Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Blackfoot consist of three geographical-linguistic groups, or nations: the Siksika (formerly called Blackfoot), the Kainai (or Bloods), and the North Peigan and South Peigan (the Blackfeet of Montana). Although these groups are sometimes called a confederacy, there was no overarching political structure. Each of the nations of Blackfoot came together in their own large camp during the summer. Traditionally, the Blackfoot were hunter-gatherers who depended largely on bison hunting. The basic sociopolitical unit was the clan cross-cut by a series of age-grade men's societies. On the reserves today, the Blackfoot depend on ranching, farming, wage labor, and welfare.


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North America --Plains and Plateau



United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number. The Blackfoot file consists of thirty-four English language documents, focusing in large part on the pre-reservation Blackfoot of northern Montana in the United States and in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, in Canada. Much of the data in the file is based on memory ethnography or historical reconstruction and ranges in time coverage from the 1600s to around 1970, with a particular time focus on the period from the 1850s to the early 1900s. The most comprehensive studies of traditional nineteenth century Blackfoot ethnography are found in the works of Wissler (1911, no. 1; 1912, no. 2; 1910, no. 3; and 1918, no. 23), and Ewers (1955, no. 8; 1955, no. 9), supplemented with comparable data from Lewis (1973, no. 10), Kane (1925, no. 47,) Lancaster (1966, no. 54), Binnema (1996, no. 59), Conaty (1995, no. 60), Dempsey (1986, no. 61; 1978, no. 62), Nugent ( 1993, no. 65), and Schultz (1930, no. 67). More recent data dealing primarily with the post-reservation period are found in Goldfrank (1966, no. 11), Hanks & Richardson (1966, no. 12), Hanks & Hanks (1950, no. 16), Lismer (1974, no. 29), McFee (1972, no. 6; 1971, no. 14), Robbins (1972, no. 13), Hellson and Gadd (1974, no. 17), and Hungry Wolf (1980, no. 20; 1977, no. 21). Of the nine new works added to the Blackfoot file in 1997 (eHRAF documents 59-67), the study by Samek (1987, no 66) is of particular interest for its analysis of the United States and Canadian government's reservation administration policies. For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The culture summary was written by Gerald T. Conaty in August, 1997. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in October, 1997. The Human Relations Area Files also wishes to acknowledge with thanks the suggestions offered by Gerald T. Conaty for the selection of new documents added to the Files in 1997.

Overview by

John Beierle

calumet -- a peacepipe used in maintaining peace and sealing a contract -- category 728

gentes -- unilineal descent groups (assumed) -- category 614

Indian scouts -- as members of a military organization -- category 701

INISKIM -- the good luck Buffalo Stone -- categories 777, 778

KOS'STAN -- the rawhide dish for mixing tobacco seed -- categories 281, 415

medicine bundles -- as sacred objects -- category 778

medicine pipes -- sacred pipes used in ceremonials -- categories 778, 276 (sometimes)

MOTOKI -- a women's society -- category 575

political chief -- category 622

war chief -- category 624

Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- as a police force on the reservations -- category 657

smudge altar -- category 778

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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