Monday, 15 February 2016

Blackfoot Tribe

I chose to look at the the Blackfoot tribe, due to the link between the tribe and Charles M. Russell, from my last blog post.

The Blackfoot tribe is a group of northern Great Plains Native Americans, made up of three sub-tribes; the Siksika, the Kainah, and the Piegan. They migrated from the Great Lakes region, to the Northern Great Plains, living in Montana and Idaho, as well as Alberta, Canada. Eventually, they dispersed, becoming four independent tribes, with their own governments.

The Blackfoot Indians were skilled huntsmen, primarily hunting buffalo, using them for food, shelter, clothing & equipment. However, when the white men began hunting buffalo in the 1800's, the Blackfoot, and several other tribes suffered. With their food source depleting, as well as the diseases e.g. small pox and measles, brought by the settlers caused the Blackfoot population to decrease from 20,000 to 5,000. Being mainly huntsmen, the tribe had no interest in arts or agriculture.

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. Their aggressive nature also meant that before the 19th century, the Blackfeet were known as one of the strongest military powers in the Great Plains, fighting against explorers and settlers who entered their territory, until 1806.

The Blackfoot people have several religious beliefs, as well as superstitions. For example, they believe in underwater people called "Suyitapis", therefore the tribe actively avoided hunting/eating fish, and using canoes. The tribes would also congregate to celebrate "The Sun Dance", due to their religious beliefs, bringing the three tribes together for this festival.

Today, many of the Blackfoot live on reserves in Canada, and about 8,500 people living on the Montana reservation, and approximately 25,000 members in total. The Blackfoot tribe remain battling with unemployment, and alcoholism, Despite this, they continually advance in education, while continuing many cultural traditions of the past and passing on their ancestors' traditions to their children, such as the Sun Dance (which was illegal from 1890s-1934).

Video on the Blackfoot Tribe

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