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Blackfoot Tribe Lesson for Kids: History & Culture

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll learn the difference between Blackfeet and Blackfoot Indians. In addition, you'll find out about their history, culture, and the Blackfeet of today.

Blackfoot or Blackfeet?

If you do any reading about the Blackfoot Indians, you'll probably wonder why many articles and books call them ''Blackfeet'' instead of ''Blackfoot.''

The Blackfoot Confederacy consists of four groups. The Siksika, Kanai, and Northern Pikuni all live in Canada. The Amskapi Pikuni, also called the ''Blackfeet Nation,'' are those who now live in Montana. So, if the people are called ''Blackfeet,'' they're Native Americans living in the United States.

There are two stories that explain how the Blackfoot tribe was named. The name may have come from French traders, who called them ''blackfoot'' because the soles of their moccasins were black after walking through a burned prairie. An alternate story is that they were named after the black hooves, or feet, of the buffalo that were so important to the tribe.

History of the Blackfoot People

Ancestors of the current Blackfoot lived around the Rocky Mountains more than 10,000 years ago. Before European settlement caused them to be moved onto a reservation, Blackfoot were nomadic, or wandering, hunter-gatherers who moved from place to place following herds of buffalo that were their most important source of food. They also gathered wild plants to eat.

Blackfoot chiefs
blackfeet

In 1806, when Lewis and Clark made their expedition to map the western parts of the United States, they killed two Blackfoot who tried to take their guns and horses. After that, the Blackfoot and the U.S. government were enemies throughout the Indian Wars, until the Blackfoot were moved onto their reservation.

Beaver Medicine Bundle

The ''Beaver Medicine Bundle'' is a collection of over 600 songs and dances that are of great importance to the Blackfoot people. According to traditional tales, the bundle was gathered by Akaiyan, who encouraged the beaver, elk, moose, woodpecker, turtle, lizard, and other animals to teach him their songs, dances, and prayers.

The Beaver Chief rewarded Akaiyan for returning Little Beaver to him by giving Akaiyan a sacred pipe, and he taught him prayers, songs and dances. These were brought back to the Blackfoot tribe, where Akaiyan became a great medicine man, and have been handed down ever since.

Blackfeet Culture

Unlike European women, Blackfeet women are very important in their culture. They owned and cared for the tipis in which they lived. Many women were religious leaders, and women were responsible for teaching children about their culture. Blackfeet women had the choice of becoming warriors or homemakers.

Tipi
tipi

Blackfeet men taught the boys to hunt and to be warriors. Important men in the tribe might wear the paw of a grizzly bear on a necklace.

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