(Hello, greetings my relative)
“literally means “Black Foot”. Siksika is the name for the Blackfoot Nation,
which includes the Piikani (Piegan) and the Kainai (Blood) Tribes”.
“Give wisdom and understanding to my leaders.
Protect my warriors and bring them back safe.
Give to the young, love and contentment.
Give health and long life to my old people
so that they may remain with us for a long time.
Make my enemy brave and strong,
so that if defeated, I will not be ashamed.
And give me wisdom so that I may have kindness for all.
And let me live each day, so when day is done,
my prayer will not have been in vain.”
Big Lodge Pole, Blackfoot
The Blackfoot Indians of the United States and Canada are divided into three main groups: the Northern Blackfoot or Siksika, the Kainah or Blood, and the Piegan. The three as a whole are also referred to as the Siksika (translated Blackfoot), a term which probably derived from the discoloration of moccasins with ashes. The three groups constitute what are apparently geographical-linguistic groups. All three speak a language which is a part of the Algonquian family. The Piegan and Blood are the most closely related dialects.
Before the Blackfoot were placed on reservations in the latter half of the nineteenth century, they occupied a large territory which stretched from the North Saskatchewan River in Canada to the Missouri River in Montana, and from long. 105 degrees West to the base of the Rocky Mountains. The Piegan were located toward the western part of this territory, in the mountainous country. The Blood were located to the northeast of the Piegan, and the Northern Blackfoot were northeast of the Blood.
The Blackfoot were placed on four reservations. The Blackfeet Agency, the Blood Agency, and the Piegan Agency are all located in Alberta, Canada. The Blackfeet Reservation in Montana is inhabited by Piegans. (References to Northern Piegan indicate the Canadian Piegan, while references to the Southern Piegan indicate the Montana Piegan.) (Blackfoot is the correct name – white man thought it should be ‘plural’ and changed to Blackfeet)
The Blackfoot are typical of the Plains Indians in many aspects of their culture. They were/are nomadic hunter-gatherers, who live in tipis. They once subsisted mainly on buffalo and large mammals and, in addition, gathered a lot of vegetable foods. Traditions indicate that the buffalo were/are hunted in drives, although hunting patterns changed when horses and guns were introduced. Deer and smaller game were/are caught with snares. Fish, although abundant, were eaten only in times of dire necessity and after the disappearance of the buffalo.
During the summer, the Blackfoot lived in large tribal camps. It was during this season that they conducted Buffalo Hunts in times gone by, and the Sun Dance ceremonies are held in summer. During the winter, they separated into bands of from approximately 10 to 20 lodges. Band membership is quite fluid. There might be several headmen in each band, and one of them is considered the chief. Headmanship is very informal. The qualifications for the office were once “wealth” and success in war, as well as ceremonial experience.
The religious life of the Blackfoot centers upon medicine bundles and their associated rituals. These bundles are individually owned and ultimately originated from an encounter with a supernatural spirit. These encounters take the form of dreams or visions, which are sought in a typical Plains type of vision quest. A young man, usually under the tutelage of an older medicine man, goes out to an isolated place and prays and fasts until he has a vision. Many of these men fail and never have a vision.
Individual bundles acquire great respect. Some of these are headdresses, shirts, shields, knives, and “medicine objects”. Painted lodges are considered to be medicine bundles, and there are more than 50 of them among the three main Blackfoot groups. The most important bundles to the group as a whole are the Beaver Bundles, the Medicine Pipe Bundles, and the Sun Dance Bundle.
The Sun Dance among the Blackfoot is generally similar to the ceremony that is performed in other Plains societies. There are some differences, in that a woman plays the leading role among the Blackfoot, and the symbolism and paraphernalia used are derived from beaver bundle ceremonialism. The Blackfoot Sun Dance includes the following: (1) moving the camp on four successive days; (2) on the fifth day, building the medicine lodge, transferring bundles to the medicine woman, and the offering of gifts by children and adults in ill health; (3) on the sixth day, dancing toward the sun, blowing eagle-bone whistles, and self-torture; and (4) on the remaining four days, performing various ceremonies of the men’s societies.
Adventures of Bull Turns Round
Adventures of Old Man Coyote
Bear-Moccasin, the Great Medicine-Man
Black and Yellow Buffalo-Painted Lodges
Camp of the Ghosts
Contest Between the Thunder-Bird and the Raven
Coyote and the Rolling Rock
Crow Indian Water-Medicine
Daily Life and Customs
Deeds and Prophecies of Old Man
Fed by a Coyote
First Buffalo Stone
Fish Dog Skin
Heavy Collar and the Ghost Woman
How a Piegan Warrior Found the First Horses
How Medicine-Hat Got Its Name
How men and women got together
How the Blackfoot got the Buffalo Jump (Piskun)
How the Blackfoot Obtained the Spotted Horses
How the Ducks Got Their Fine Feathers
How the Great Holy Being Honored Beloved Meadow Lark/a>
How the Man Found His Mate
How the Old Man Made People
How The Otter Skin Became Great Medicine
How the Worm Pipe Came to the Blackfoot
Iktomi and the Turtle
Kip a ta ki (Old Woman)
Languages Confused on a Mountain
Legend of the Beginning
Little Friend Coyote
Making of the Earth
Meal for Nata’Yowa
Old Man and the Beginning of the World
Old Man and the Great Spirit
Old Man and the Roasted Squirrels
Old Man Leads a Migration
Order of Life and Death
Origin of the Sweat Lodge
Origins of the Buffalo Dance
Pipe From the Seven Stars
Sits By The Door
Tracing Five Generations of a Blackfoot Family
Water Spirit’s Gift of Horses
Why People Die Forever
Why the birch-tree wears the slashes in its bark
Why the Chipmunk’s Back is Striped
Why The Curlew’s Bill is Long and Crooked
Why the Mountain Lion is Long and Lean
Why the Nighthawk’s Wings are Beautiful
Wise Man of Chief Mountain
The Buffalo Dance – One of the primary sources of food and other needs was the American Bison. The typical hunting method was drive a herd off a cliff and butcher them after they died at the bottom of the cliff. Similar methods were used in ancient Europe.The night before, the shaman ceremonially smokes tobacco and prays to the sun. His wives are not allowed to leave their home, nor even look outside, until he returns; they were to pray to the sun and continually burn sweet grass. Fasting and dressed in a bison headdress, the shaman led a group of people at the head of a V formation. He attracted the herd’s attention and brought them near the cliff; they were then scared by other men hiding behind them, who waved their robes and shouted. The bison ran off the cliff and died at the rocks below.
According to legend, at one point the bison refused to go over the cliff. A woman walking underneath the cliff saw a herd right on the edge and pledged to marry one which jumped down. One did so and survived, turning into many dead buffalo at the bottom of the cliff. The woman’s people ate the meat and the young woman left with the buffalo. Her father went in search of her. When he stopped to rest, he told a magpie to search for his daughter and tell her where he was. The magpie found the woman and told her where her father was located. The woman met her father but refused to go home, frightened that the bison would kill her and her father; she said to wait until they were all asleep and would not miss her for some time.
When she returned to the bison, her husband smelled another person and, gathering his herd, found the father and trampled him to death. The woman cried and her husband said that if she could bring her father back to life, they could both return to their tribe. The woman asked the magpie to find a piece of her father’s body; he found a piece of his spine.
The Piegan Blackfeet (Aapatohsipiikanii (Southern Piik.ni/Peigan) or simply as Piik.ni in Blackfoot) are a tribe of Native Americans of the Algonquian language family based in Montana, having lived in this area since around 6,500 BC. Many members of the tribe live as part of the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana, with population centered in Browning. According to the 1990 US census, there are 32,234 Blackfeet. Three other tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy are First Nations located in Alberta, Canada.
The Blackfeet Reservation is located in Northwest Montana, just east of Glacier National Park. The 1.5-million acre reservation includes most of Glacier County and is home to about 7,500 members of the Blackfeet Nation, or about half of the total enrollment of some 14,700 members. Those living away from the reservation live mostly in the Pacific Northwest but some are as far away as Europe.
The town of Browning is the hub of the reservation and the home of several tribal offices and businesses. Other communities include Babb, East Glacier Park and St. Mary. The traveler will find a number of motels, hotels, campgrounds and restaurants on the reservation along with plentiful recreational opportunities there and within the nearby Glacier National Park.
The Blackfoot language is also agglutinative. The Blackfoot do not have well documented male Two-Spirits, but they do have “manly-hearted women” (Lewis, 1941) who act in much of the social roles of men, including willingness to sing alone, usually considered “immodest”, and using a men’s singing style. (Nettl, 1989).
The Blackfoot confederacy consists of the North Peigan (Aapatohsipiikanii), the South Peigan (Aamsskaapipiikanii), the Blood (Kainah), and the Siksika tribe (“Blackfoot”) or more correctly Siksikawa (“Blackfoot people”). Three of the four are located in Alberta, Canada while one, the South Peigan, is located in Montana. All together they traditionally called themselves the Niitsitapii (the “Real People”). These groups shared a common language and culture, had treaties of mutual defense, and freely intermarried.
The Blackfoot were fiercely independent and very successful warriors whose territory stretched from the North Saskatchewan River along what is now Edmonton Alberta, Canada, to the Missouri River of Montana, and from the Rocky Mountains and along the Saskatchewan river and down into the state of Montana to the Missouri river.
The basic social unit of the Blackfoot, above the family, was the band, varying from about 10 to 30 lodges, about 80 to 240 people. This size group was large enough to defend against attack and to undertake small communal hunts, but small enough for flexibility. Each band consisted of a respected leader, possibly his brothers and parents, and others who need not be related. Since the band was defined by place of residence, rather than by kinship, a person was free to leave one band and join another, which tended to ameliorate leadership disputes. As well, should a band fall upon hard times, its members could split-up and join other bands. in practice, bands were constantly forming and breaking-up. The system max
Blackfoot music, the music of the Blackfoot tribes, (best translated in the Blackfoot language as nitsinixki – “I sing”, from ninixksini – “song”) is primarily a vocal kind of music, using few instruments (called ninixkiitsis, derived from the word for song and associated primarily with European-American instruments), only percussion and voice, and few words.
By far the most important percussion instruments are drums (istokimatsis), with rattles (auani) and bells often being associated with the objects, such as sticks or dancers legs, they are attached to rather than as instruments of their own.
The basic musical unit is the song, and musicians, people who sing and drum, are called singers or drummers with both words being equivalent and referring to both activities. Women, though increasingly equal participants, are not called singers or drummers and it is considered somewhat inappropriate for women to sing loudly or alone. Piskani – “dance” or “ceremony” – often implicitly includes music and is often applied to ceremonies with little dancing and much singing.
Blackfoot music is an “emblem of the heroic and the difficult in Blackfoot life.” This is evidenced by: “the separation of music from the rest of life through aspects of performance practice, a sharp distinction between singing and speaking, the absence of words in many songs, and the use of song texts to impart major points in myth in a condensed and concentrated form all relate music to the heroic aspect of life. There is a close association of music to warfare and the fact that most singing was done by men and the musical role, even today, of community leaders and principal carriers of tradition. The acquisition of songs as associated with difficult feats–learned in visions brought about through self-denial and torture, required to be learned quickly, sung with the expenditure of great energy, sung in a difficult vocal style–all of this puts songs in the category of the heroic and the difficult.”
Spirit Talk Culture Institute
P.O. Box 477
East Glacier, In the Blackfoot Nation 59434-0477
Phone: (406) 338-2882
(The Real People Declare)
“Believe in the beauty and strength of your own being. Forget the foolish belief that you and your fellow human beings were born evil. Those who would control you all the days of your life on earth perpetuate the belief iihtsipaitapiiyopa (Source of Life) made things to have a bad spirit.
Live a life of truth and honesty. This makes you a person of quality and dignity. Truth and honesty are the kind of leadership qualities that attracts others.
Give honor and respect to others regardless of age and situation in life. This quality makes you and others worthy of honor and respect, which makes others, feel worthwhile and fulfilled. Honor and respect empowers others so they can win the day. They will return it to you fourfold.
Honor the earth and all that exists. Be strong in this belief and practice it throughout your life because it makes for a world of kindness that binds all the good things of life together in a circle of harmony.
Be humble but not timid. To be humble is to connect yourself to the stars and the entire universe and makes you aware there is something unique about life that is to be enjoyed without fear. We are people from the stars and because of it we are sacred.
Help others realize that life is a dream . . . . A beautiful dream. Dreamers are the butterflies of life and help others to realize their dreams.
Be humorous and help others to enjoy life and the life of others. Humor makes you attractive. The humorous person has many guests and the one who is invited everywhere because of the joy they bring to the gathering.
Never be afraid to talk matters over with those you disagree with or those you love. The gift of language is a miracle and it is meant to be used to live a life of harmony, joy, love, and respect. Use it well and use it often.
What is described here is leadership and happiness in the broadest sense. These are the qualities that make for a great father, grandmother, mother, teacher, grandfather, lover, traditional leader, friend and a great human being. Best of all you can add to this list.”
I give these to you in honor and respect: