Blackfeet Tribe

Blackfeet Indians, Siksika Tribe, Siksika Indians (‘black feet’, from siksinam ‘black’, ka the root of oqkatsh, ‘foot’. The origin of the name is disputed, but it is commonly believed to have reference to the discoloring of their moccasins by the ashes of the prairie fires; it may possibly have reference to black-painted moccasins such as were worn by the Pawnee, Sihasapa, and other tribes). An important Algonquian confederacy of the northern plains, consisting of three subtribes, the Siksika proper or Blackfeet, the Kainah or Bloods, and the Piegan, the whole body being popularly known as Blackfeet. In close alliance with these are the Atsina and the Sarsi.

Within the recent historic period, until gathered upon reservations, the Blackfeet held most of the immense territory stretching almost from North Saskatchewan river, Canada, to the southern headstreams of the Missouri in Montana, and from about lon.105° to the base of the Rocky mountains. A century earlier, or about 1790, they were found by Mackenzie occupying the upper and middle South Saskatchewan, with the Atsina on the lower course of the same stream, both tribes being apparently in slow migration toward the north west 1Mackenzie, Vol., lXX-lXXI, 1801. This would make them the vanguard of tile Algonquian movement from the Red river country. With the exception of a temporary occupancy by invading Cree, this extreme northern region has always, within the historic period, been hold by Athapascan tribes. The tribe is now settled on three reservations in Alberta, Canada, and one in north west Montana, about half being on each side of the international boundary.

So far as history and tradition go, the Blackfeet have been roving buffalo hunters, dwelling in tipis and shifting periodically from place to place, without permanent habitations, without the pottery art or canoes, and without agriculture excepting for the sowing and gathering of a species of native tobacco. They also gathered the camas root in the foothills. Their traditions go back to a time when they had no horses and bunted their game on foot; but as early as Mackenzie’s time, before 1800, they all ready had many horses, taken from tribes farther to the south, and later they became noted for their great horse herds. It is entirely probable that their spread over the plains region was due largely to the acquisition of the horse, and, about the same time, of the gun. They were a restless, aggressive, and predatory people, and, excepting for the Atsina and Sarsi, who lived under their protection, were constantly at war with all their neighbors, the Cree, Assiniboin, Sioux, Crows, Flatheads, and Kutenai. While never regularly at war with the United States, their general attitude toward Americans in the early days was one of hostility, while maintaining a doubtful friendship with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Their culture was that of the Plains tribes generally, although there is evidence of an earlier culture, approximately that of the Eastern timber tribes. The 3 main divisions seem to have been independent of each other, each having its own Sun dance, council, and elective head chief, although the Blackfeet proper appear to have been the original nucleus. Each of the 3 was subdivided into a number of bands, of which Grinnell enumerates 45 in all. It has been said that these bands were gentes, but if so, their gentile character is no longer apparent. There is also a military and fraternal organization, similar to that existing in other Plains tribes, known among the Blackfeet as the Ikunuuhkahtsi, or All Comrades,’ and consisting formerly, according to Grinnell, of at least 12 orders or societies, most of which are now extinct. They have a great number of dances-religious, war, and social-besides secret societies for various purposes, together with many “sacred bundles,” around each of which centers a ritual. Practically every adult has also his personal “medicine.” Both sexes may be members of some societies. Their principal deities are the Sun, and a supernatural being known as Napi, ‘Old Man,’ who may be an incarnation of the same idea. The dead are usually deposited in trees or sometimes laid away in tipis erected for the purpose on prominent hills.

As usual, many of the early estimates of Blackfoot population are plainly unreliable. The best appears to be that of Mackenzie, who estimated them about 1790 at 2,250 to 2,500 warriors, or perhaps 9,000 souls. In 1780-81, in 1837-38, in 1845, in 1857-58, and in 1869 they suffered great losses by smallpox. In 1864 they were reduced by measles, and in 1883-84 some 600 of those in Montana died of sheer starvation in consequence of the sudden extinction of the buffalo coincident with a reduction of rations. The official Indian report for 1858 gave them 7,300 souls, but another estimate, quoted by Hayden as having been made “under the most favorable circumstances” about the same time, gives them 2,400 warriors and 6,720 souls. In 1909 they were officially reported to number in all 4,635, viz: Blackfoot agency, Alberta, 795; Blood agency, Alberta, 1,174; Piegan agency, Alberta, 471; Blackfoot agency (Piegan), Montana, 2,195.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Blackfeet as both an ethnological study, and as a people.

  • Grinnell, Blackfoot Lodge Tales, 1892.
  • Hayden, Ethnog. and Philol. Mo. Val., 1862.
  • Schultz, My Life as an Indian, 1907.
  • Wissler, in Ontario Archæo. Rep. for 1905, 1906.
  • Wissler, in Anthr. Pap. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., V, pt. 1, 1910.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Mackenzie, Vol., lXX-lXXI, 1801
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

32 thoughts on “Blackfeet Tribe”

  1. My friend was just informed of her Blackfeet ancestry. Two terms used are confusing…Who were the Teuowa and the Pokaniu??

  2. My mother and grand mother use to tell when I was little growing up in Arkansas that we were part Blackfoot Native American. My grandma often dressed in native American clothing, but I was young and stupid at the time to ask more about that side of our family.

    Both my mother and grand mother have passed on, and they took the family information with them.

    Can someone help me find my roots.

  3. Hey I recently discovered that I am Blackfoot Indian on my mom’s side of the family but on my father’s side of the family is Cherokee does that make me half and half??

  4. Stella Blackledge

    I want to learn more about my grandmas family my mom says she is full blooded blackfoot. Her name is Columbia {Luma} Hively/Harper/Munday. born 1855-1965 . I want to more about her Indian family please .

    1. My Great Great Grandmother on my mother’s side of the family was half Blackfeet Indian. Her name was Queen Victoria Swooley. Family lived in Arkansas. How can I find my roots?

  5. Who am I. I need to know more of my heritage. I can feel it in every breath I take. There are answerers of where i come from and whom. My name is Dillon I am the grandson of Mariam Smith of Helena Montana and youngest son of her youngest Daughter Shelly. We are all living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am able to learn only so much of what they recall of our lineage. I must know more of my roots. Our family has been rittled with lots of loss thus striken unrulingly with greif and with it are many untold stories of which will otherwise be forgotten. I recall meeting my great grandmother one time as a child and can remember that day and her with vivid detail but Im longing to know more. I feel soo lost. Please any info would be deeply appreciated! Thank you

  6. Hi! 🙂 I am Touched By Bear. I am trying to inquire re. my Native American Status. My Mother’s mother’s mother, was a Native American Princess with the Blackfoot and La Kota Tribes. How do I find out re. My Family History Please? THANKYOU and May the Great Spirit bring World Peace for the next seven Generations! LOVE, Touched By Bear

  7. I am Donna La Valley. My grandfather, Jackson Patrick White, helped raise me. He was born on the Blackfoot Reservation in the Black Hills, North Dakota, southern Canada, in 1898. He died sitting next to me, nearly 90 years old, of a broken back. Grandfather would not tell me of our people. I have a son and now he has twin sons. Now I am old and we don’t know where the rest of our family is. Will someone please help lift my broken branch and reconnect it to our tree. With all my heart I thank you.

  8. My mother was half Blackfoot,her father was a full-blooded blackfoot.his name was George Gates.He lived in Indiana.would like to find out more about my ancestors,help!

  9. My father is Blackfoot. He’s from Calgary Alberta, Canada. I’m half Blackfoot and Navajo. My Grandpa was full Blackfoot, he served in the WWII. Most of my Dad’s family lives in Browning, Montana. My Grandma is Spotted Eagle.

    1. Hi…
      I have similar info, not much. Canada and Montana with possible Missouri. My family name of Presley and Shand. Morning More is her first name. Narneece is another Indian name.

  10. I am looking for ancestors of Denver Tallbot from Brooks Alberta. His mother was a blackfoot who married outside of the tribe. How do I find his history?
    The usual sites come up with nothing.

  11. Jeannine mceneang

    I have been told I am Canadian blackfoot Indian. I am not sure how to go about finding out to confirm or not confirm this. I have very limited information in this regard. I am just trying to fill in voids in my life where my father couldn’t answer because he has passed away. Can anyone help me?

    1. Have you tried contacting the reservation in Alberta, Canada? My great-grandmother was from the reservation there and migrated down to Montana. Since it’s the Canadian side, I’m not familiar with how they kept records there.

      1. Do you have any information on the reservation in Alberta, Canada? I have the same problem as you. Past relatives said our great grandmother was a Blackfoot Indian Judith Caouette or Cuwett (or one of the other 16 ways to spell this last name). Any help would be appreciated.

  12. I was always told we were Blackfeet Indian on my great grandfather’s side freeman vines where do I begin to prove my Indian heritage

    1. My husband was told that he had the name freeman and Blackfoot Indian in his lineage..my name is Kristen gaddy. My husband is kevin gaddy. Email if this sounds familiar plz. We live in georgia, born and raised..
      [email protected]
      Thank you. Have a blessed day.

  13. Hello, I am very interested in finding out what type of blackfoot i am. Mother always told me my great grandma was blackfoot and with my parents family being French Canadian I figured it may be siksika, but I want to be sure of what blood I have in my veins. Mother was Linda Ouellette (middle name may be Ann) and father is Steven Daniel lachance Sr.

  14. I’d like further information on the Blackfoot Tribe. I’d like my grandchildren to know their heritage. I believe this is very important too know from where they came from. There grandmother’s name was Eunie Mae Stiggers. She married a man named Henry Gray in Texas. Please help me if you can.

  15. Ted Bear Rogers is my grandfather. He’s supose to be right off the reservation in Montana. Joined the USNavy and I believe was stationed in Newport RI where he met my grandmother Lorraine. How do I find out more about my heritage?

  16. My great great grandparents were blackfoot Indian according to my oldest living relative on my mothers side. They grew up in Western NY. My great grandfather would take his children to Canada to visit his family. His name was Babe Turner. How do I find more info about this?

  17. My family is of the Cherokee and of blackfoot. I am trying to prove this but I can not do to pour records. My great great grandfather was eaglefeathers. But I can not find any solid records of him other the little bits from family.

  18. Hello, according to my family, my maternal grandmother, born in rural Georgia is a descendant of Blackfoot. According to the Census (1840?) Her Father’s name was Cody and he was married to Eliza/Elisa. Where do I begin my search to verify this?

  19. My grandfather was Canadian Blackfoot Indian he was adopted by my great grand father when he was a child he married my grandfathers mother, I live in upstate new York about 50 miles south of Canada. I really would love to find out any information I could, my grandfathers name was nester Lansing Stephens, as to what his last name was before my great grandfather adopted him I do not know. Please help my grandfather married my grandmother in upstate new York

  20. My grandmother was a blackfoot Indian. She last lived in Oregon. How can I find out more of her connection with the tribe with very limited family history and all of her children have past away?

  21. I am new to your pge and have just started searching I have a great grand mother and its beleved that she is of Indian dcent not sure of any tribe I do know she ha spent her life in Ky . She had a name that sh wa called and she was not proud of it or so ive been told (DIRTY FOOT) is that rediculous or is that anything that has any meaning . As far as I know she may have stepped in a cow pattie to get that name but I am resonaly sure on her Indin heritage

    1. My great grandmother as well.other then the name dirtyfoot.I think.Oh and lived in west Virginia.holy river I think.I thought all these years she was Cherokee.now I’m told Blackfoot.which would make more since(our restlessness,ornery rebellion ,tuff head strong ,,just all around tuff independent bunch of us.I know I prolly not have a whole lot of native American per say in my blood.but you sure can tell by how we are.and boy can you see it in my great grandmother.I also could see in my mother(god rest her soul) it would just be interesting to learn more.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.