Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way. – Blackfoot
The Blackfoot, who are also called Blackfeet, Indians were originally a nomadic American Indian tribe that migrated from the Great Lakes region to the Northwestern United States. They lived in the Northern Great Plains, specifically in Montana and Idaho as well as Alberta Canada. What started out as one nation, evolved over time into four distinct and independent tribes, each with their own government. Because of similar geographic regions how they live, including clothing style, weapons, and food is very similar. Currently, there is one Blackfoot reservation with a population of about 10,000 Indians in the U.S. and another 15,000 live in Canada. Below we have listed interesting facts and information about these Great Plains Indians.
- North Peigan Pikuni
General Blackfoot Indian Facts
- The Blackfoot Indians were skilled huntsmen. They primarily hunted buffalo like many other Plains Indians and traveled in groups, when hunting, to cover as much territory as possible.
- In the 1800’s, the white men began hunting buffalo as well and caused the population to decrease drastically. Over 600 Blackfoot Indians starved to death as a consequence of their dependence on the almost extinct buffalo.
- Each of the four tribes, although independent, share one official language called Algonquian. This language is also spoken by many other Indian tribes in the U.S.
- The Europeans arrival in the 1800’s meant big changes for the Blackfoot. On one hand, they brought horses with them which were invaluable to the Blackfoot because it enabled them to hunt buffalo much easier than on foot or by dog sled. But, they also brought disease that was devastating to the Blackfoot population. The Europeans passed on small pox and measles to the Indians and wiped out a significant percent of the population.
- The Blackfoot Indians are very spiritual and believe strongly in supernatural powers. They believe that everything has a spirit, whether alive or inanimate and can be good or evil.
- The Blackfoots most important spiritual ceremony is the Sun Dance. It’s a yearly event that takes place during the summer. It was also known as the Medicine Lodge Ceremony. It centers around dancing, singing, prayer and fasting, with the buffalo being the highlight of the ceremony. Because they relied on buffalo so much, the ceremony was a way to honor the buffalo.
- The Blackfeet were known for mastering several forms of art including embroidery, basket making and beading. Not only did art decorate their clothing, but it could also be seen on their colorful teepees and different types of everyday tools.
- The type of jewelry that women wore most often was earrings. They were usually made of seashell or semi-precious metals. Elk tusks were a prized possession and women wore them as decorations on their dresses. Men who achieved a certain level of status in a tribe would wear a grizzly bear paw on a necklace.
- Clothing almost always included some part of animal hide or skin. Temperatures in the northern region got cold and the hide provided warmth.
- War clothing was elaborate. Porcupine quills were often woven into the clothing and it was often decorated with beadwork and fringe as a status symbol.
- The Blackfoot population was known for being difficult to get along with. They fought with those living in close proximity to them including the Assiniboine, Cree, Crows, Flatheads, Kutenai, and the Sioux.
- Crowfoot, a famous Blackfoot Indian Chief and warrior, was responsible for signing a peace treaty with the Canadian government. Of the many battles he fought, he felt that the toughest battle was one he fought (and could not win) against alcoholism among his people.
- Kalani Queypo is a well-known actor with a Blackfoot heritage. He can be seen in movies such as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Juror.