Blackfoot (Siksika)

Siksika or Blackfoot, the smallest of the 3 bands that make up the BLACKFOOT NATION. In their own language,siksika means "black foot" or "black feet." They are part of the Algonquian linguistic group and speak the same language as the BLOOD(Kainai) and PEIGAN(Pikuni), with only slight dialectal variations.

Occupying hunting grounds on the Battle River and Red Deer River, the Siksika were the most northerly of the 3 bands comprising the nation. As a result, they were the first to be part of the fur trade, and it is likely that this caused their name to be applied to the whole nation. Although their communities stretched as far south as the Missouri River, they were considered to be British-aligned and were not usually involved in American trading or treaties. Their population during the nomadic period varied between 2000 and 3000 and was officially registered as 2249 in 1879.

During the nomadic period, the Siksika were buffalo hunters and warriors, their main enemies being the CREE and ASSINIBOINE. Their leading chief in the late 1700s was The Swan, who was succeeded by Gros Blanc. By the mid-19th century, Old Swan, Old Sun and Three Suns were the head chiefs, and they in turn were replaced by Old Sun Jr and CROWFOOT. Crowfoot was destined to become the great leader of the Nation, taking them successfully from a nomadic life to life on an INDIAN RESERVE.

In 1877 the Siksika signed Treaty No 7 and established a reserve at Blackfoot Crossing, east of Calgary. There they became farmers and ranchers, with some finding employment in their own coal mine. In 1912 and 1918 the Siksika gained a unique status when they sold about half their reserve for approximately $1.2 million, making them the richest nation in western Canada. They obtained new houses, regular interest payments and other services. However, the advantages were only temporary, for by the end of the Second World War their funds were expended and they had little to show for their wealth except a smaller reserve and some aging houses. Their population in 1996 was 4706 (up from 3500 in 1986).

See alsoNATIVE PEOPLE: PLAINS and general articles under NATIVE PEOPLE.