Blackfeet People

The Blackfeet American Indians, or Siksikaitsitapi people, have lived in the Glacier National Park for thousands of years—since the time when the continental ice sheets melted from the region. They were the strongest and one of the fiercest tribes on the northwestern plains.

Miss Blackfeet 2018. Her name is Piitahkia meaning Eagle Woman. She was born and raised in the Blackfeet Indian Reserve.
Elaborate shoes of Piithakia.

They Blackfeet people believe that the Sun which they call Na’pi or “Old Man” made the earth. In the beginning, there was only water with Old Man floating on a boat. Old Man told the beaver to bring some mud from the bottom of the water. He couldn’t reach the bottom. Then the loon and otter tried, but the water was too deep for them. At last, a muskrat was sent down who was able to bring a little mud in his paws. Old Man dried the mud and scattered it over the water, and thus the land was formed on the ocean. Then he made mountains, rivers, trees, and all the animals. He made a big horn buffalo called bison and put it out on the prairie to feed. Afterwards, he took some clay and made clay figures and said to them, “you shall be people.” After a few days, he spoke to the clay shapes, “stand up and walk.” The figures stood up and walked down to the river with him. Old Man taught these people how to hunt a bison and said to them, “there is your food.” He also taught them to use the buffalo skin to make a shelter and clothes.

Miss Blackfeet 2018–2019. Piitahkia is the representative of Blackfeet tribe.
Clint from Oklahoma before his performance. His outfit represents a bird.

Later Old Man marked off a piece of land for them and said, “when people cross your lands, take your bows and arrows, and fight them. If they gain a footing here, trouble for your will follow.”

Blackfeet tribe member.
Blackfeet tribe member.

Thus, the Blackfeet were called as the people of the buffalo. They relied on hunting bison for food, clothing, and shelter. In the late nineteenth century, the bison was on the brink of extinction as the white settlers wiped out large herds of bison. The Blackfeet people were starved to death and were forced to seek help from the U.S. government to survive. Today, they primarily live on Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana along the edge of the Glacier Park.

Cadmin, a young Blackfeet tribe member.
His father asked me if I would like to have a picture of me with his son. It is not very often I get the opportunity to have a picture of me taken with the people I photograph, so I love this picture.

Yesterday, I was at the St Mary Visitor Center in Glacier National Park where members of the Blackfeet tribe were performing native American dances from different tribes. I was late so I couldn’t watch the show, but I took each performer aside and spoke to them. They were also very patient when I took pictures of them. They told me that although much of their culture and tradition was lost when white settlers took much of their land and tortured them if the Blackfeet people spoke their language or practised their rituals, there has been a cultural revival in the past few years. The younger generation is keen to learn ancient stories, songs and dance. They can learn Pikuni language at school. “We are fighters. We will reclaim our culture,” the young Piithkia, who is Miss Blackfeet 2018, told me.


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