Religious Practices of the Blackfoot Indian Tribe
29 SEP 2017
The Blackfoot Indian Nation is known as a part of the North American Plains Indians, existing today primarily in the state of Montana, and in the province of Alberta after migrating from the Great Lakes region. The Blackfoot Nation is made up of four tribes: the North Peigan Pikuni, Siksika, Pikuni and Kainai. According to the nation's leader, Long Standing Bear Chief, the religious practices and teachings of the Blackfoot are rooted in honor and respect for "ancient ways given by iits-tsi-pah-ta-pii-op," also known as The Source of Life. The root of the religious practices of the Blackfoot is based on the "medicine bundle."
1 Medicine Bundle Philosophy
Historically, the root of spiritual power for the Blackfoot nation lies in the medicine bundle. It was said that there were originally more than fifty of these bundles among the various groups in the nation. A medicine bundle is a collection of sacred or ritual objects that is stored inside a protective wrapping until it is used. An individual may collect one of these bundles from a medicine man or woman to assist with a particular issue, such as warding off evil, bringing protection in battle or assisting with a vision quest. Each bundle comes with its own story, lessons and religious magic. The three most important medicine bundles were the Sun Dance, beaver and medicine pipe.
2 Religious Dances
Ceremonial dancing is another important part of Blackfoot religious practice. While each tribe had its own dances, the Buffalo and Sun Dances were the most powerful and significant to the Blackfoot as a nation. The Buffalo Dance honors the nation's source of sustenance, and involved the recreation of the buffalo hunt by the dancers, combined with prayers to the sun by the tribe's medicine man or woman. The Sun Dance is complicated, taking many days. It is done as a prayer for the survival of many generations to come. It involves four days of moving the tribe's camp, building a medicine lodge on day five and then offering gifts by the women of the tribe. On the sixth day, the dancers conduct self-torture by piercing their chests and committing themselves to the mercy of the hot sun. The ceremony lasts four more days, which are dedicated to commune between the various men's groups of the tribe.
The Blackfoot honor several deities in their religious practices. The most important is Naapi, or Old Man, who was, with his wife, Kipitaakii, a helper. He was also sometimes a trickster and jester. Apistotoki, also known as the Great Spirit, is the creator god and is seen as a pure spirit without human form. It is believed that Apistotoki first created the Sky People, or Sspommitapiiksi, who live in the clouds and look down over the Blackfoot Nation. Following the hierarchy downward, Natosi is the ruler of the Sky People. He is symbolized as the Sun and known as the "holy one." Natosi is married to Komorkis (the Moon) and their child, Lipisowaahs is the hero known as Morning Star.
4 Honor and Respect
According to a creed by Long Standing Bear Chief, honor and respect are at the heart of the religious practices of the Blackfoot Nation. In his teachings, he speaks of the beauty, integrity and perfection of each person at birth into this world, and the deep regard we must have for one another, no matter a person's age or standing in life. Other edicts include honesty, honor and respect for the earth and all that exists upon it, the ability to be humble yet strong, to assist others in achieving their dreams, to think as a teacher and leader, and to strive for a happy life.