They call themselves "Niitsitapi" ("Original People"), but in the United States, they are known as the Blackfeet. In Canada, they are known by their more particular band names, one of which is Blackfoot, but regardless of the name, they are a tribe of Native American peoples ("First Nations" in Canada) who, until the modern time period, lived in small, decentralized bands and hunted the bison on the northern Great Plains. Stories vary, but the name "Blackfeet" or "Blackfoot," applied to them by others, may have come originally from their practice of dying their moccasin soles black. That said, their use of an Algonquian language group may indicate that they were relatively recent newcomers to the region from somewhere in the Northeast.
The territory of the Blackfeet, at its greatest extent, encompassed a vast area from the eastern Rocky Mountains of Alberta and Montana and extending several hundred miles out onto the Great Plains, around the upper reaches of the Saskatchewan River and its tributaries in Alberta and the upper reaches of the Missouri River and its tributaries in Montana. The area of the land most sacred to the Blackfeet is the Sweet Grass Hills, which are located just south of the Canadian border in the central part of Montana. These are a group of buttes forested with balsam firs rising several thousand feet above the surrounding plains and which can be seen for a considerable distance. This was also Napi's favorite resting place in the mythology of the Blackfeet. Young Blackfeet went up into the Hills on their vision quests and, as their predecessors had done for several thousands of years, left inscriptions and petroglyphs on the surface of the tall sandstone cliffs. Many of the stories told by the Blackfeet take place there.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors