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Blackfoot Indian Tribe


Blackfoot Indian Tribe

Iron Breast

The North American Blackfoot Indian Tribe (also referred to as the Blackfeet, Niitsitapi, Piegan, PiikŠni, KŠŪnaa, Bloods, and the SiksikŠwa) speak an Algonquian language and therefore are thought to be formerly from the Great Lakes Area where the main Algonquian languages originated.  Some anthropologists have even suggested that they originated in the State of Maine, due to characteristics of their language and culture.  However, according to the Blackfoot oral history, they have inhabited the Great Plains and adjacent Rocky Mountain area for thousands of years.  In any case, they adopted the horse into their culture and became one of the most powerful tribes in the Northern Plains area with the American bison (buffalo) becoming their main food source.  Interestingly, the name "Blackfoot" is said to come from the color of their leather moccasins, which they supposedly dyed black. Today the majority of the Blackfoot Indians live  Northern Montana and Southern Alberta near Glacier National Park.   Historically the Blackfoot Indians were  hostile to both other Indian Tribes and with white colonists, having few allies.  The Blackfoot often captured the women and children of other Indian Tribes (particularly, the Shoshone) and assimilated them into Blackfoot society.  Interestingly, Lewis and Clark were warned about the Blackfoot's hostile nature by other Indian Tribes and avoided the them during their expedition, heading west over the Rocky Mountains rather than north where the Blackfoot lived.  However, it was not armed conflicts which reduced the Blackfoot population, but rather diseases such as smallpox and starvation when the buffalo population was decimated by over-hunted for hides.  The Blackfoot Indians were awarded a reservation of about 6,100 square kilometers by the US Government just south of Glacier International Peace Park. The photograph above shows a member of the Bulls Society, Iron Breast who is wearing a buffalo scalp with the horns still attached.  Currently the Blackfoot Indian Tribe refers to themselves as the "Niitsitapi" in their own language and has a total population of about 32,000 indigenous Americans. 


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