The Pekisko Group


"Great things happen where men and mountains meet." - William Blake

The Pekisko Group is an association of many families bound together by the common vision of a healthy and prosperous future for all people in southern Alberta. They see themselves as stewards of a land shaped by glaciers and thousands of years of rolling grasses and grazing buffalo. This land they oversee generates sustainable fresh water, clean air, and economic benefit for Albertans and will continue to do so indefinitely if we make the right choices now.

These families consider that the land they steward is a special place. Some of this land has been in the same family for several generations and over one-hundred years. Some of it is deeded land, but much of the grazing area is leased. Here they live the concept of sustainability, shepherding the native grasslands on which their livelihood depends. It takes knowledge, patience and a lot of work, but they do it because they love the land and the lifestyle. There is nothing short-term about their thinking or way of life. For many it would be easier to sell-out, pocket the money and find a comfortable place to live in a warm climate. Yet they stay on as owners and stewards.

It's not an easy life.    Up early and working late is typical and the work is often heavy and done in any kind of weather. There always seems to be more work to be done than the day is long, whether it's fixing fences, helping calves get born, repairing machinery, putting up some hay, keeping records, planning for the future, or the thousand other jobs typical to an agricultural operation. And it's not as if these families get weekends off. It's hard but satisfying work.

Photo: Mike Quinn

But then when you ride the native grassland with the rough fescue healthy, the sun shining and the mountains providing the backdrop to a scene that almost takes your breath away, well perhaps it's all worthwhile.

The Pekisko Families know that they are doing more than just trying to make a living for themselves. They provide healthy food for people in a manner consistent with the best use of this land, and the land also serves as a watershed to capture and filter clean water for downstream users. Their protection of the land and its ecosystems also ensures that wildlife has a place to graze and thrive outside the steep mountain parks, including deer, elk, cougar and wolves plus other smaller species, some of them endangered.

Some History

The name 'Pekisko' has an interesting history. Fred Stimson, the manager of the North West Cattle Company at what became known as the Bar U Ranch suggested it as the name for the creek that flowed past the ranch. He was reputed to be fluent in Blackfoot. The post office located at the Bar U adopted the name and Fred's wife, Mary, became the postmistress. The origin of the name is uncertain.2

The Henderson's Northwest Gazetteer & Directory of 1899 listed 28 people as residing at Pekisko including Fred Stimson and his wife Mary, Mrs. Bedingfeld, H.N. Shephard and J. Brown. The postoffice was later moved to the South Fork Trading Post a few miles east of the Bar U. Many people born in the area during the early 1900's had Pekisko listed as their place of birth.

The Pekisko Rangeland in Alberta, Canada, includes an area from the Highwood River on the North to the Oldman River on the South. It includes part of the Foothills Parkland natural subregion in Southwest Alberta, the largest contiguous block of native Foothills Parkland and Foothills Grassland in Canada,1   plus Foothills fescue, mixed grasses and some Montane.



Bradley, Cheryl, M. Quinn and D. Duke. 2002. Local and Regional Ecological Effects Analysis: Proposed drilling program of Vermilion Resources Ltd in an area of Native Foothills Parkland. p.iv


One source thought Pekisko meant 'rolling foothills' in Blackfoot. Jean Gallup writes: "The origins of the name, Pekisko, were told to me by some visiting Blackfoot people. Rather than a direct translation they said the name came from a phrase 'i ta pisko' meaning that if they had come riding over a hill and saw a house nestled in the valley with some lights on, they would remark 'i ta pisko', or 'someone lives down there. I believe this would have been about 1997 or so when there was work starting on an interpretive site where Treaty 7 was signed and four people from the Blackfoot nation came to shadow us at the Bar U. I mentioned the meaning of Pekisko in my tour and they corrected me. Keep in mind that the native histories are oral and thus meanings of words and phrases sometimes change."

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