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Blackfoot Crafts

All of the articles illustrated on this Web Site are taken for a book called "Blackfoot Craftworker's Book" and were made after the "primitive days" of the long-ago. I don't really know much about the crafts made by the ancient Blackfoot People, though we can assume that they were pretty plain and basic. They were all made with materials found directly in Nature--hides, bones, woods, and so forth. More modern tools were eagerly sought by trade, from other tribes, even before the first traders ever came to the Blackfoot country. Try making a pair of moccasins with only a stone knife, a bone awl, and strands of sinew, and you will quickly see how those long-ago ancestors appreciated steel knives, scissors, and other tools.

Dr. Wissler gives a lot of information about the developments of various articles of craftwork in his volume on "Material Culture." Some of this information will interest modern craftworkers, but much of it is of little use in actually learning to make the crafts. The general summary of such a study is the most important point for modern craftworkers: Native craftworkers have always been influenced by the styles and ways of other Peoples (both Native and Non-Native American), and they have always made use of whatever tools and supplies they could get that made their work easier and better.

I don't know for sure that all the articles on my web pages were made by Blackfoot craftworkers. Museum records are of ten vague and sometimes noticeably wrong. Trading craftwork with other tribes has always been popular. One thing I can say, with certainty, is that all the articles on this web site are of the style made and used in the Blackfoot Nation. A more important point, however, is that these illustrated articles were often the finest ones among the People, at the time they were obtained. Museum buyers and private collectors have usually sought the best decorated and most colorful articles, rather than the pain, well-worn, everyday ones. This is especially true with clothing. Don't let the examples make you think that the Old People always went around in beaded suits and dresses. Most People owned such fine clothing, but they kept if carefully packed away in their parfleche "suitcases" most of the time.

Styles and decorations of articles made by Blackfoot craftworkers were often quite similar to those made and used among neighboring tribes, although little details often separate one from the others. Crow, Cree, Kootenai, and Flathead crafts and styles are regularly confused with those from the Blackfoot Nation. In some cases, articles made by the Sarsi and Gros Ventre are identical, since these two tribes were often Blackfoot allies.

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