Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/216

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204
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ETHNOLOGY OF THE BLACKFOOT TRIBES.
By HORATIO HALE.

THE tribes composing the Blackfoot Confederacy, as it is commonly styled, are in some respects the most important and interesting Indian communities of the Northwest; but they have been until recently less known than any others in that region. A report on these tribes having been requested by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, a correspondence was opened by the writer with two able and zealous missionaries residing among those Indians. These were the Rev. Albert Lacombe, widely and favorably known as Father Lacombe, author of a valuable grammar and dictionary of the Cree language, and now missionary among the Siksika, or proper Blackfoot Indians; and the Rev. John McLean, missionary of the Canadian Methodist Church to the Blood and Piegan tribes, who is now preparing a translation of the Scriptures into the Blackfoot tongue. To these gentlemen, who responded most courteously and liberally to the inquiries made of them, the report (of which the following is mainly a summary) is indebted for most of the facts which it contains. For the conclusions drawn from these facts the writer only is responsible. Some other sources have been consulted, particularly the valuable official reports of the Canadian and United States Indian Departments. Something has also been drawn from the writer's own notes, made formerly during an exploring tour in Oregon.

Fifty years ago the Blackfoot Confederacy held among the Western tribes much the same position of superiority which was held two centuries ago by the Iroquois Confederacy (then known as the Five Nations) among the Indians east of the Mississippi. The tribes of the former confederacy were also, when first known, five in number. The nucleus, or main body, was—as it still is—composed of three tribes speaking the proper Blackfoot language. These are the Siksika, or Blackfeet proper, the Kena, or Blood Indians, and the Piekané, or Piegans (pronounced Peegans)—a name sometimes corrupted to Pagan Indians. Two other tribes joined this original confederacy, or, perhaps, more accurately speaking, came under its protection. These were the Sarcees from the north and the Atsinas from the south. The Sarcees are an offshoot of the great Athabascan stock, which is spread over the north of British America, in contact with the Esquimaux, and extends, in scattered bands—the Umpquas, Apaches, and others—through Oregon and California, into Northern Mexico. The Atsinas, who have been variously known, from the reports of Indian traders, as Fall Indians, Rapid Indians, and Gros Ventres, speak a dialect similar to that of the Arapahoes, who now reside in the “Indian Territory” of the United States. It is a peculiarly harsh and difficult lan-