Young Blood's & Morning Star's Home of Information

THE BLACKFOOT PEOPLE

By:  Howard L. Harrod and Long Standing Bear Chief

I've left the punctuation Long Standing Bear Chief has placed in his writing the way that he sent it to me on purpose. I believe that he has his reasons for writing it this way and then sending it on to me. After all....he is Blackfoot and knows what he is talking about much better than I do.

Thank you Long Standing Bear Chief, for this lovely piece on the Blackfoot Native American Indians.

The Blackfoot (Siksik?) or Blackfeet are Northern Plains people who are divided up into four separate political groups and now call themselves the Blackfoot Nation. The southern most group of the Blackfoot Nation is today called Blackfeet. This name was forced upon them when the ?Blackfeet Tribal Business Council? was incorporated under Federal Indian law in 1935. In former times they called themselves Piik?ni, which was corrupted by whites in Canada to ?Piegan?. Native speakers refer to themselves as Aamssk??pipikani or South Piik?ni. They live on a 1.5 million acre reservation in the Un! ited States lying to the east of Glacier National Park. The Blackfoot north of the Canadian line are known by different names. There are those called Aap?tohsipik?ni or North Piegans, the Bloods or K??naa, and the northern Blackfoot, who have chosen to return to their native name Siksik?. All these groups live in the province of Alberta on what are called Reserves by the Canadian government.

Before conquest and the emergence of reservation life, the Siksik? were organized into a powerful confederacy, which include the Saahsi or Sarcee, who now call themselves Tsuu T?ina, and the Ats??na, whom the French called Gros Ventre. Their territory stretched from the North Saskatchewan River on the north to the Yellowstone River on the south and was marked on the east by the point where the Yellowstone River flows into the Missouri River. The weste! rn boundary was the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains. In this vast homeland Siksik? people hunted buffalo and other small game, and gathered seasonal roots and berries for food and medicine. Horses greatly enriched the Siksik? culture and there was a Horse Society to give honor and respect to this animal. Horses allowed the Blackfoot to travel far and to places previously unknown, such as the Kettle Falls in what is now Washington State and to Mexico along the North Trail.

The Blackfoot population was greatly reduced by the spread of smallpox carried by infected people and trade goods transported up the Missouri River in the summer of 1837. As a consequence of this epidemic, the Blackfoot population was reduced by three-quarters to a low of about 20,000. War, starvation, and disease further eroded the population until, in 1894, as few as 1,400 individuals survived. By the year 2000, the Blackfoot population in the United States had rebounded to about 20,000 enrolled members.

Long Standing Bear Chief and Two Guns.
A picture of Long Standing Bear Chief (right)
and his relative: Two Guns.
Blackfoot people through and through!

Powerful spirits populate the Siksik? world. These spirits are underground or underwater people, some lived on the earth, and some are star people. Animals, birds, rocks, plants, and forces like thunder communicate power to the people through dreams or waking visions. Today traditional people pray to N??pi Naat??si (Sacred Elders) such as Sun, Moon, and Morning Star. Some of these spirits, such as Sun, are responsible for the origin of the Siksik? world. Traditions that tell of the marriage of a beautiful Siksika woman to Morning Star provide the story of the origin of the Natoas Bundle, which is central to a great world renewal ritual called the Ook??n, sometimes translated as ?a sacred sleep.? This ritual is also known by the Lakota name, ?Dance Looking at the S! un,? or Sun Dance.

Other traditions focus on the exploits of a youth named Piye, which refers to ?a birthmark,? who brought the Ook??n ritual to the people. Beaver, a powerful underwater animal, gave to the people the gift of the Beaver Bundle. Thunder gifted the people with a powerful pipe that is central to the Medicine Pipe Bundle. Through the power of bundles healing energies are released, animals give themselves to the people, and the world is renewed in the yearly Ook??n ritual.

Siksik? people in the United States and Canada are presently undergoing a cultural renaissance. There is action aimed at the recovery of a meaningful Confederacy, the Ook??n is regularly performed on both sides of the border, Thunder and Beaver bundles are opened, sweat lodge ceremonies are common, and vision quests are becoming more widespread. Of central importance are signs that the Siksik? language will survive and continue to flourish in the future. These dimensions of cultural renewal are tributes to the resilience of the people. The Siksik? not only survived more than a century of forced acculturation, they also have continued to transform themselves into a people with a nurturing and spiritual past and an identity that is con! sistent with essence of their predecessors being.

See Map for the ancient homeland of the Blackfoot people.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Long Standing Bear Chief is a member of the Blackfoot Nation and Howard L. Harold is a retired Professor of Native American Religions at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Indian Time Is Coming. . . . Indian Time Is Now.

Divider Bar

[ Blackfoot History Introduction ]
[ Calgary & Southern Alberta | History of the Blackfoot | Blackfoot History 2 ]
[ History of the Horse and the Chase | The Blackfoot People | The Pikuni ]
[ Blackfoot Traditions | The Blackfoot Indians of the United States and Canada ]
[ The Siksika Nation Coat-Of-Arms | Blackfoot Bibliography ]

Divider Bar
[ About Us | The People Declare | Clans Info | Religious Culture ]
[ Blackfoot Wisdom | Blackfoot Culture | Blackfoot History | Blackfoot Language ]
[ Blackfoot Ancient Stories | Blackfoot Crafts | Chief Photos ]
[ Our Recipes | Quilt Links | Ten Indian Commandments! | Favorite Links ]
[ Legal Information | Site Journal | Awards Won ]
[ Email | Home Page | Site Map ]
Top of Page

ICRA