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Siksika (Blackfoot)

To avoid confusion we will briefly discuss the separate histories of the Blackfoot confederacy and the tribe called Blackfoot or, more properly, Siksika. According to Russell, it is not possible to identify the members of the Blackfoot nation before 1760 since until then they were all referred to as Archithinue (Russell, p.214). However, the name Blackfoot was eventually applied to three plains tribes with slightly different Algonquian dialects: the Peigan. Blood and also the Blackfoot proper, or Siksika.

Dempsey explains the confusion arose when Euro-Canadians first came west (Henday in 1754) and encountered the Siksika, the most northerly of the three tribes, and assumed them to be the same as other tribes nearby (Dempsey, Can. Encyc.). The Tsuu Tina and Gros Ventre were also associated with these tribes and were considered part of the Blackfoot confederacy.

It is generally believed that the Blackfoot tribes occupied territory northeast of their current locations and finally settled into southern Alberta where they were first encountered by Euro-Canadians. The Blackfoot tribes may have been in southern Alberta at an earlier time but conclusive evidence is lacking. Some people believe they may have been there all the time. Dempsey is of the first opinion: "There can be no doubt that the Blackfoot were absent from Southern Alberta and northern Montana in the 1600s" (Dempsey, Can. Encyc.). To take (or retake) this territory it is said the Blackfoot displaced other tribes which had moved north, in the case of the Shoshone, or east, in the case of the Kootenay. Lewis refers to the where-abouts of pre-historic Blackfoot as an enigma since the Blackfoot have linguistic and cultural affinities with eastern and western tribes (Lewis, p. 8 to 11).9

At the time when the fur trade was extending into the west the Siksika were judged to be north of the Blood Indians who occupied an area between the Red Deer and Bow Rivers. Shortly thereafter they were said to be centered around Blackfoot Crossing and the Red Deer River (Dempsey, p. 11). While the Blackfoot in general were reluctant to involve themselves in the fur trade (Despite the efforts of the Henday expedition in 1754-55) they were known to have access to European goods at an early time. "The trading which was carried on while Henday was in their village certainly dictates that they were receiving their supplies through the Cree and Assiniboine" (Milloy, p. 10).

Tribal Location since Signing of Treaties

The three Blackfoot tribes speak slight variations of the same language and may in fact have been a single tribe at one time. It's not easy to say which of these tribes a place name originated with. We do know as many as ninety official names originate with the "Blackfoot."

Notes

9.Lewis concludes the Peigan were at Eagle Hills (Saskatchewan) in 1730 and "presumably the Siksika and Blood were to the north and east. The Blackfoot were therefore on the eastern edge of the plains near the transitional region between the forests and the plains" (Lewis. p. 15).


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