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Aboriginal Youth Identity Series: Health and Wellness Elementary  Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness

Lesson Two: The Blackfoot Nation and the Seasons

Teacher Information:

NOTE: This lesson is designed to be delivered in tandem with Lesson One: Discovering the Change of Seasons. It is possible to present this lesson independently, however it will need to be modified.

Students will need their Four Seasons Chart (if applicable).

Blackfoot People were nomadic, as they followed the buffalo herds. Survival required their being in the proper place at the proper time. For almost half the year in the long northern winter, the Blackfoot People lived in their winter camps along a wooded river valley perhaps a day's march apart, not moving camp unless food for the people and horses or firewood became depleted. Where there was adequate wood and game resources, some bands might camp together. During this part of the year, buffalo wintered in wooded areas where they were partially sheltered from storms and snow, which hampered their movements and made them easier prey.

During the summer the people assembled for tribal gatherings. In these large assemblies, warrior societies played an important role. Membership into these societies was based on brave acts and deeds.

In spring the buffalo moved out onto the grasslands to forage on new spring growth. The Blackfoot did not follow immediately for fear of late blizzards, but eventually resources, such as dried food or game, became depleted and so the bands would split up and begin to hunt the buffalo.

In mid-summer, when the Saskatoon berries ripened, the people regrouped for their major tribal ceremony, the Sun Dance. This was the only time of year when the entire tribe would assemble, and served the social purpose of reinforcing the bonds between the various groups, and re-identifying the individuals with the tribe. Communal buffalo hunts provided food and offerings of the bulls' tongues (a delicacy) for the ceremonies. After the Sun Dance, the people again separated to follow the buffalo.

In the fall, the people would gradually shift to their wintering areas and prepare the buffalo jumps and pounds. Several groups of people might join together at particularly good sites, such as Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. As the buffalo were naturally driven into the area by the gradual late summer drying off of the open grasslands, the Blackfoot would carry out great communal buffalo kills and prepare dry meat and pemmican to last them through winter and other times when hunting was poor. At the end of the fall, the Blackfoot would move to their winter camps.

Main Lesson:

Break students into equal groups of either three or four depending on the demographics of your classroom. Each group should be given one of the four seasons: summer, winter, fall, or spring. Student groups will then be responsible for researching how the Blackfoot Aboriginal Peoples survived for their assigned season. Some questions you will want students to ask are:

  • What were the living accommodations for the Blackfoot People during that season?
  • What were the food sources i.e.: what were the plants or berries that were harvested?
  • What cycles of planting were practiced?
  • What were hunting practices including what animals were hunted during the particular season?
  • What cultural celebrations or traditions were practiced during the season?

After the students have collected all of their information they will assemble it on a chart (using large pieces of Bristol board). Students may choose to add photographs to supplement their report findings.

After all of the students have completed their charts, align them along a wall so that each season can be compared to one another. Initiate a class discussion so that students are able to see how the Blackfoot Peoples lifestyle was affected by the change of the seasons.

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