BLACKFOOT

(Niitsitapii)

(Siksika)

(Blackfeet aka Blackfoot)

Geographical region : Plains and Prairie (northern Montana and southern Alberta)

Lived normally in plains-tepee

Language : algonkin

 

Tipi

 

The Blackfoot personify the typical indian of the northamerican steppe and prairie, which means in one word 'the indians of the plains'.

Their name derives from the fact that they dyed their moccasins black.

They belong to the numanic speaking tribes, historically they did belong to the nomadic living Atsina.

In former times they lived only from what the buffalo could give.

Buffalo skin was used for making cloth and tepees.

Close to the Rocky Mountains, in the plains of Montana and Alberta they first met the white people from europe.

In former times their terretory extended to the great lakes.

Because of their dependence on the buffalo the blackfoot got accustomed to the usage of horses when they were hunting, when horses got available in the 18th century.

They had very big herds and were known as excellent horseman.

The possession of the new fire-weapons made them fearsome warriors.

They did not only attack tribes in their neighborhood but as well the white settlers and hunters who came to their out-of-the-way hunting places.

Equiped with horses and rifles they were seen as the masters of the northern plains.

It was easier to hunt the buffalo and the other tribes were frightened by the Blackfoot.

With a pock-epidemic in the year 1836 the descent of the once so mighty tribe began.

In the year 1970 the Blackfoot were reduced to 60 percent of what they have been before.

The commercial hunt of the buffalo by the white took away the living ground of the Blackfoot.

In the year 1883 the buffalo was close to be eradicated.

In the 'hunger-winter' 1883/1884 more than 600 Blackfoot died only in Montana.

Charles M. Russel who lived in Montana at that time painted their traditional way of living.

The Blackfoot had a high developed religion full of mysticism and secret rites.

Medicine-men and Schamanes did play an outstanding role.

Today most Blackfoot indians belong to the Catholic religion, but their tradition is still alive as well.

Blackfoot reservations are in Alberta with 7310 people in the year 1967 and in their traditional regions of Montana with about 6715 people in the year 1985.

The most important town in the 'Blackfoot region' is Browning in Montana, where you can visit a museum of the plains-indians.

Some Blackfoot live in Fort Hall-Reservation in Idaho.

More than 5000 people belonging to the Blackfoot-tribe live not in any of the reservations, additional Information from "Handbook of American Indians" (1906) by Frederick W. Hodge Siksika ('black feet', from siksinam 'black', ka the root of oqkatsh, 'foot'. The origin of the name is disputed, but it is commonly believed to have reference to the discoloring of their moccasins by the ashes of the prairie fires; it may possibly have reference to black-painted moccasins such as were worn by the Pawnee, Sihasapa, and other tribes).

An important Algonquian confederacy of the northern plains, consisting of three subtribes, the Siksika proper or Blackfeet, the Kainah or Bloods, and the Piegan, the whole body being popularly known as Blackfeet.

In close alliance with these are the Atsina and the Sarsi.

Within the recent historic period, until gathered upon reservations, the Blackfeet held most of the immense territory stretching almost from North Saskatchewan river, Canada, to the southern headstreams of the Missouri in Montana, and from about lon.105 to the base of the Rocky mountains.

A century earlier, or about 1790, they were found by Mackenzie occupying the upper and middle South Saskatchewan, with the Atsina on the lower course of the same stream, both tribes being apparently in slow migration toward the north west (Mackenzie, 1801).

This would make them the vanguard of tile Algonquian movement from the Red river country.

With the exception of a temporary occupancy by invading Cree, this extreme northern region has always, within the historic period, been hold by Athapascan tribes.

The tribe is now settled oil three reservations in Alberta, Canada, and one in north west Montana, about half being on each side of the international boundary.

So far as history and tradition go, the Blackfeet have been roving buffalo hunters, dwelling in tipis and shifting periodically from place to place, without permanent habitations, without the pottery art or canoes, and without agriculture excepting for the sowing and gathering of a species of native tobacco.

They also gathered the camas root in the foothills.

Their traditions go back to a time when they had no horses and bunted their game on foot; but as early as Mackenzie's time, before 1800, they all ready had many horses, taken from tribes farther to the south, and later they became noted for their great horse herds.

It is entirely probable that their spread over the plains region was due largely to the acquisition of the horse, and, about the same time, of the gun.

They were a restless, aggressive, and predatory people, and, excepting for the Atsina and Sarsi, who lived under their protection, were constantly at war with all their neighbors, the Cree, Assiniboin, Sioux, Crows, Flatheads, and Kutenai.

While never regularly at war with the United States, their general attitude toward Americans in the early days was one of hostility, while maintaining a doubtful friendship with the Hudson's Bay Co.

Their culture was that of the Plains tribes generally, although there is evidence of an earlier culture, approximately that of the Eastern timber tribes.

The 3 main divisions seem to have been independent of each other, each having its own Sun dance, council, and elective head chief, although the Blackfeet proper appear to have been the original nucleus.

Each of the 3 was subdivided into a number of bands, of which Grinnell enumerates 45 in all.

It has been said that these bands were gentes, but if so, their gentile character is no longer apparent.

There is also a military and fraternal organization, similar to that existing in other Plains tribes, known among the Blackfeet as the Ikunuuhkahtsi, or All Comrades,' and consisting formerly, according to Grinnell, of at least 12 orders or societies, most of which are now extinct.

They have a great number of dances-religious, war, and social-besides secret societies for various purposes, together with many "sacred bundles," around each of which centers a ritual.

Practically every adult has also his personal "medicine."

Both sexes may be members of some societies.

Their principal deities are the Sun, and a supernatural being known as Napi, 'Old Man,' who may be an incarnation of the same idea.

The dead are usually deposited in trees or sometimes laid away in tipis erected for the purpose on prominent hills.

As usual, many of the early estimates of Blackfoot population are plainly unreliable.

The best appears to be that of Mackenzie, who estimated them about 1790 at 2,250 to 2,500 warriors, or perhaps 9,000 souls.

In 1780-81, in 1837-38, in 1845, in 1857-58, and in 1869 they suffered great losses by smallpox.

In 1864 they were reduced by measles, and in 1883-84 some 600 of those in Montana died of sheer starvation in consequence of the sudden extinction of the buffalo coincident with a reduction of rations.

The official Indian report for 1858 gave them 7,300 souls, but another estimate, quoted by Hayden as having been made "under the most favorable circumstances'' about the same time, gives them 2,400 warriors and 6,720 souls.

In 1909 they were officially reported to number in all 4,635, viz: Blackfoot agency, Alberta, 795; Blood agency, Alberta, 1,174; Piegan agency, Alberta, 471; Blackfoot agency (Piegan), Montana, 2,195.

 

Camp (Piegan)