“A lot of people wonder where the Sarcees come from. From Indian legends that I have heard, apparently there were twenty-six tipis that were sent out from the Beaver tribe. They went south until they met Rev. Father de Smet, the first missionary to hit Alberta. When he met them they were glad to have a friend. He got them praying — parroting his prayers. That went on for about a month and a half.
One night someone got sick. Of course the conjurors (medicine men) were conjuring over the sick person rattling and drumming and singing to drive away the bad spirits or whatever it was that was making the sick person suffer so.
When it was time to say their prayers in the morning, nobody showed up, so the priest went over. He was quite angry about it.
In French he said, “Qui est le sorcier-ca ici? (Who is this sorcerer here?)
He pointed right at them (the medicine men).
One fellow said, “Oh! That’s what we are, Sarcee!” So they took that name for their tribe.”
It sounds like a more reasonable explanation than some I have read! It is also possible that their associates, the Blackfoot, had a very similar-sounding word with a totally different meaning — which, in their eyes, fitted the actions of the strangers from the north — hence the story that the name meant “hard ones” or “strong ones”, or “hard language” (SAXSII) because their speech was so hard for their new allies to learn.
Mr. Hugh Dempsey, in the Glenbow-Alberta Institute’s pamphlet, The Sarcee Indians denies the widely held belief that the name was derived from the Blackfoot “sa” and “ahksi” meaning “no good”. Mr. Dempsey points out that the word for “no good” in Blackfoot speech is “matsokapi”.