Acknowledged as one of the most powerful tribes in the American northwest, the Blackfeet are a confederacy of three independent tribes presently living in Montana and Alberta, Canada. The name "Blackfeet" originates from the distinctive black hue of their mocassins, either painted that color or perhaps darkened by prairie fires.
Modern scholars believe that the Blackfeet migrated westward over three centuries ago from the northern Great Lakes region; their language belongs to the Algonkian linguistic family (centered in that region) and other aspects of their culture, i.e., utensils, pottery, etc. This westward migration is thought to have been caused by the competitive nature (among Indians in the region) of supplying French traders with sufficient animal furs and pelts.
The Blackfeet quickly assimilated in to a nomadic type of existence in the northern plains; plentiful buffalo assured them of a strong future. A shaman or medicine man aided the hunt through the powerful use of the tailsman to help lure the buffalo to the fall.
By the early 1700's, extensive trade was going on with the Midwest and east coast settlers. Buffalo hides were traded for many different items, not the least of which were horses and guns. These two items radically changed the nature of the buffalo hunt; thus there was more time to develop more ornate cultural items, rituals, and myths to tell their stories and educate their young people.
The most sacred yearly event was the sun dance, or Medicine Lodge Ceremony. As a communal event, the Blackfeet and other Plains tribes would gather in mid-summer to fulfill vows to assure the well-being of the community through the continued abundance of the buffalo.
This time of prosperity and growth was soon cut short by the invasion of white settlers into Indian territory.
Undoubtedly, the greatest devastation to the...