Blackfoot Nation is comprised of 3 nations, the BLOOD (Kainai), PEIGAN (Pikuni) and BLACKFOOT (Siksika). In addition, both the SARCEE (Tsuu T'ina) and the Gros Ventre were allied to them in the nomadic period, forming the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Blackfoot Nation is comprised of 3 nations, the Blood (Kainai), Peigan (Pikuni) and Blackfoot (Siksika). In addition, both the Sarcee (Tsuu T'ina) and the Gros Ventre were allied to them in the nomadic period, forming the Blackfoot Confederacy. The term Blackfoot is accepted in Canada, and Blackfeet is common in the US. The Blackfoot nation refers to itself as soyi-tapix, meaning "prairie people."
The territory of the Blackfoot Nation from the mid-1700s to the settlement period was roughly from the Battle River in the north to the upper Missouri River, and from the foothills to roughly the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Thus, the Blackfoot hunting area included the rich buffalo ranges of southern Alberta and northern Montana. Their population varied over this period, ranging as high as 11 200 in 1823 and as low as 6350 after the 1837 smallpox epidemic. By 1996, their population had risen to more than 25 000, almost equally divided between Indian reserves in Alberta (almost 16 000) and Montana.
Linguistically the Blackfoot speak an Algonquian dialect that is distantly related to the Cree and Gros Ventre. However, their language is distinctive, with only slight variations in dialect among the 3 nations. The Blackfoot claim a long plains occupancy, a tradition confirmed by archaeological research. Their traditional culture is based entirely upon a buffalo economy.
The Blackfoot felt the influence of the White man before the first explorers met them in the mid-1700s. The horse, which had been brought to the New World by the Spanish, reached them from the south about 1725, at the same time as they received the firearms from Cree middlemen. Throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries, the equestrian Blackfoot dominated their hunting area and were constantly at war with the Cree, Assiniboine, Crow, Dakota, Nez Percé, Shoshoni and other adversarial nations. They frequented the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company posts on the North Saskatchewan River, but carried on an incessant war with American trappers and free traders in the south until peace was made in 1831. From that time on, the Blackfoot divided their trade between the British and Americans.
In 1855 the Blackfoot signed a treaty with the American government and in 1877 Treaty No 7 was signed with the Canadian government. Most of the Peigan (Pikuni) settled on a reservation in Montana, and the Blackfoot (Siksika), Blood (Kainai) and North Peigan (Pikuni) nations each established a reserve in southern Alberta.
Because of the size of their reserves, the Blackfoot nations were able to retain much of their culture and language, although both have rapidly diminished in the post-WWII era. Today the reserves rely upon ranching and farming as their main industries, with small factories and plants being operated from time to time.
J.C. Ewers, The Blackfeet: Raiders of the Northwestern Plains (1958); Hugh A. Dempsey, Indian Tribes of Alberta (1979).