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Native Languages of the Americas:
Blackfoot (Siksika, Peigan, Piegan, Kainai, Blackfeet)

Language: Blackfoot, or Siksika, is a language of the Algonquian family, spoken by 3000 people in southern Alberta and northern Montana. Blackfoot is a polysynthetic language with complex verb morphology and fairly free word order. The two main dialects are called Pikanii and Siksika Blackfoot. Many children are still learning Blackfoot, but the language is currently undergoing linguistic shift, with 'Old Blackfoot' being spoken by older generations and 'New Blackfoot' being spoken by younger ones.

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People: The Blackfoot Nation today actually consists of four distinct Blackfoot nations, who share a historical and cultural background but have separate leadership: the Siksika Nation, the Kainai or Blood Nation, the Pikanii or Peigan Nation, and the Blackfeet Nation. The first three nations are in Alberta, Canada, and the fourth is in Montana. The Blackfoot were nomadic plains hunters, traditional enemies of the Shoshone and Nez Perce. There are about 14,000 Blackfoot Indians today all told.

Names: "Blackfoot" is a literal English translation of Siksika, which is the traditional tribal name of one of the major divisions of the Blackfoot Confederacy. (The other important divisions are the Piikani and the Kainai. The Kainai are today also known as the Bloods.) "Blackfoot" (as well as the Anglicized plural, "Blackfeet") became used by English speakers to refer to all these groups and their shared language, and today most of the people refer to themselves as Blackfoot (as well as their own band names.) Alternate spellings of these names include Black Foot, Black Feet; Siksikawa; Peigan, Piegan, Pikuni, Pikani, Pikanii, Pekuni, Picaneaux, Piekann, Piikunii; Kainah, Kaina, Kainaa, Kainawa, Akainawa, and Akainaa. The names Aapatohsipikani or Northern Peigan are often used to refer to Piikani people in Canada, while Aamsskaapipikani, Amskapi Piikani, or Southern Peigan are sometimes used to refer to Piikani people in Montana. Niitsitapi or Niisitapiikwan, meaning "original person," is sometimes used for Blackfoot people in general, and Niitsipussin is sometimes used for the Blackfoot language (although all our Blackfoot speakers call their language "Siksika.") A few other historical names that are sometimes heard in reference to the Blackfoot tribe are Pied-Noir, Many Chiefs, Pay-pans, and Archithinue.

History: The Blackfoot were a powerful buffalo-hunting society of the northern plains, with most of their settlements located in Montana, Idaho, and Alberta. At first the Blackfoot Indians were pleased by the arrival of the Europeans, since the horses they brought were invaluable to buffalo hunters. Unfortunately, things took several turns for the worse. Smallpox epidemics ravaged the Blackfoot population in the mid-1800's (there is evidence that some white settlers may have deliberately helped it along by selling infected blankets.) In 1870 American army forces, looking for Mountain Chief's band of hostile Blackfoot Indians, fell instead upon Heavy Runner's peaceable Piegan band and killed 200 of them, many of them women and children. (Mountain Chief's group escaped across the new border into Canada.) Even worse than this, by 1900, the white settlers had wiped out the buffalo herds. Hundreds of Blackfoot Indians starved to death, and the forced transition to sedentary life left a once-mighty nation dependent on government rations. Nevertheless, in the face of these travails the Blackfoot people have not lost their culture, and the Blackfoot Indian language is one of the few indigenous languages in Canada and the United States which has a good chance for survival.

Blackfoot Language Resources
Blackfoot language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Blackfoot Tribe Culture and History
Related links about the Blackfoot Indians past and present.

Blackfoot Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Blackfeet tribe, their language and culture.

Blackfeet Indian Legends
Introduction to the mythology of the Blackfeet Indians.

Blackfoot Language Resources

Our Online Language Materials

Blackfoot Vocabulary:
    List of vocabulary words in the Blackfoot language, with comparison to words in other Algonquian languages.
Blackfoot Pronunciation Guide:
    How to pronounce Blackfoot words.
Blackfoot Alphabet and Syllabary:
    Introduction to the Blackfoot writing system for beginners.
Blackfoot Animal Words:
    Picture glossary of animal words in the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Body Parts:
    Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Colors:
    Worksheet showing color words in the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Numbers:
    Worksheet showing how to count in Blackfoot.
Blackfoot Animate Nouns:
    Lesson on Blackfoot animate and inanimate nouns.
Blackfoot Possession:
    Lesson on the use of Blackfoot possessive pronoun prefixes.

Blackfoot Dictionaries and Language Books for Sale
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links

Blackfoot Dictionary of Stems, Roots, and Affixes * Blackfoot-English Vocabulary:
    Blackfoot dictionaries for sale.
Blackfoot Grammar:
    Good linguistic description of the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Stories of Old:
    Collection of myths and traditional stories in the original Blackfoot language, with English translation.
Blackfoot Ways of Knowing:
    Interesting book on the culture, worldview, and sociolinguistics of the Blackfoot people.
Outline for a Comparative Grammar of some Algonquian Languages:
    Historical text comparing the Blackfoot language to several other Algonquian languages.
Beginning Blackfeet Language:
    12-CD Siksika language learning course produced by the Blackfeet Nation.
Siksika Language Series:
    Complete kits for teachers of Blackfoot classes.
Native American Language Dictionaries:
    Blackfoot and other American Indian dictionaries and language materials for sale.

Blackfoot Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

The Piegan Institute:
    Tribal nonprofit organization in Montana dedicated to preserving the Blackfoot language.
Piikani Paitapiiyssin:
    Blackfoot language learning app available for free download from the Piikani Nation in Alberta.
    Blackfoot linguistics overview, with phonology, syntax, sociolinguistics, soundfiles, and texts.
Blackfoot Language Map:
    Map showing the locations in Montana and Alberta where the Blackfoot language has been spoken.
The Blackfoot Language * Blackfoot Linguistic Description * Blackfoot Phonology * Blackfoot Grammar:
    Blackfoot Orthography * Blackfoot Text * Blackfoot Numbers * Blackfoot Story:
    Scanned-in Blackfoot language materials from the Rosetta Project.
Blackfoot Phonetic Inventory * Blackfoot Acoustic Phonetics:
    Student papers on Blackfoot phonetics, including audio files, spectrograms, and a glossary
The Blackfoot Language:
    Information on Blackfoot phonetics, morphology and grammar.
Blackfoot Syllabary * Blackfoot Syllabarium * Blackfeet Syllabary:
    Introductions to the old Blackfoot writing system, with sample texts.
Siksika Language Samples:
    Twenty audio glossaries from the Siksika First Nation.
Blackfoot Lexicon:
    Blackfoot audio glossary.
Stories and Spaces: Exploring Kainai Plants and Culture:
    Database of Blackfoot plants and herbs, with information on traditional use in Blackfoot, English and French.
Siksika Language Phrasebook * Blackfoot Audio Samples:
    Blackfoot words and phrases, with audio files.
Five Blackfoot Lullabies:
    Audio recordings of children's songs in the Blackfoot language.
Freelang Blackfoot Dictionary:
    Free downloadable wordlist from the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Language Tree:
    Theories about Blackfoot's language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
Siksika Language Structures:
    Blackfoot linguistic profile and academic bibliography.
*Western Algonquian Comparative Vocabulary:
    Early 20th-century wordlists of Piegan, Cheyenne and Arapaho.

Literature and Texts in the Blackfoot Language

Blackfoot Language:
    Genesis verse translated into the Siksika Indian language.
The New Testament in Blackfoot: * Blackfoot Words of Life:
    Translation of Bible passages into the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Indian Prayers:
    The Lord's Prayer and other Christian prayers translated into Pikanii Blackfoot.
Canadian Human Rights Tribute: Peigan: * Siksika Syllabary:
    Plaques in the Blackfoot Indian language.

Blackfoot Language Preservation and Usage

Blackfoot Language Revitalization:
    NPR audio report on Blackfoot language preservation efforts.
New tool developed to help preserve Blackfoot * Siksika language overcomes cultural genocide:
    News articles about language revival efforts among the Blackfoot First Nations.
House of Languages: Blackfoot:
    Information about Blackfoot language usage.
Words From Our Elders:
    Documentary film on the history and usage of the Blackfoot language.
Blackfeet Course Descriptions:
    Course descriptions from the Blackfeet Community College, including Blackfeet language classes.
Learn to Speak Blackfoot:
    Bibliography of Blackfoot language learning resources.

Blackfoot Proper Names

Blackfoot Surnames:
    Short list of Blackfoot last names, with some associated genealogical information.
Blackfoot Names:
    How to spell English names using the symbols of the Blackfoot syllabary.
Aboriginal Place Names of Alberta:
    List of Blackfoot, Stoney, Cree, Slavey, and Sarcee placenames in southern Alberta, with their English translations.
American Indian Names for Pets:
    Our new fundraiser offering names for dogs and other animals in Native American languages (including Blackfoot).

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Additional Resources, Links, and References

  Wikipedia: Blackfoot:
  Encyclopedia article on the Siksika language.
  OLAC: Siksika:
  Reference list of Blackfoot language materials.
  La Lengua Blackfoot:
  Article on the Blackfoot language in Spanish. With a language map.
  Information on the Blackfoot language in French, including a phonological inventory.
  Blackfoot Language * Blackfoot Resources * Blackfoot Tribe * Blackfoots:
  Blackfoot links pages.

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