Blackfoot language

The Blackfoot language, also called Siksiká (ᓱᖽᐧᖿ, its denomination in ISO 639-3), (English: /siːkˈsiːkə/; Siksiká [siksiká], syllabics ᓱᖽᐧᖿ), often anglicised as Siksika, is an Algonquian language spoken by the Blackfoot or Niitsitapi people, who currently live in the northwestern plains of North America. There are four dialects, three of which are spoken in Alberta, Canada, and one of which is spoken in the United States: Siksiká (Blackfoot), to the southeast of Calgary, Alberta; Kainai (Blood, Many Chiefs), spoken in Alberta between Cardston and Lethbridge; Aapátohsipikani (Northern Piegan), to the west of Fort MacLeod; and Aamsskáápipikani (Southern Piegan), in northwestern Montana.[3] The name Blackfoot probably comes from the blackened soles of the leather shoes that the people wore.[4]

There is a distinct difference between Old Blackfoot (also called High Blackfoot), the dialect spoken by many older speakers, and New Blackfoot (also called Modern Blackfoot), the dialect spoken by younger speakers.[5] Among the Algonquian languages, Blackfoot is relatively divergent in phonology and lexicon.[6] The language has a fairly small phoneme inventory; consisting of 11 basic consonants and three basic vowels that have contrastive length counterparts. Blackfoot is a pitch accent language.[7][8] Blackfoot language has been declining in the number of native speakers and is classified as either a threatened or endangered language.[9]

Like the other Algonquian languages, Blackfoot is considered to be a polysynthetic language due to its large morpheme inventory and word internal complexity.[10] A majority of Blackfoot morphemes have a one to one correspondence between form and meaning, a defining feature of agglutinative languages. However, Blackfoot does display some fusional characteristics as there are morphemes that are polysemous.[11] Both noun and verb stems cannot be used bare but must be inflected.[12] Due to its morphological complexity, Blackfoot has a flexible word order.

Siksiká (ᓱᖽᐧᖿ)
Native toCanada, United States
RegionPiikani Nation, Siksika Nation, and Kainai Nation in southern Alberta; Blackfeet Nation in Montana
Ethnicity51,221 Blackfoot[1]
Native speakers
4,915, 10% of ethnic population (2016)
Blackfoot Syllabics
Sometimes Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-2bla
ISO 639-3bla


Blackfoot is a member of the Algonquian language belonging to the Plains areal grouping along with Arapaho, Gros Ventre, and Cheyenne. Blackfoot is spoken in Northwestern Montana and throughout Alberta, Canada, making it geographically one of the westernmost Algonquian languages.


Once, the Blackfoot people were one of a few Native American nations, that inhabited the Great Plains west of the Mississippi river. The people were buffalo hunters, with settlements in the northern United States. Forced to move because of wars with neighboring tribes, the Blackfoot people settled all around the plains area and up into Canada, eventually concentrating in Montana. Blackfoot hunters would track and hunt game, while the remaining people would gather food, and other necessities for the winter. The northern plains, where the Blackfoot settled, had incredibly harsh winters, and the flat land provided little escape from the winds. The Blackfoot Nation thrived, along with many other native groups, until the European settlers arrived in the late eighteenth century. The settlers brought with them horses and technology, but also disease and weapons. Diseases like smallpox, foreign to the natives, decimated the Blackfoot population in the mid-nineteenth century. Groups of Blackfoot people rebelled against the Europeans like Mountain Chief's tribe. But, in 1870, a tribe of peaceful Blackfoot were mistaken for the rebellious tribe and hundreds were slaughtered. Over the next thirty years, the settlers had eradicated the buffalo from the Great Plains. This took away the main element of Blackfoot life and took away the people's ability to be self-sustaining. With their main food source gone, the Blackfoot were forced to rely on government support.[4]



Blackfoot has eighteen consonants, of which all but /ʔ/, /x/, /j/ and /w/ form pairs distinguished by length.[13][14]

Labial Coronal Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p t k ʔ
Affricate t͡s t͡sː
Fricative s x
Approximant w j



Blackfoot has a vowel system with three monophthongs, /i o a/.[13][14][15]

Front Central Back
High i o
Low a

The short monophthongs exhibit allophonic changes as well. The vowels /a/ and /o/ are raised to [ʌ] and [ʊ] respectively when followed by a long consonant. The vowel /i/ becomes [ɪ] in closed syllables.[15]


There are three additional diphthongs in Blackfoot. The first diphthong ai is pronounced [ɛ] before a long consonant, [ei] (or [ai], in the dialect of the Blackfoot Reserve) before /i/ or /ʔ/, and elsewhere is pronounced [æ] in the Blood Reserve dialect or [ei] in the Blackfoot Reserve dialect. The second diphthong ao is pronounced [au] before /ʔ/ and [ɔ] elsewhere. The third diphthong oi may be pronounced [y] before a long consonant and as /oi/ elsewhere .[16]


Length is contrastive in Blackfoot for both vowels and consonants. Vowel length refers to the duration of a vowel and not a change in quality. The vowel /oo/ is therefore the same sound as /o/ only differing in the length of time over which it is produced.[8]

áakokaawa 'he will rope'
áakookaawa 'she will sponsor a Sundance'

Consonants can also be lengthened with the exception of /ʔ/, /x/, /j/ and /w/.

kiipíppo 'one hundred'
nna 'my father'
soká'pssiwa 'he is good'

Pitch accent

Blackfoot is a pitch accent language and it is a contrastive feature in the language. Every word will have at least one high pitched vowel or diphthong but may have more than one. Note that high pitch here is used relative to the contiguous syllables. Blackfoot utterances experience a gradual drop in pitch therefore if an utterance contains a set of accented vowels the first will be higher in pitch than the second but the second will be higher in pitch than the syllables directly surrounding it. Pitch is illustrated in the Latin-based orthography with an acute accent.[8]

ápssiwa 'it's an arrow'
apssíwa 'it's a fig'
máátaissikópiiwa 's/he's not resting'

Phonological rules

Blackfoot is rich with morpho-phonological changes. Below is a limited sample of phonological rules.

Semi-vowel loss

Glides are deleted after another consonant, except a glottal stop, or word initially but kept in other conditions.[17]

/w/ loss
poos-wa póósa
cat-AN.SG 'cat'
/y/ loss
óóhkotok-yi óóhkotoki
stone-IN.SG 'stone'
word initial
w-óko'si óko'si
3.SG.POSS-child 'his/her child'

Accent spread

Accent will spread from an accented vowel to the following vowel across morpheme boundaries.[18]

á-okska'siwa áókska'siwa 's/he runs'
atsikí-istsi atsikíístsi 'shoes'

Vowel devoicing

At the end of a word, non-high pitched vowels are devoiced, regardless of length.[19]

Grammar – general

Lexical categories

Lexical categories in Blackfoot are a matter of debate in the literature, with the exception of nouns and verbs. Additional proposed categories, proposed by Uhlenbeck, are adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, and particles.[20] Taylor classifies the Blackfoot language as having two major classes, substantives (nouns and pronouns) and verbs, with one minor class consisting of particles.[21] Frantz classifies adjectives and adverbs as affixes but not independent classes.[22]


Agreement morphology is extensive in Blackfoot and agreement morphemes are often polysemous, i.e. animacy and number (nouns) or person and number (verbs) are indicated within the same affix.


All nouns are required to be inflected for animacy and are classified as either animate or inanimate. Verbs are inflected to match the animacy of its arguments. Animacy in Blackfoot is a grammatical construct for noun classification. Therefore, some semantically inherently inanimate objects, such as drums and knives are grammatically animate.[23]

Verbs are marked with a transitivity marker which must agree with the animacy of its arguments. Even in stories in which a grammatically inanimate object are markedly anthropomorphized, such as talking flowers, speakers will not use animate agreement markers with them.


All nouns are required to be inflected as either singular or plural. Verbal inflection matches the plurality of its arguments.[23]

Person marking

Blackfoot has five grammatical persons – first, second, third (proximate), fourth (obviative), and fifth (sub-obviative).[24]

Word order

Word order is flexible in Blackfoot. Subjects are not required to precede the verb.[25] Independent noun phrases may be included but these are typically dropped in Blackfoot due to the extensive person inflection on the verb they aren't necessary to interpret the meaning of the utterance. However, if first or second person pronouns are present it yields an emphatic reading.[26] There is an ordering restriction if the Distinct Third Person (DTP) attached pronoun /-aawa/ is used in which the subject independent noun phrase must occur before the verb. If the independent noun phrase occurs after the verb then the DTP may not be used.[27]


Blackfoot nouns must be grammatically particular in order to be a subject of a verb.[26] In transitive constructions the subject must be volitional to be interpreted as subject.[28]

Person hierarchy

It has been asserted that Blackfoot, along with other Algonquian languages violates the Universal Person Hierarchy in verb complexes by ranking second person over first person. The hierarchy has traditionally been published as 2nd person > 1st person > 3rd person (proximate) > 4th person (obviative).[29] However, alternative analyses of Blackfoot person hierarchy has been published that suggest the Universal Person Hierarchy is applicable to Blackfoot.[30]

Verbal structure

The Blackfoot verbal template contains a stem with several prefixes and suffixes. The structure of the verb stem in Blackfoot can be roughly broken down into the pre-verb, the root, the medial, and the final. The root and final are required elements.

Generally, information encoded in the pre-verb can include adverbs, most pronouns, locatives, manners, aspect, mood, and tense. Incorporated objects appear in the medial. The final includes transitivity and animacy markers, and valency markers.

Grammar – nouns

Agreement morphology

Noun classes are split based on grammatical gender into two categories: animate and inanimate.[31] Additionally, all nouns must be marked for plurality. Plurality agreement are suffixes that attach to noun stems and take four forms, as shown in the table below.[23]

Inanimate Animate
Singular Plural Singular Plural
-yi -istsi -wa -iksi
í'ksisako (inanimate stem) 'meat'
í'ksisako-yi í'ksisakoyi 'meat'
í'ksisako-istsi í'ksisakoistsi ''meats'

Proximate and obviative

When a sentence contains two or more particular animate gender nouns as arguments proximate (major third person/3rd) and obviative (minor third person/4th) markings are used to disambiguate. There may only be one proximate argument in any given sentence but multiple obviates are permissible. Proximate arguments are more prominent in discourse. Redirectional markers, referred to as inverse and direct theme in the literature, can be applied to indicate that the fourth person is the subject argument.[32]


Blackfoot nouns must be grammatically particular, according to Frantz (2009), in order to be a subject of a verb. To be the subject of any verb in Blackfoot the noun must point to a specific referent in the world. In transitive constructions the subject must also be volitional to be interpreted as subject. If subject of a transitive verb is non-specific or non-volitional then verb must be inflected as having an unspecified subject.[33]

Oma isttoána iihtsíkahksinii'pi annistsi ikkstsíksiistsi.
om-wa isttoan-wa iiht-íkahksinii-'p-yi ann-istsi ikkstsíksi-istsi
that-AN.SG knife-AN.SG that-IN.PL branch-IN.PL
`The knife cut off those branches.'
`By means of the knife, the branches were cut off.'

Grammar – verbs

Verbal morphology template

There are four verb categories in Blackfoot: intransitive inanimate, intransitive animate, transitive inanimate, and transitive animate. The parameters of transitivity and animacy for verb selection are typically referred to as stem agreement in order to delineate it from person agreement. The animacy for intransitive verbs is determined by the subject of the verb whereas the transitive verbs are defined by the animacy of their primary object.[34]

The only required component of a clause in Blackfoot is the verb, referred to as a verbal complex in the Algonquian literature, that must be appropriately inflected according to the standard template:

preverb – root – medial – final

Preverbs are prefixes which encode adverbs, most pronouns, locatives, manners, aspect, mood, and tense. Medials are suffixes which primarily encode manner and incorporated objects. Finals are suffixes which encode transitivity, animacy, and valency. Roots and finals are always required in a verbal complex whereas preverb and medials are not.[35]

Inverse and direct theme

When there are two animate arguments acting in a transitive animate verb stem one of the arguments must be acting on the other. Which argument is the actor (subject) and which is the acted upon (object) is indicated by the use of direct or inverse theme marking. If a subject argument is higher than the object argument on the person hierarchy then the direct suffix is used. Conversely, when an object outranks the sentences subject then the inverse suffix is used.[36]

Nitsikákomimmayi nitániksi.
nit-ikákomimm-aa-yi ni-táni-iksi
1.SG-love-DIR-3.PL 1.POSS-daughter-AN.PL
'I love my daughters.'
Nitsikákomimmoki nitániksi.
nit-ikákomimm-ok-yi ni-táni-iksi
1.SG-love-INV-3.PL 1.POSS-daughter-AN.PL
'My daughters love me.'

Voice and valency

Blackfoot voice alterations occur as suffixes on the verb and fall into the category of finals. Finals can include causative, benefactive, reciprocal, and reflexive affixes that either decrease or increase the valency of the stem they are attached too. Below is an example of the reflexive final suffix. It can only be added to a transitive animate stem and results in an animate intranstive stem. This is then interpreted as being a reflexive verb, where the subject of the AI stem is understood to be the both the underlying subject and object of the original verb stem.[37]

oma imitááwa siiksípohsiwa
om-wa imitáá-wa siiksip-o:hsi-wa
that-AN.SG dog-AN.SG PST:bite(TA)-REFL(AI)-3.SG
‘That dog bit itself.’

Relative clauses

Relative clauses are rare in Blackfoot but they do occur. In order to embed a clause you first need to nominalize the clause. The reclassification strategy for nominalization is displayed here followed by a relative clause that uses a nominal formed by this strategy. Reclassification is done by adding nominal inflection to the verb stem instead of person inflection. This derived form then refers to the underlying subject and agrees in both number and animacy.[38]

omiksi áyo'kaiksi/
om-iksi á-yo'kaa-iksi
that-AN.PL DUR-sleep-AN.PL
'those sleeping ones'

Examples below show how a reclassifation nominalized clause is used in a relative clause. Note the nominal agreement morphology on the verb matches the subject, singular and plural, respectively.

oma nínaawa áyo'kaawa nóoma.
om-wa ninaa-wa á-yo'kaa-wa n-oom-wa
that-AN.SG man-AN.SG DUR-sleep-AN.SG 1.POSS-husband-AN.SG
'That man who is sleeping is my husband.'
Omiksi aakííkoaiksi áínihkiiksi áyaakahkayiyaawa.
om-iks aakííkoaN-iksi á-Inihki-iksi áyaak-wa:hkayi-yi-aawa
that-AN.PL girl-AN.PL DUR-sing-AN.PL FUT-go.home-3.PL-PRO
`Those girls who are singing are on their way home.'


Latin-based orthography

The Siksiká, Kainai, and Aapátohsipikani reserves adopted a standardized roman-based orthography in 1975. The Blackfoot alphabet consists of 13 letters.[39]

Orthography IPA Orthography IPA
m m ' ʔ
n n y j
p p w w
t t a a
k k i i
ts t͡s o o
ks k͡s ai æ
s s ao ɔ
h x

Vowels can be marked with an acute accent or underlined to illustrate pitch accent. Vowels and consonants that are long are written with a double letter (aa = a:).[39]

Syllabic Writing System

A syllabics script, ᑯᖾᖹ ᖿᐟᖻ ᓱᖽᐧᖿ pikoni kayna siksika, was created by Anglican missionary John William Tims around 1888, for his Bible translation work. Although conceptually nearly identical to Western Cree syllabics, the letter forms are innovative. Two series (s, y) were taken from Cree but given different vowel values; three more (p, t, m) were changed in consonant values as well, according to the Latin letter they resembled; and the others (k, n, w) were created from asymmetrical parts of Latin and Greek letters; or in the case of the zero consonant, possibly from the musical notation for quarter note. The Latin orientation of the letters is used for the e series, after the names of the Latin letters, pe, te, etc.

Blackfoot Latin source
pe P
te T
ke K
me m
ne N
we digamma Ϝ

The direction for each vowel is different from Cree, reflecting Latin alphabetic order. The e orientation is used for the diphthong /ai/. Symbols for consonants are taken from the consonant symbol minus the stem, except for diphthongs (Ca plus ⟨ᐠ⟩ for Cau, and Ca plus ⟨ᐟ⟩ for Coi, though there are also cases of writing subphonemic [ai, ei, eu] with these finals).

C -a -e -i -o final medial

There are additional finals: allophones ⟨ᑊ⟩ [h] and ⟨ᐦ⟩ [x], and three medials: ⟨ᖿᐧ⟩ ksa, ⟨ᒣᐧ⟩ tsa, ⟨ᖿᑉ⟩ kya, ⟨ᖿᙾ⟩ kwa.

⟨᙮⟩ is used for a period.

Also sometimes it is written in Latin letters but with different spelling on computers because not all computers support the letters used in the Blackfoot language.


John Tims was an Anglican clergyman with the Church Missionary Society.He was at Blackfoot reserve from 1883 to 1895. Tims translated parts of the Bible into the Blackfoot. Selections from Matthew were published by the Church Missionary Society Mission Press in 1887. The Gospel of Matthew was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1890, and other portions of Scripture were published as Readings from the Holy Scriptures by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1890. He used both Roman script and a Canadian Aboriginal syllabics script. The Gospel of Mark was translated by Donald G. and Patricia Frantz, and published by Scriptures Unlimited, a joint venture of the New York Bible Society (later called Biblica) and the World Home Bible League (later called the Bible League) in 1972. The Gospel of John was Translated by Wycliffe Bible Translators and Blackfoot people and published by the Canadian Bible Society in 1979.

Revitalization efforts

In the late 1900s, many tribes began a surge of revitalization efforts to encourage cultural awareness of indigenous customs and traditions. Of these, the Blackfoot revitalization effort has proven to be quite successful, producing various institutions, including a college dedicated to preserving and promoting Blackfoot traditions. Today, there are head-start programs in primary and secondary schools on the reservation to teach even infants and toddlers about the history of the tribe from an early age.

The Piegan Institute

In 1987, Dorothy Still Smoking and Darrell Robes Kipp founded the Piegan Institute,[40] a private 501 c 3 non-profit foundation in Montana dedicated to researching, promoting, and preserving the Native American Languages, particularly the Blackfoot language. Piegan Institute founded Nizipuhwahsin (also Nizi Puh Wah Sin or Niitsípuwahsin or Cuts Wood) School in 1995 as a Blackfoot language K–8 immersion school. Since its inception the school has grown and relocated to the center of Browning, Montana in a custom built school house. Recently, some of the school's first graduates have returned to teach the newest generation the Blackfeet language.[41]

Blackfeet Community College

Blackfeet Community College (BCC), founded in 1974, is a two-year, nationally accredited college that was made possible by the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the 1964 Act enacted by the Office of Economic Opportunity. BCC is a member of both the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). It allows teenagers and adults alike to take classes in a wide range of subjects, from classes in Psychology and Digital Photography to classes on Blackfoot language and tradition. They have beginning Blackfoot language classes with labs for members and non-members of the community to learn the language.[42]

Chief Mountain Technologies

In order to create jobs for the Blackfoot people with real-world applications, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council launched a company called Chief Mountain Technologies in 2009. This company gives tribal members the opportunity to work in the fields of computer science and business in Browning, Montana on behalf of various government organizations. The establishment of this company in the Blackfoot community allows the people to use their culture and their language in the modern world while maintaining their traditions.[43]

Radio programming in Blackfoot

Radio station KBWG in Browning, Montana, broadcasts a one-hour show for Blackfoot language learners four times a week.[44] The Voice of Browning, Thunder Radio, FM 107.5, or "Ksistsikam ayikinaan" (literally "voice from nowhere") went live in 2010, and focuses on positive programming. In 2011, John Davis, a 21-year-old Blackfeet Community College student explained "I was the first Blackfeet to ever talk on this radio", Davis said. "This is my coup story." A story in the Great Falls Tribune noted, "When the station was replaying programming that originated elsewhere, the radio was all 'tear in my beer' and 'your cheatin' heart.' They called it the suicide station for its depressing old country themes ..." The station's offerings have now expanded beyond country to include AC/DC and Marvin Gaye, and "on-the-air jokes they would never hear on a Clear Channel radio station, such as: 'The captain is as cool as commodity cheese.'"[45]

"So far we have broadcasting Monday through Friday from around 6:30, Indian time", quipped station manager Lona Burns, "to around 11, Indian time." ... "It's Indian radio", agreed Running Crane. "Where else can you hear today's hits with traditional music?"[46]

Canadian government support

The Canadian government has provided support for the languages through funds and other financial resources. According to James Moore, the former Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, "the Government of Canada is committed to the revitalization and preservation of Aboriginal languages." The funding was put to use in the form of digital libraries containing interviews with native speakers, online courses, and various other resources in the hopes of promoting Blackfoot language and passing it down to subsequent generations. On top of both of these government efforts, the Canadian Government has also provided over $40,000 through the Aboriginal Languages Initiative Fund to promote the use of Aboriginal languages in community and family settings.[47]


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  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Siksika". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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  4. ^ a b Gibson 2003
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  6. ^ Mithun 1999, p. 335
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  8. ^ a b c Frantz 2017, p. 3
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  10. ^ Aikhenvald 2007, p. 5
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  12. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 7
  13. ^ a b "Blackfoot Pronunciation and Spelling Guide". Retrieved 2007-04-10
  14. ^ a b Frantz 1999
  15. ^ a b Frantz 2017, pp. 1–2
  16. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 2
  17. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 155
  18. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 157
  19. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 5
  20. ^ Uhlenbeck (1938)
  21. ^ Taylor (1953)
  22. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 23
  23. ^ a b c Frantz 2017, pp. 7–10
  24. ^ Frantz, Donald G. (1966-01-01). "Person Indexing in Blackfoot". International Journal of American Linguistics. 32 (1): 50–58. doi:10.1086/464879. JSTOR 1263448.
  25. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 20
  26. ^ a b Frantz 2017, p. 22
  27. ^ Frantz 2017, pp. 48–49
  28. ^ Frantz 2017, pp. 45–46
  29. ^ Russell, Lena; Genee, Inge; Lier, Eva van; Zúñiga, Fernando (2012). "Referential Hierarchies in Three-Participant Constructions in Blackfoot: The Effects of Animacy, Person, and Specificity". Linguistic Discovery. 10 (3). doi:10.1349/ps1.1537-0852.a.416.
  30. ^ Bliss, Heather; Jesney, Karen (May 2005). "Resolving hierarchy conflict: local obviation in Blackfoot*". Calgary Working Papers in Linguistics. 26: 92–116.
  31. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 8
  32. ^ Frantz 2017, pp. 13–14
  33. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 12
  34. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 40
  35. ^ Armoskaite 2011, p. 22
  36. ^ Frantz 2017, p. 56
  37. ^ Frantz 2017, pp. 100–107
  38. ^ Frantz 2017, pp. 114–129
  39. ^ a b Frantz 2017, p. 163
  40. ^ "The Piegan Institute".
  41. ^ "Cuts Wood Academy – Blackfoot Immersion School in Browning, Montana". The Piegan Institute. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  42. ^ Hungry-wolf, Adolf (2006). The Blackfoot Papers. Good Medicine Cultural Foundation. p. 195.
  43. ^ Stout, Mary (2012). Blackfoot history and culture. Gareth Stevens Pub. ISBN 9781433959561. OCLC 698361313.
  44. ^ Stephanie Tyrpak (2011-04-14). "KBWG Brings Blackfoot Language Lessons to the Airwaves". Archived from the original on 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  45. ^ "KBWG, the 'Voice of Browning Montana' can be heard at 107.5 FM". 2011-06-11. Archived from the original on 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  46. ^ John McGill (2011-01-19). "'Voice of Browning' radio station KBWG expanding". Glacier Reporter. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  47. ^ Market Wired


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  • Uhlenbeck, C.C. and R.H. van Gulik. A Blackfoot-English Vocabulary Based on Material from the Southern Peigans, Amsterdam: Uitgave van de N.V. Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers-Jaatschapp-ij, 1934. (Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie Van WetenSchappen te Amsterdam. Afdeeling Letterkunde, Nieuwe Reeks, Deel XXXIII, No. 2)
  • Uhlenbeck-Melchior, Wilhelmina Maria. Montana 1911 : a professor and his wife among the Blackfeet : Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck-Melchior's diary and C. C. Uhlenbeck's original Blackfoot texts and a new series of Blackfoot texts (2005 ed.). Calgary: University of Calgary Press. ISBN 9780803218284.
  • Uhlenbeck, Christianus Cornelius. 1912. A new series of Blackfoot texts: from the southern Peigans Blackfoot Reservation Teton County Montana. (Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen te Amsterdam, Afdeeling Letterkunde, N.R. 13.1.) Amsterdam: Müller. x+264pp. Retrieved from
  • Uhlenbeck, Christianus Cornelius. 1938. A Concise Blackfoot Grammar. Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers-Maatschappij. Retrieved from

Further reading

External links

Blackfoot (disambiguation)

The Blackfoot Confederacy is a historic group of indigenous people in North America (Niitsitapi or Siksikaitsitapi).

Blackfoot or Blackfeet may refer to:

Blackfeet Nation of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Montana

Piegan Blackfeet, a people of the United States

Blackfoot Sioux or Sihasapa Lakota people

Blackfoot language, an Algonquian language

Blackfoot (band), a rock band

Blackfoot, Alberta, a hamlet in Alberta, Canada

Blackfoot diatreme, a volcanic pipe in British Columbia, Canada

Blackfoot, Idaho, a city in Idaho, U.S.

Blackfoot, Texas, an unincorporated community in Anderson County, Texas, U.S.

Blackfoot Creek, a stream in South Dakota, U.S.

Black foot disease of grapevine, a plant disease

Pied-noir or Black-Foot, a member of the French citizens who lived in French Algeria

Blackstar or Blackfoot, a character in the Warriors novel series

Blackfoot, a common name for plants in the genus Melampodium

J. Blackfoot (1946–2011), American singer, member of the group The Soul Children

Blackfoot Confederacy

The Blackfoot Confederacy, Niitsitapi or Siksikaitsitapi (ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ, meaning "the people" or "Blackfoot-speaking real people") is a historic collective name for the four bands that make up the Blackfoot or Blackfeet people: three First Nation band governments in the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, and one federally recognized Native American tribe in Montana, United States. The Siksika ("Blackfoot"), the Kainai or Kainah ("Blood"), and the Northern Piegan or Peigan or Piikani ("Apa’tosee" or "Poor Robes") reside in Canada; the Southern Piegan/Piegan Blackfeet ("Amskapi Piikani" or Pikuni) are located in the United States, where they are also known as the Blackfeet Nation. In modern use, the term is sometimes used only for the three First Nations in Canada.Historically, the member peoples of the Confederacy were nomadic bison hunters and trout fishermen, who ranged across large areas of the northern Great Plains of western North America, specifically the semi-arid shortgrass prairie ecological region. They followed the bison herds as they migrated between what are now the United States and Canada, as far north as the Bow River. In the first half of the 18th century, they acquired horses and firearms from white traders and their Cree and Assiniboine go-betweens. The Blackfoot used these to expand their territory at the expense of neighboring tribes. By riding horses and using them to transport goods, the Blackfoot and other Plains tribes could extend the range of their buffalo hunts.

In the mid to late 19th century, the systematic commercial bison hunting by white hunters nearly ended the bison herds and permanently changed Native American life on the Great Plains, since their primary food source was no longer abundant. Periods of starvation and deprivation followed. The Blackfoot tribe, like other Plains Indians, was forced to adopt ranching and farming, settling in permanent reservations. In the 1870s, their bands signed treaties with both the United States and Canada, ceding most of their lands in exchange for annuities of food and medical aid, as well as help in learning to farm. But the Blackfoot have worked to maintain their traditional language and culture in the face of assimilationist policies of both the U.S. and Canada.

Blackfoot music

Blackfoot music is the music of the Blackfoot people (best translated in the Blackfoot language as nitsínixki – "I sing", from nínixksini – "song"). Singing predominates and was accompanied only by percussion. (Nettl, 1989)

Bruno Nettl (1989, p. 162-163) proposes that Blackfoot music is an "emblem of the heroic and the difficult in Blackfoot life", with performance practices that strongly distinguish music from the rest of life. Singing is strongly distinguished from speech and many songs contain no words, and those with texts often describe important parts of myths in a succinct manner. Music is associated closely with warfare and most singing is done by men and much by community leaders. "The acquisition of songs as associated with difficult feats—learned in visions brought about through self-denial and torture, required to be learned quickly, sung with the expenditure of great energy, sung in a difficult vocal style—all of this puts songs in the category of the heroic and the difficult."

Bow River

The Bow River is a river in the Canadian province of Alberta. It begins in the Rocky Mountains and winds through the Alberta foothills onto the prairies, where it meets the Oldman River, the two then forming the South Saskatchewan River. These waters ultimately flow through the Nelson River into Hudson Bay. The Bow River runs through the city of Calgary, taking in the Elbow River at the historic site of Fort Calgary near downtown. The Bow River pathway, developed along the river's banks, is considered a part of Calgary's self-image.First Nations made varied use of the river for sustenance before settlers of European origin arrived, such as using its valleys in the buffalo hunt. The name Bow refers to the reeds that grew along its banks and were used by the First Nations to make bows; the Blackfoot language name for the river is Makhabn, meaning "river where bow reeds grow".The river is an important source of water for irrigation and drinking water. Between the years 1910 and 1960, the Bow River and its tributaries were engineered to provide hydroelectric power, primarily for Calgary's use. This significantly altered the river's flow and certain ecosystems.

Bow Valley

Bow Valley is a valley located along the upper Bow River in Alberta, Canada.

The name "Bow" refers to the reeds that grew along its banks and which were used by the local First Nations people to make bows; the Blackfoot language name for the river is Makhabn, meaning "river where bow weeds grow".

Buffalo Bull's Back Fat

Buffalo Bull's Back Fat, or Stu-mick-o-súcks (in the Blackfoot language), was a head war chief of the Blood Indians. He is remembered today for his portrait, painted by George Catlin in 1832, located at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In one of his letters, Catlin wrote:

I have this day been painting a portrait of the head chief of the [Blood tribe] … he is a good-looking and dignified Indian, about fifty years of age, and superbly dressed; whilst sitting for his picture he has been surrounded by his own braves and warriors and also gazed at by his enemies, the Crows and the Knisteneaux, Assinneboins and Ojibbeways; a number of distinguished personages of each of which tribes have laid all day around the sides of my room; reciting to each other the battles they have fought, and pointing to the scalp-locks, worn as proofs of their victories, and attached to the seams of their shirts and leggings.

The name of this dignitary of whom I have just spoken is Stu-mick-o-sucks (the buffalo's back fat), i.e., the ‘hump’ or ‘fleece’ the most delicious part of the buffalo's flesh. … The dress … of the chief … consists of a shirt or tunic, made of two deerskins finely dressed, and so placed together with the necks of the skins downwards, and the skins of the hind legs stitched together, the seams running down on each arm, from the neck to the knuckles of the hand; this seam is covered with a band of two inches in width, of very beautiful embroidery of porcupine quills, and suspended from the under edge of this, from the shoulders to the hands, is a fringe of the locks of black hair, which he has taken from the heads of victims slain by his own hand in battle. … In his hand he holds a very beautiful pipe, the stem of which is four or five feet long, and two inches wide, curiously wound with braids of the porcupine quills of various colours; and the bowl of the pipe ingeniously carved by himself from a piece of red steatite of an interesting character, and which they all tell me is procured somewhere between this place and the Falls of St. Anthony, on the head waters of the Mississippi.

The painting appeared in the exhibit Pictures from the New World at Schloss Charlottenburg, which was held in the Orangerie of Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, Germany, in 1989.

Chin, Alberta

Chin is a hamlet in southern Alberta, Canada within the Lethbridge County. It is located 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north of Highway 3, approximately 27 kilometres (17 mi) east of Lethbridge.

Chin is a name derived from the Blackfoot language.

Christianus Cornelius Uhlenbeck

Christianus Cornelius Uhlenbeck (Voorburg, the Netherlands, 18 October 1866 – Lugano, Switzerland, 12 August 1951) was a Dutch linguist and anthropologist with a wide variety of research interests. His published work included books and articles on Germanic and Balto-Slavic languages, Sanskrit, Basque, and the Blackfoot language of North American Indians. He served as a lecturer at Leiden University.

In 1904 Uhlenbeck became member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.In the summer of 1911, Dr. C.C. Uhlenbeck visited the Blackfoot Indian reservation in Montana to conduct field work. He was accompanied by his wife, Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck, whose diary was later incorporated into their book about this expedition.

Dancing Lady Mountain

Dancing Lady Mountain is a summit in Glacier County, Montana, in the United States and it is located within Glacier National Park. Dancing Lady is derived from a Blackfoot-language name. The mountain's former name of Squaw Mountain was changed due to ongoing controversy over the term "squaw".

Darrell Kipp

Darrell Robes Kipp (Blackfeet, 23 October 1944 - 21 November 2013) was a Native American educator, documentary filmmaker and historian. Kipp was an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, and was instrumental in teaching and preserving the Blackfoot language as the Director of the Piegan Institute.


Etzikom is a hamlet in Alberta, Canada within the County of Forty Mile No. 8. It is approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Foremost on Highway 61.

Etzikom was founded in 1915. Its name comes from the Blackfoot language word for valley or coulee, referring to Etzikom Coulee.

Etzikom is also home to The Canadian National Historic Windmill Centre, a museum dedicated to windmills throughout history.

Etzikom's representative in Alberta's provincial legislature is Drew Barnes.

Gordon Belcourt

Gordon Belcourt, or Meekskimeeksskumapi, (1945 – July 15, 2013) was an American Blackfeet and Native American tribal executive and social advocate. A member of the Blackfeet Tribe, Becourt served as the executive director of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council for fifteen years, from 1998 until his death in 2013.Belcourt was born in 1945 and raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana. He was also named Meekskimeeksskumapi, which means "Mixed Iron Boy" in the Blackfoot language in honor of the battles that his uncle, Paul Home Gun Jr., had been involved in during the five years of World War II. His uncle had returned from the war shortly before Belcourt's birth.Belcourt was valedictorian of his graduating class at Browning High School, but initially resisted attending college. His principal at Browning High School informed him that he would be going to college. He was accepted to Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school in California, on a full ROTC scholarship. Belcourt achieved the rank of second lieutenant in the United States Army through the Santa Clara ROTC program. He earned his bachelor's degree from Santa Clara and his law degree from the University of Montana. He met his wife, Cheryl, while attending Montana. Belcourt moved back to California after law school, where he earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. He then returned to Montana, where resided on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and in Missoula before settling in Billings, Montana. He served as the President of the Blackfeet Community College.He served as the Executive Director of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council from 1998 to 2013. He has been widely credited with increasing the influence of the council. The Council, which was near bankruptcy in 1998, had just one employee when he began his tenure. Belcourt expanded the Council through development and grant writing. Under Belcourt, the Council acquired $5 million in funding in 2009 in combat alcohol abuse in Native American communities in Montana and Wyoming. Both of Montana's present United States Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, sought Belcourt's advice on issues relevant to Native Americans, including the authorization of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act and the creation of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. In February 2013, called public attention to the high suicide rates in Native American communities.Belcourt was also instrumental in the establishment of a regional branch of the Tribal Institutional Review Board.The University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health honored Belcourt as one of its Public Health Heroes in 2003 for his work on Native American health care issues. In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Montana.Gordon Belcourt died of a long illness at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana, at 7 a.m. on July 15, 2013, at the age of 68. He was survived by his wife of 43 years, Cheryl, and seven of their eight children - Sol, Paul Thunder, Annjeanette Elise, Jaime Ruth, Ben David, Alex Anson and Sienna Noel. His eighth daughter, Elena Katie, was murdered in 2001, which increased his determination to fight violence and crime.U.S. Senator Max Baucus called Belcourt a "wise and trusted leader," while Senator Jon Tester also praised him noting, "Gordon could always be counted on to use common sense to get to the heart of the issue and find a solution" whose death leaves "big shoes to fill."

John Tims

John William Tims, DD (1857–1945) was Archdeacon of Calgary from 1898 to 1912.

Tims was educated at the Church Missionary Society College, Islington and ordained in 1884. He was at Blackfoot reserve from 1883 to 1895 and Gleichen before his time as Archdeacon..

Tims translated parts of the Bible into the Blackfoot language. The Gospel of Matthew was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1890, and other portions of Scripture were published as Readings from the Holy Scriptures by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1890. He used both Roman script and a Canadian Aboriginal syllabics script

Old Sun Community College

Old Sun Community College is a community college owned and operated by First Nations that provides post-secondary education and training in Siksika 146, Alberta, Canada to members of the Siksika Nation.

Pakowki Lake

Pakowki Lake is an endorheic lake in Alberta, Canada located south of Etzikom, Alberta and not far north is the former town site of Pakowki which may have received its name from the lake.

It is located in the prairies of southern Alberta, at an elevation of 860 metres (2,820 ft), in the County of Forty Mile No. 8. It is fed by a number of coulees and creeks, such as Etzikom Coulee, Irrigation Creek, Erickson Coulee, Ketchum Creek, Canal Creek, Bond Coulee and Bryant Coulee, and has no outflow. Reaching a maximum extent of 123 square kilometres (47 sq mi), it is one of the largest lakes in the province.

The name means "bad water" in Blackfoot language, named so for the bad smell caused by the lack of an outflow. While it is the largest water body in southern Alberta, its waters are intermittent, and it can be classified as a slough. In times of flooding, the lake overflows through a channel into the Milk River, which flows 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south of the lake.

Piegan Blackfeet

The Piegan (Blackfoot: Piikáni) are an Algonquian-speaking people from the North American Great Plains. They were the largest of three Blackfoot-speaking groups that made up the Blackfoot Confederacy; the Siksika and Kainai were the others. The Piegan dominated much of the northern Great Plains during the nineteenth century.

After their homelands were divided by the nations of Canada and the United States of America making boundaries between them, the Piegan people were forced to sign treaties with one of those two countries, settle in reservations on one side or the other of the border, and be enrolled in one of two government-like bodies sanctioned by North American nation-states. These two successor groups are the Blackfeet Nation, a federally recognized tribe in Montana, USA, and the Piikani Nation, a recognized "band" in Alberta, Canada.

Today many Piegan live with the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana, with tribal headquarters in Browning. There were 32,234 Blackfeet recorded in the 1990 United States Census. In 2010 the US Census reported 105,304 persons who identified as Blackfeet ("alone" or "in combination" with one or more races and/or tribes.)

Piikani Nation

The Piikani Nation (formerly the Peigan Nation) is a First Nation (or an Indian band as defined by the Indian Act), representing Canadian Indigenous peoples known as the Northern Piikani (Siksika: Aapátohsipikáni) or simply the Peigan (Piikáni or Pekuni).


The Sihásapa or Blackfoot Sioux are a division of the Lakota people, Titonwan, or Teton.

Sihásapa is the Lakota word for "Blackfoot", whereas Siksiká has the same meaning in the Blackfoot language. As a result, the Sihásapa have the same English name as the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the nations are sometimes confused with one another.

The Sihásapa lived in the western Dakotas on the Great Plains, and consequently are among the Plains Indians. Their official residence today is the Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, home also to the Itazipco (No Bows), the Minneconjou (People Who Live Near Water) and Oohenumpa (Two Kettle), all bands of the Lakota.


A wigwam, wickiup or wetu is a semi-permanent domed dwelling formerly used by certain Native American and First Nations tribes, and still used for ceremonial purposes. The term wickiup is generally used to label these kinds of dwellings in the Southwestern United States and Western United States, while wigwam is usually applied to these structures in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Wetu is the Wampanoag term for a wigwam dwelling. These terms can refer to many distinct types of Native American structures regardless of location or cultural group. The wigwam is not to be confused with the Native Plains teepee, which has a very different construction, structure, and use.

Tribes or Nations
Plains Algonquian
Central Algonquian
Eastern Algonquian
Oral Indigenous
Manual Indigenous
Oral settler
Manual settler
Immigrant languages
(number of speakers
in 2010 in millions)
Languages of Montana
Official languages
Indigenous languages
Pidgins, creoles and mixed
Immigrant languages
Sign languages
Cultural areas
Historical confederacies
Numbered Treaties
Ethno-cultural groups and languages
First Nation governments (bands)
Regional and tribal councils

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