The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture: with Compartive Material from other Western Tribes
Publisher: Government Printing Office
Place: Washington, DC
xv+374 with 17 plates and 33 figures. Royal octavo (9 1/2" x 6") bound in original publisher's olive green cloth with gilt lettering to spine. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 159. Reprinted in 1969. First edition.
The Blackfoot Indians of the United States and Canada were dividedinto three main groups: the Northern Blackfoot or Siksika, the Kainahor Blood, and the Piegan. The three as a whole are also referred toas the Siksika (translated Blackfoot), a term which probably derivedfrom the discoloration of moccasins with ashes (Mooney 1910: 570).The three groups constituted what were apparently geographical-linguisticgroups. All three spoke a language which was a part of the Algonquianfamily. According to Wissler (1911), the Piegan and Blood were themost closely related dialects.Before the Blackfoot were placed on reservations in the latter halfof the nineteenth century, they occupied a large territory which stretchedfrom the North Saskatchewan River in Canada to the Missouri Riverin Montana, and from long. 105 degrees W to the base of the RockyMountains. The Piegan were located toward the western part of thisterritory, in the mountainous country. The Blood were located to thenortheast of the Piegan, and the Northern Blackfoot were northeastof the Blood.The Blackfoot were placed on four reservations. The Blackfoot Agency,the Blood Agency, and the Piegan Agency are all located in Alberta,Canada. The Blackfoot Reservation in Montana is inhabited by Piegans.(References to Northern Piegan indicate the Canadian Piegan, whilereferences to the Southern Piegan indicate the Montana Piegan.) Fora map of the aboriginal territory and the location of the reservations,see McClintock (1968).Mooney accepts the estimate of Mackenzie that in 1790 there were approximately9,000 Blackfoot. According to Ewers, however, in 1832 Catlin estimatedthat the Blackfoot numbered 16,500, and in 1833 Prince Maximiliangave an estimate of 18,000 to 20,000 (Ewers 1958: 60). During thenineteenth century, there were repeated epidemics of smallpox andmeasles, which, together with starvation, decimated the population,so that in 1909 they numbered only 4,635. The Piegans at BlackfootReservation in Montana constituted almost half of this number, with2,195. In Alberta, at Piegan Agency, there were 47l; at Blood Agencythere were 1,174; and at Blackfoot Agency, there were 795 (Mooney1910: 571). Evidence indicates that the Piegan were always the largestof the three groups. In 1960, the tribal enrollment was 8,456, and4,850 of these lived on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana (McFee1968: 1097).Although Mooney refers to the three groups as a confederacy, therewas no political structure which would warrant such a term. The threehad a very ambiguous sense of unity. The only times they gatheredtogether were for ceremonial purposes.The Blackfoot were typical of the Plains Indians in many aspects oftheir culture. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers, who lived in tipis.They subsisted mainly on buffalo and large mammals and, in addition,gathered a lot of vegetable foods. Traditions indicate that the buffalowere hunted in drives, although hunting patterns changed when horsesand guns were introduced. Deer and smaller game were caught with snares.Fish, although abundant, were eaten only in times of dire necessityand after the disappearance of the buffalo.During the summer, the Blackfoot lived in large tribal camps. It wasduring this season that they hunted buffalos and engaged in ceremonialism,such as the Sun Dance. During the winter, they separated into bandsof from approximately 10 to 20 lodges.According to Hanks and Richardson (1945: 3, 20), the kinship and socialsystems were characterized by "anarchistic individualism." They describethe kinship system as "multilineal" and "multilocal," and they speakin terms of a balance of lines with a very slight tendency towardpatrilineality. The most basic social unit was the "orientation group,"which consisted of the household of ego's parents and ego's householdas an adult with a family. Polygyny was practiced and, in fact, wasthe general rule.Band membership was quite fluid. There might be several headmen ineach band, and one of them was considered the chief. Headmanship wasvery informal. The qualifications for the office were wealth, successin war, and ceremonial experience. According to Hanks and Richardson(1945: 3), authority within the band was similar to the relationshipbetween landlord and tenant. As long as the headman continued to providebenefits, people remained with him. But if his generosity should slacken,people would simply pack up and move.
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