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Traditional Life - The Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation

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The Siksika Nation is one of the three First Nations that make up the Blackfoot Confederacy; the other two First Nations are the Kainai (Blood) and the Piikani (Peigan). In English, the Siksika are often referred to as the Northern Blackfoot, or the Blackfoot Proper. This can be confusing, for the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani, with their shared language and culture, are all part of the Blackfoot Nation. Despite this, it should be stressed that the Siksika are a unique First Nation unto themselves, with a cultural identity that is distinct from either the Kainai or the Piikani.

The word Siksika quite literally means “blackfoot” in the Blackfoot language, and its origins are obscure. One old story suggests that a Siksika traveller came upon a Kainai camp, and that the Kainai noticed that the bottoms of the travellers moccasins had been blackened from walking across the charred site of a prairie fire. The traveller and his people took on the name Blackfoot from then on.

At the height of its strength, the Blackfoot Confederacy commanded a large territory which ran north to south from the North Saskatchewan River in present day Alberta to the Missouri River in Montana, in the United States. From east to west, this territory spanned from what are now the borderlands between Saskatchewan and Alberta to the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Within the larger Blackfoot territory, Siksika traditional territory was located in the northern and eastern lands. Like the Kainai and the Piikani, the Siksika carry a long memory of living in their lands, and some evidence suggests that they have lived on the plains for many thousands of years. The very history has spoken not only of their ancient ties to the land, but also of their struggles to keep it from encroaching enemy First Nations and, later on, from the military and bureaucratic forces of the Canadian government.

Like the Kainai, the Piikani, and other peoples who lived on the plains, the Siksika lived a nomadic, buffalo hunting lifestyle, and their customs, traditions, and social and spiritual life were rooted in this intimate tie to the land. From this culture, a resilient people has emerged, and examples of Siksika spirit can be found in the many Siksika individuals who have distinguished themselves over the years. The profiles of a few of these individuals can be found in this website.

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