Rainy Chief deliberately exposed himself to danger and, with a fellow chief, Peenaquim (Seen from Afar), held off an enemy war party until his own followers could escape. Later Sotai-na became leader of a small family group of Bloods which eventually was recognized as a band in its own right. It was named Isiso-kaas (usually translated Hair Shirts but sometimes Robe Shirts or Robes with Hair on Outside) after a member of the band who wore a shirt made from the skin of a buffalo calf from which the hair had not been removed.

Sotai-na was also called Sowatsi-tapitowpi (Sitting on an Eagle Tail) and was identified under this name by James Doty who met him in 1855. Doty was searching for Blackfoot Indians, who normally hunted or traded on American territory, to sign a treaty with the American government. He described the chief as “a good friend to the Whites” but “himself and people were very poor.” The chief usually traded at Hudson’s Bay Company establishments and so did not become a party to the American treaty. At this time, Rainy Chief’s following consisted of only 18 lodges; by 1870 this number had increased to 29 lodges and 348 people. Sotai-na’s band was always poor, perhaps because he was on good terms with everyone and did not encourage the theft of horses, a source of wealth, from enemy tribes.

In spite of the fact that he was recognized as a medicine man, Rainy Chief was one of the few leaders of the Blackfoot nation to accept Christianity during the nomadic era. Most chiefs were hostile to missionary endeavours, but Rainy Chief became a friend of the Oblate father Albert Lacombe* (they first met around 1865) and believed he inherited supernatural powers from the priest. The chief permitted three of his grandchildren to be baptized by Oblate priests in 1873–74 and allowed Father Constantin Scollen* to labour in his camp during the winter of 1876–77. Scollen observed that the chief was an “old man who . . . did not leave me during a month of travels; his faith and simplicity were truly touching!” At a time when the Blackfoot tribes were feared and distrusted by traders and missionaries, Rainy Chief maintained his friendship with the white people.

When the bands gathered to sign Treaty No. 7 with the Canadian government in 1877, Rainy Chief, whose winter camp was now usually near the Red Deer River, was recognized by officials as the leader of all bands which camped in the northern part of the Bloods’ hunting grounds. Only two head chiefs were selected from the Blood tribe, the young and dynamic Mekaisto (Red Crow) for the south, and the older patriarch Rainy Chief for the north. The latter was chosen not only for his friendly attitude towards the whites, but also because of the strength of his position within the tribe. By signing Treaty No. 7, these Indians conceded their right to hunt in most of present-day southern Alberta. Rainy Chief was among the first of the chiefs to sign but died before his people were settled upon the reserves it provided.

Sotai-na was probably buried on a high hill or in a scaffold on a tree, the usual Blackfoot custom. He had four children; his youngest son Apawakaasi (White Antelope) became a minor chief of the band but was never as important as his father.

Hugh A. Dempsey

H. A. Dempsey, “Blood Indian bands; their identification and history,” 1955, and “Interviews with Charlie Pantherbone, 1954–1955” (unpublished mss in author’s possession).

National Archives (Washington), Census of the Blackfeet Indians, Alfred Sully to E. S. Parker, 16 July 1870; H. A. Dempsey, “A visit to the Blackfoot camps by James Doty,” Alberta Hist. Rev., XIV, no.3 (1966), 24–25; Morris, Treaties of Canada with the Indians, 245–75, 368–75; “Rapport de Constantin Scollen à Mgr Vital Grandin, 15 Sept. 1874,” Missions des O.M.I., XIV, 35; this report has been translated and edited by Hugh A. Dempsey in “Early Alberta teacher here before Mounties,” Calgary Herald, 1 Sept. 1955.

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Cite This Article

Hugh A. Dempsey, “SOTAI-NA,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sotai_na_10E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sotai_na_10E.html
Author of Article:   Hugh A. Dempsey
Title of Article:   SOTAI-NA
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1972
Year of revision:   1972
Access Date:   October 4, 2023