Blackfoot mythology

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The Blackfoot are a tribe of Native Americans who currently live in Montana and Alberta. They lived north and west of the Great Lakes and came to participate in Plains Indian culture.



In Blackfoot mythology there is also a supernatural world, dominated above the natural world by the Sun. The Sun or the Creator (Nah-too-si; Superpowered or Holiness) created the earth and everything in the universe. Nah-too-si is sometimes personified by the mystical Napi, or Old Man. Napi was sent by the Nah-too-si to teach us how to live like He and his wife, Ksah-koom-aukie, Earth Woman, a sinless life.

The numbers four, the cardinal directions, and seven, the six principle points and center, are important in Blackfoot mythology. Communication occurs between the supernatural world and Blackfoot through visions of guardian spirits, during which useful songs and ceremonies may be imparted, such as that of medicine bundles. Ceremonies include the Sun Dance, called Medicine Lodge by the Blackfoot in English. Napi also gave the Blackfoot visions, and by implication Blackfoot music: "Now, if you are overcome, you may go and sleep, and get power. Something will come to you in your dream, that will help you. Whatever these animals tell you to do, you must obey them....Whatever animal answers your prayer, you must listen to him." (Nettl, 1989)


Apikunni is the inventor of tobacco and made the first war-time killing with an aspen stick.

The Sta-au are a type of ghost, specifically the ghost of cruel men and women. Most deceased lived in the certain part of the hills, but the Sta-au would hang around camps. They caused bad luck and harm to living people, especially near sunset and after dark.

The Buffalo Dance

One of the primary sources of food and other needs was the American Bison. The typical hunting method was to drive a herd off of a cliff, and butcher them after they died at the bottom of the cliff. Similar methods were used in ancient Europe.

The night before, the shaman ceremonially smokes tobacco and prays to the sun. His wives are not allowed to leave their home, nor even look outside, until he returns; they were to pray to the sun and continually burn sweet grass. Fasting and dressed in a bison headdress, the shaman led a group of people at the head of a V formation. He attracted the herd's attention and brought them near the cliff; they were then scared by other men hiding behind them, who waved their robes and shouted. The bison ran off the cliff and died at the rocks below.

According to legend, at one point the bison refused to go over the cliff. A woman walking underneath the cliff saw a herd right on the edge and pledged to marry one which jumped down. One did so and survived, turning into many dead buffalo at the bottom of the cliff. The woman's people ate the meat and the young woman left with the buffalo. Her father went in search of her. When he stopped to rest, he told a magpie to search for his daughter and tell her where he was. The magpie found the woman and told her where her father was located. The woman met her father but refused to go home, frightened that the bison would kill her and her father; she said to wait until they were all asleep and would not miss her for some time. When she returned to the bison, her husband smelled another person and, gathering his herd, found the father and trampled him to death. The woman cried and her husband said that if she could bring her father back to life, they could both return to their tribe. The woman asked the magpie to find a piece of her father's body; he found a piece of his spine. The woman covered the bone with her robe and sang a song. She was successful and her father was reincarnated. Impressed, the woman's husband taught them a dance which would attract the bison and ensure success in the hunt and which would restore the dead bison to life, just as the woman had restored her father to life. The father and daughter returned to their tribe and taught a small group of men, eventually known as I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi ("all compatriots"), the dances.

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