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Allan Shade died in Cardston, Alta., of natural causes. He was 91.

Spiritual leader, elder, husband, great-great-grandfather. Born Feb. 6, 1922, near Fish Creek, Alta., died Feb. 19, 2013, in Cardston, Alta., of natural causes, aged 91.

Allan (Piinotoyi) Shade was born in a tent, with his great-grandmothers as midwives, near Fish Creek on the Blood Indian Reserve in Alberta. His parents were Chris (Kainaikowan) and Kate (Aapisookaakii) Shade.

He was a sickly baby, and his grandparents took him to a traditional sacred bundle healer. There was a sweat ceremony, he recovered, and the healer predicted that Piinotoyi (Kit Fox) would grow old with his name.

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Born into traditional Blackfoot culture, Piinotoyi was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather (Makoyaapi, or Wolf Sees) was a gifted spiritual leader. Piinotoyi witnessed many of his grandfather's doctoring ceremonies as a young boy, but no one knew he would follow in his footsteps.

He attended St. Mary's Catholic Residential School, where he became very lonely; so lonely that, when his father came to visit, he took his father's horse and rode home.

As years passed, Piinotoyi worked with his father raising horses and cows, and later took over the family farming operation. He developed a love for rodeos, where he competed in bronco riding and calf roping, and later supplied stock for these events.

He fell in love and married in June 24, 1946. He and Louise raised six children: Chris, Mavis, Justin, Catherine, Keith and Oliver. Piinotoyi loved his children immensely and was proud to see them grow and become successful in their own ways. He watched his eldest son, Chris, become a Chief of the Blood Tribe and a federal Liberal candidate.

He was blessed with 27 grandchildren, 71 great-grandchildren and eight great-great-grandchildren. Sadly, three of Piinotoyi's children died before him, as well as three granddaughters and two grandsons.

In the early 1970s, Piinotoyi had difficulties in his life and began to lose his way. He tried turning back to the Catholic Church, but a dream spirit came to him in his sleep and told him to "go back to the Indian way."

Piinotoyi returned to the sweat lodge and the traditional ways of his grandfathers. Guided by elders, he made a vow to regularly attend traditional piercing Sundance ceremonies at the Sun Child Reserve in Alberta. Later, through his deepening beliefs and commitment, he became a gifted spiritual leader and a respected elder widely known for his light-hearted humour and far-reaching teachings.

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Piinotoyi had many young, dedicated helpers and students, including Joe Eagle Tail Feathers and Aaron Cardinell. With Piinotoyi's mentoring, Joe became an honoured spiritual leader and sacred pipe carrier, graduating to run his own Sundance ceremonies. Aaron Cardinell was given the honour of becoming a sacred pipe maker.

Piinotoyi lost his beloved wife in 1995. It was a very hard loss. He was lonely, but remained dedicated to his traditional life and continued to be independent, driving himself to ceremonies and living alone on his farm well into his early 90s.

His strength, determination and independence made growing old look wonderful, and his continuing traditional commitments were inspirational.

Aaron Cardinell and Joe Eagle Tail Feathers were students of Allan (Piinotoyi) Shade.

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