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What is the Blackfeet Nation?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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The Blackfeet Nation, also known as the Blackfoot Nation, is a group of one of the peoples who are native to the territory presently known as the United States. Members of the Blackfeet Nation sometimes are referred to as American Indians or Native Americans. Their name in English is said to come from the Europeans who encountered them and distinguished them by the dark color of their moccasins, which were tinted black. Siksika, however, is one of the names that these people use to refer to themselves in their own language.

The Blackfeet were a people of the Great Plains who, according to historians, migrated to the Americas from the continent of Asia via the Beringia, a land bridge believed to be approximately 1,000 miles in width that existed between what are now Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska. It generally is believed that the Blackfeet Nation followed the migration of the buffalo and other animals from Asia, such as pronghorns, on which they depended for food, clothing, shelter and weapons. These people continued to follow the buffalo across the Great Plains of the U.S., where they heavily populated the territory of the state of Montana. This is why they also became known as the Montana Indians or the Montana tribes. The Blackfeet Nation, like many other tribes of the plains, lived in structures called tepees that could be easily assembled and disassembled.

Native American tribes of the plains are considered to belong to one of two categories: hunters and prairie farmer-hunters. Members of the Blackfeet Nation, believed to be some of the first migrants to the U.S., were hunters. Unpredictable rainfall, river beds that dried up and soil that was unsuitable for growing crops discouraged the people from farming.

There are three subdivisions or tribes that comprise the Blackfeet Nation, which was collectively considered one of the "Indian tribes." These subdivisions are the Siksika, the Kainah, and the Piegan. The name "Kainah" is derived from the word "ahkainah," meaning "many chiefs." The Piegan tribe derived its name from the word "pikuni," which loosely translates to "dressed in poor clothes." These sub-groups also were divided into religious and warrior societies. Algonquian is the original language of the Blackfeet Nation.

Early trappers considered members the Blackfeet Nation, who were known as aggressive warriors, to be their enemies. It also is believed that the Gros Ventre Native American tribe lived under the protection of the Blackfeet for a time. Some members of this nation still reside on what are known as reservations, but many others do not.

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