Blackfoot Indians


Blackfoot, Native North Americans of the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They occupied in the early 19th cent. a large range of territory around the Upper Missouri (above the Yellowstone) and North Saskatchewan rivers W to the Rockies. Their name derives from the fact that they dyed their moccasins black. There were three main tribes—the Siksika, or Blackfoot proper; the Piegan; and the Kainah, or Blood. Although they did not form a unified political entity, they were united in defending their lands and in warfare. The Atsina (related to the Arapaho) and the Athapascan-speaking Sarsi were allied with the Blackfoot group. The Blackfoot were unremittingly hostile toward neighboring tribes and usually toward white men; intrusions upon Blackfoot lands were efficiently repelled. Prior to the mid-18th cent. they had moved into the N Great Plains area, acquired horses from southern tribes, and developed a nomadic Plains culture, largely dependent on the buffalo. Their only cultivated crop was tobacco, grown for ceremonial purposes. With the early coming of the white man, the Blackfoot gained wealth from the sale of beaver pelts, but the killing off of the buffalo and the near exhaustion of fur stocks brought them to near starvation. Presently the Blackfoot are mainly ranchers and farmers living on reservations in Montana and Alberta. They continue to a small degree the rich ceremonialism that earlier marked their religion; important rituals include the sun dance and the vision quest. In 1990 there were 38,000 Blackfoot in the United States and over 11,000 in Canada.

See J. C. Ewers, The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains (1958, repr. 1967); H. A. Dempsey, Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfeet (1972); M. McFee, Modern Blackfeet (1972); B. Nettl, Blackfoot Musical Thought (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Blackfoot Indians: Selected full-text books and articles

Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians By Clark Wissler; D. C. Duvall University of Nebraska Press, 1995
Blackfoot Lodge Tales: The Story of a Prairie People By George Bird Grinnell University of Nebraska Press, 1962
From Wilderness to Statehood: A History of Montana, 1805-1900 By James McClellan Hamilton; Merrill G. Burlingame; Betty G. Ryan Bindfords & Mort, 1957
Librarian’s tip: Part Five "How the Government Acquired the Indian Land"
Driving Bison and Blackfoot Science By Barsh, Russel Lawrence; Marlor, Chantelle Human Ecology, Vol. 31, No. 4, December 2003
Reimagining Indians: Native Americans through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940 By Sherry L. Smith Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Among the Blackfeet"
Bravos of the West By John Myers Myers University of Nebraska Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "The End of a Landlocked Pirate"
Red Crow, Warrior Chief By Hugh A. Dempsey University of Nebraska Press, 1980
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "The Blackfoot Treaty"
The American Fur Trade of the Far West By Hiram Martin Chittenden University of Nebraska Press, vol.2, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Blackfoot Indians begins on p. 664
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