Anyone traveling to the Central and Southern Alberta would be welcomed by the wide open endless plain lands that extend beyond the horizon. Before Europeans arrived, this land had seen large herds of bison or buffalo moving from place to place with the changing weather and availability of food. Along with the bison herd, an Indian tribe also kept moving: The Blackfoot or Siksika. The tribes controlled the vast territory of land extending through today’s Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. The Blackfoot territory extended from Rocky Mountains to Saskatchewan and from the North Saskatchewan River to the southern border of Montana.
The Bloods, and the Piegans were allies of Blackfoot. Together they formed the strongest and the most fearsome prairie Indian group. They were warriors. They traveled, hunted, and lived as they wished. They fought with anyone who questioned their rights.For a long time, these warrior tribes prevented white men from invading their land natural resources.
Blackfeet depended on buffalo for their daily lives. They hunted buffalo for food. The whole tribe participated in this activity. While men hunted and killed buffalo, women prepared the meet and skin. Blackfeet women were experts in tanning buffalo skin. It was a long and hard process that required skill and patience. Women were judged upon the quality of prepared buffalo meet and tanned skin. Once prepared, the skin was used to make moccasins and tipis. The waste from buffalo was minimal. An average buffalo provided 600-700kg of meet. Extra meet was dried into jerky, or a high fat food called pemmican. Once tightly packed in skin bags, this meet stayed edible for years. Buffalo bones and horns were turned into tools, containers, weapons, and jewelry. Blackfeet hunted buffalo only to meet their needs. White man, finding buffalo skin, bone and horns as very valuable merchandise, hunted them on large scale, eventually leading to their near extinction. Disappearance of buffalo herds left prairie tribes with no food, and skin or bone for their clothes and tools construction. Find out more about buffaloes and their near disappearance from here.The word Piegan means "many chiefs." Remember Piegans were a group within the Blackfeet. Blackfeet had a very well developed community, divided into several bands. Each band had their own chief. Chiefs were informal positions, and was decided by a man's bravey- performance in a war or a hunt trip. Chiefs did not have any special privileges, and the band members were free to leave the band at any time. Usually this did not happen unless the chief happene d to be unworthy of holding the positon. Every member had their right to raise their opinion and decisions were made in band meetings. Women were an integral part of t he community since she controlled and maintained the household. Elders were respected for their experience and knowledge. Warriors and elders wore eagle feathers as a sign of their bravery and knowledge. Below is a Blackfoot chief wearing his full head dress.
The destruction of buffalo presented large struggles to all prairie tribes. The European invasion did not allow them to continue their own ways of life. Along with other aboriginal tribes, Blackfeet were also forced to leave so many of their customs. Nowadays, there are only a very few Blackfeet elders who possess knowledge of their customs. Nowadays, Blackfeet people are working towards rebuilding the lost customs and culture. Glenbow museum in Calgary presents a variety of resources online to learn and understand this culture closely.