|Doctrines|| ||The Blackfeet are composed of a group of three Algonkian-speaking tribes: the Pikuni (or Piegan), the Kainah (or Blood), and the Siksika (or Northern Blackfoot). Central to Blackfeet religion is the belief in a sacred force that permeates all things, represented symbolically by the sun whose light sustains all things. The moon, the morning star, and certain animals such as the eagle, the bear, the buffalo, the otter and the beaver were regarded as particularly endowed with sacred power. |
Another symbol of sacred power was the medicine bundle. The origin of the sacred bundle was a vision made to a young man by a supernatural spirit instructing him to collect certain things and retain them because of their inherent sacred power. The receipient of the vision would also receive instructions to perform certain sacred rituals.
In addition to bundles possessed by individuals, there were bundles which were owned collectively. Examples of these larger bundles were the Sun Dance bundle, the Beaver bundle and the medicine pipe bundle. The complex rituals associated with these were believed to provide general benefit to the tribe through the provision of food or healing.
Tribal religious life was also characterised by the performance of ceremonies which were often preceded by a purification rituals. Individuals would sit in a sweat lodge sometimes singing songs to sacred beings. The most important tribal ceremony was the Sun Dance. The Sun Dance was performed every summer with the purpose of enabling the renewal of the world. In the course of participating in the ceremony a Sun lodge would be constructed in the middle of which would be a sacred pole whose purpose was to connect the sacred powers of the sky with the earth.
|History|| ||The Blackfeet belong to a linguistic stock known as the Algonkian. They originally lived in woodlands, but over time settled on the grasslands between the upper basin of the Missouri and the Saskatchewan river and lived by hunting buffalo and other game. By the 18th century they had acquired horses and guns and were able to use these to expand their territory at the expense of weaker neighbouring tribes such as the Shoshonis and Flatheads. Such was the strength of the Blackfeet that they were able to thwart the encroachment by Europeans into their land during the early decades of the 19th century. However, disease, particularly smallpox, and starvation decimated their population in the second half of the same century so that by 1909 there were only 4,365 Blackfeet remaining. |
As well as losing large numbers of their population, the Blackfeet lost large tracks of land to the United States government. Following the loss of their lands and way of life most of the people were forced to live on reservations where they lived by farming or raising cattle. This lifestyle, and the impact of Christina missions, has done much to undermine the traditions of the Blackfeet nation. Today the blackfeet continue to live in reservations in Alberta and Montana.
|Symbols|| ||Blackfeet ceremonies were highly symbolic in character. Ritual dances sometimes involved imitation of sacred animals. Colour symbolism was very important: red and black respectivley symbolised the sun and the moon. Geometrical figures such as the circle were used to represent the sun, moon and morning star. Today the Siksika use a logo consisting of a by a buffalo surrounded by a circle, beneath which is a peace pipe and a tomahawk. The buffalo symbolises food, shelter and clothing; the peace pipe, which crosses over the tomahawk, indicate that for the Blackfeet peace has permanently replaced war. |
|Adherents|| ||According to the 1990 census for American Indian tribes there were 32,234 Blackfeet. |
| ||To my knowledge, there is no administrative centre specifically associated with the Blackfeet. There are sizeable Blackfeet communities in southern Canada and border states such as Montana and Washington.|