Recent death of First Nation member restarts calls for safety measures along Highway 901

In January, 2021, Bradley Valentino Black Horse, a Siksika Nation member, was struck and killed while walking on the highway. Two years later, the community says it's still dealing with dangerous conditions on that road.

There have been 8 deaths along highway through Siksika reserve between 2004 and 2023

A highway in Alberta with road signs and buildings in the distance.
Highway 901 along Siksika Nation has been seen as a dangerous stretch of road for a number of years. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Reuben Breaker sees it all the time — Siksika Nation members running and walking along Highway 901.

He's with the nation's public safety task force and says it's a common sight.

"They'll take it upon themselves to walk to town or start the journey to Strathmore or whatever in hopes of being picked up," Breaker said.

"So a family member will see them and pick them up … that's how it's been for a long time." 

In January, 2021, Bradley Valentino Black Horse, a Siksika Nation member, was struck and killed while walking on the highway. Community leaders say they are still dealing with dangerous conditions on that road, which resulted in the death of another member on the same highway last month.

A cross in the snow on the side of a highway.
A memorial along Highway 901 for Bradley Valentino Black Horse. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"Here we are, two years later, and there is still transports and passersby who still drive excessively and erratically through those changed speed zones … putting local traffic at risk," said Breaker.

Breaker said that a lot of the nation's members have limited resources to get around and many often use the highway as a main artery to get to where they need to be.

Some changes en route

When that tragic incident happened two years ago, Breaker, along with other leaders went to the province and fought to have the speed limit reduced.

In response to safety concerns, the department of transportation and economic corridors said they conducted a safety review of Highway 901, related intersections and pedestrian usage of the highway. The safety review began in July 2021 and was completed in December 2021.

As a result of the review, a speed limit change was completed in March of 2021 and speed was reduced from 100 km/hour to 80 km/hour.

A sign along a Highway intended to alert divers to pedestrians
One of a a number of signs installed as part of a provincial recommendation to improve safety along Highway 901 (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"They did listen, they did drop it to 80 kilometres in various areas," said Breaker. 

"Not a whole continuous stretch, just through some residential areas."

The province also installed 6 additional "Watch For Pedestrians On Highway" along with double flashing lights on the two existing signs.

A dangerous road

Highway 901 is an undivided highway that connects Highway 22X in southeast Calgary to Highway 1 east of Gleichen. For a number of years, Siksika leaders have been saying that it has become dangerous for members because of the increasing number of trucks and vehicles speeding through.

Phoenix Running Rabbit sees the potential danger first hand. He's a peace officer with Siksika Nation and patrols the highways — often stopping speeders on the road.

"We do advise them that there's animals on the road, there's pedestrians on the road, we do get a lot of people walking from place to place," said Running Rabbit. 

He says that, more often than not, he hears excuses from motorists that he pulls over. 

"The GPS says 100 kilometres, they're not from around here, they don't know it's 80," he said.

Highway 901 is an undivided provincial highway that runs from Highway 22x in southeast Calgary to Highway 1 east of Gleichen, with most of it running through the Siksika First Nation. (Google)

Under the Traffic Safety Act, Siksika Peace Officers are able to stop drivers, but they cannot issue tickets. 

Running Rabbit said that the speed limit signs can be confusing and that adding stop signs or even lights could be a better preventive measure.

Recommendations include education, pathways, but no funding 

According to RCMP statistics, there have been eight deaths along Highway 901 between 2004 and 2023, including the most recent fatality in January of this year.

Along with the changes to the speed limit, the province made recommendations to Siksika, including considering community pathways and a pedestrian safety education program "to help the community understand the risks associated with walking on or crossing a highway."

"Those recommendations have been on our radar for at least six years of my leadership," Breaker said. "And it was going to be at our cost."

In a statement sent to CBC News, the department of transportation and economic corridors confirmed that the recommendations given to Siksika did not include any funding.

"It's sad that decisions are made by statistic," said Breaker. "For us, one dead nation member is too many."

The next steps, he said, are working toward establishing their police force in hopes that enforcement can mitigate the risks and prevent more tragedies for the community.


Omar Sherif is a digital journalist with CBC Calgary. You can contact him at

With files from Terri Trembath