- A confederacy of Indians of the northern Plains, belonging to Algonquian
stock. They were known as one of the largest and most warlike groups
of that region, and were next to the Dakota in prominence. Their
name is from the native word, siksika, meaning "black foot," which
formerly was thought to have been given them because of the discoloration
of their moccasins by ashes of prairie fires. However, it is now
believed that they originally dyed their moccasins black.
The Blackfoot consisted of the Siksika,
or Blackfoot, the Blood, and the Piegan. Under their protection were
two smaller tribes - the Atsina (Gros Ventre) and the Sarsi. When
the white man first knew them, they were distinguished by the beadwork
on their moccasins - a design ending in three prongs, which designated
the three tribes.
At one time the Blackfoot held most of
the territory from the North Saskatchewan River in Canada to the southern
head streams of the Missouri River in Montana, and from longitude 105º
to the base of the Rocky Mountains. They were roving buffalo hunters,
living in tepees. They early acquired the horse and the gun.
While warlike and aggressive and continually fighting with their neighbors,
the Cree, Assiniboin, Sioux, Crow, and Flatheads, they were never regularly
at war with the United States. Nevertheless they were always hostile
with the white man.
The Blackfoot observed the Sun Dance, as
well as a spectacular ceremony known as the Horse Dance. In this
latter dance they appeared mounted in full war gear - bonnets, shields,
guns, lances, with faces and bodies painted and ponies decorated - and
circled, charged, yelled, and fired their rifles. They had secret
societies and many sacred bundles of tribal "medicine." They also
had military societies like other Plains Indians.
While most writers term them Blackfoot,
their agency is called the Blackfeet Agency. The Blackfoot have given
their name to a town, creek, and mountains in Idaho, and to a river and
village in Montana.
within this Site