Who Are The Blackfeet Tribe?

Blackfoot gathering, Alberta. 1973
Blackfoot gathering, Alberta. 1973

The Blackfeet Indians often referred to as the “Real” or the “Original” people of Montana, is one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States. They migrated from the upper northeastern part of the US and temporarily settled in the Great Lakes before moving to their present reservation.

6. Who Are The Blackfeet Indian Tribe? -

The Blackfeet Indian tribe consists of four nations including Siksika, Northern Piegan, Southern Piegan, and Kainai who are also called the Blood Indians. The four nations have been banded together to form the Blackfoot Confederacy with the aim of helping and protecting one another. The Blackfeet tribe is sometimes referred to as nations since they have their separate governments which are headed by chiefs. The nations always come together for activities such as worship and other social celebrations. Today, the only Blackfoot nation that can be found in the US territory is the Piegan.

5. Blackfeet Tribe History -

The Blackfeet Indian Tribe, also known as the Niitsitapi, had a territory stretching from North Saskatchewan River along the present Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Montana in the US. The tribe called their territory Nitawahsin-nanni or Nitasissinan which means “Our Land” while they adopted the use of horses to mobility and hunting. Families were organized into bands of 10 to 30 lodges of about 85 to 240 people. The bands were defined by the place of residence and not necessarily family relations or kinship and are headed by a respected leader. The nation gathered during summer with warrior societies playing an important role for men. Men were enrolled into the warrior societies through brave acts and deeds. During winter, Niitsitapi lived in their camps along the wooded river valley not moving camp unless they ran out of food. The four nations assembled once in a year in a ceremony called “Sun Dance” reinforcing the bond between the groups and nations. They also hunted buffalos together for food and various ceremonies. After the ceremonies, the nations would again separate and form bands. When on the move, the Niitsitapi backed their possession on an A-shaped sled known as travois which was pulled by dogs before they acquired the horses in the 18th century.

4. Where Do They Live Today? -

The majority of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe members live in Canada today. In the US, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is a home to 17,321-member Blackfeet nation. The reservation which is situated in the US state of Montana is made up of mainly the Piegans. The reservation, which was established in 1885 through a treaty, is on the eastern side of the Glacier National Park and borders Alberta, Birch Creek, and Cut Bank Creek provinces of Canada. The reservation covers an area of 3,000 square miles with the eastern side being open hills of grassland.

3. Blackfeet Tribe Language -

The Blackfeet Indian Tribe speaks the Algonquian language. There are four dialects of the Blackfeet tribe three of which are spoken in Alberta, Canada while one is spoken in the US. These dialects include Aapatohsipikani, Kainai, and Siksika in Alberta, and Aamsskaapipikani in Montana. The dialect spoken by the old Blackfoot is distinctively different from the one spoken by the modern Blackfoot. They have three consonants and 18 vowels that are distinguished by length. The Canadian government has recognized and provided support for the Blackfeet language.

2. Blackfeet Tribe Clothing -

The clothing of the members of the Blackfeet tribes were made of hides from antelopes and deer. The women have the responsibility of making decorated clothing for the tribe. Men wear moccasins, long leggings, loincloths and a belt. Boys wore the same clothes as men except their shirts were undecorated. Women and girls, on the other hand, wore dresses made from deer’s skin and decorative earrings and bracelets made of shells. They used buffalo’s skin to cover themselves during the cold season. Women would also paint their hair red to signify that they were ready to bear children.

1. Blackfeet Tribe Culture -

The Blackfeet Indian Tribe continues to practice the tradition with the hope of extending their traditions to their children. The elders continue to teach their language to the new generation thus reviving it in the process. The songs and dance of the bundle remain an important part of the cultural tradition. North American Indian Days are the biggest celebrations lasting four days and are held in the second week of July. Sun Dance is also an important cultural celebration which last eight days and involves dancing, singing, praying, and honoring the creator. The ceremony provides an opportunity for the four tribes to come together


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