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History of the Blackfoot

The Blackfoot were a group of Native Americans who lived in the Northern Plains region, near the border of Canada. Europeans conquered the Plains peoples during the 19th century and subjected them to the publicity of newspapers, magazines, and photographs. This mass media exposed the Plains cultures to a wide audience, and as a result the Plains peoples are the most documented and stereotyped of the Native American populations.  

Blackfoot, a closely related confederacy of Native American tribes of Algonquian linguistic stock, who roamed the northern Plains region between the upper Missouri and Saskatchewan rivers. The confederacy is also called the Blackfoot Nation, and the tribes may individually identify themselves as Blackfoot. The southern Piegan of Montana are officially known as the Blackfoot.

The Blackfoot consist of three distinct divisions: the Siksika, which in English means Blackfoot; the Kainah (Kainaiwa in the native language) or Blood; and the Piegan (Piik?ni in the native language). The name Blackfoot is likely derived from the groups' tradition of using ashes to stain their moccasins. Blood refers to the practice of dyeing faces and objects with red ochre. Originally from Saskatchewan, in the mid-18th century they drifted into the Montana area in search of buffalo. By the mid-19th century, at the peak of their power, they controlled a vast territory.

The Blackfoot were expert horseback riders, noted buffalo hunters, and fierce warriors. They were feared by other Native American groups and were frequently at war with their neighbors, the Cree, Sioux, Crow, and other tribes. In times of war the three divisions united to defend their lands.

The Blackfoot were a nomadic group, living in tepees in easily dismantled villages. Blackfoot tribes were divided into several bands, each led by a chief. The bands assembled in summer for social and religious ceremonies. Except for growing tobacco, the Blackfoot did no farming; their culture and economy were thus essentially typical of those of the Plains tribes. While the men made weapons and hunted, the women did household chores and gathered wild plants for food. The Blackfoot practiced polygamy; a prosperous warrior might have several wives.

In 1990, 32,234 people identified themselves as members of the Blackfoot Nation. Several thousand of these people, the southern Piegan, lived on the large Blackfoot Reservation in Montana. Others lived on three reserves in Alberta, Canada: the Blood, Piegan, and Blackfoot Agencies.

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[ 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 ]

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