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Native Languages of the Americas:
Language: Blackfoot, or Siksika, is a language
of the Algonquian family,
spoken by 8000 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.
Blackfoot (Siksika, Peigan, Piegan, Kainai, Blackfeet)
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
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
"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.
Our Online Language Materials
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.
Worksheet showing color words in the Blackfoot language.
Worksheet showing how to count in Blackfoot.
Blackfoot Animate Nouns:
Lesson on Blackfoot animate and inanimate nouns.
Lesson on the use of Blackfoot possessive pronoun prefixes.
Blackfoot Dictionaries, Audio Tapes and Language Resources
Blackfoot Dictionary of Stems, Roots, and Affixes Blackfoot-English Vocabulary:
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links
Blackfoot dictionaries for sale.
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.
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 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
Introductions to the old Blackfoot writing system, with sample texts.
Siksika Language Samples:
Twenty audio glossaries from the Siksika First Nation.
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
Genesis verse translated into the Siksika Indian language.
The Bible in Beaver:
Translation of the New Testament into the Blackfoot language.
Blackfoot Indian Prayers:
The Lord's Prayer and other Christian prayers translated into Pikanii Blackfoot.
Canadian Human Rights Tribute: Peigan:
Plaque in the Peigan (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.
Demographic information about 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
Short list of Blackfoot last names, with some associated genealogical information.
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).
Additional Resources, Links, and References
Encyclopedia article on the Siksika language.
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 Tribe Blackfoots:
Blackfoot links pages.
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