The Blackfoot Language: A Window into the Culture and History of the Blackfoot People

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The Blackfoot language is a member of the Algonquian language family and is spoken by the Blackfoot people in North America. It is an indigenous language that is predominantly spoken in Alberta, Canada, and also in Montana, USA.

The Blackfoot language has two main dialects: Siksika and Kainai. It is an endangered language with only a few thousand speakers remaining, mainly elderly people.

Language Tree:

The Blackfoot language belongs to the Algonquian language family, which is a group of indigenous languages spoken in North America. The Algonquian language family is part of the larger Algic language family, which is a group of indigenous languages spoken in both North America and Central America.

The corresponding tribes that speak Blackfoot are now referred to as Blackfoot in Canada (the original name), and Blackfeet in the United States, due to a spelling error when their reservation was formed.

Where it was spoken in the past:

The Blackfoot language was historically spoken across a large region of North America, including what is now Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana. The Blackfoot people were traditionally nomadic, moving across the prairies in search of buffalo.

Where it is spoken today:

Today, the Blackfoot language is primarily spoken in Alberta, Canada, on the Blackfoot Reserves of Siksika and Kainai, as well as in Montana, USA, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Written Alphabet:

The Blackfoot language has a written alphabet that was developed in the 19th century by Christian missionaries. The alphabet consists of 38 characters, including 19 consonants and 7 vowels. Here are examples of each consonant and vowel sound:

Consonants: p, t, k, c, ch, m, n, s, y, w, h, b, d, g, j, ts, tl, th

Vowels: a, e, i, o, u, â, î

The Blackfoot language has a unique feature called vowel length, which means that vowels can be either short or long, and this can change the meaning of a word. For example, the word “náápi” means “man,” while “náápii” means “men.”

Number of Fluent Speakers Today:

According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, there are approximately 4,000 speakers of the Blackfoot language, mostly elderly people. The majority of fluent speakers reside on the Blackfoot Reserves of Siksika and Kainai in Alberta, Canada.

Words in this language:

Oki – Hello

Gitsigakomim – I love you

Aipíín – Water

Pahkí – Sun

Siksiká – Blackfoot people

Náápi – Man

Náápii – Men

Mótsín – Woman

Átaahkapi – Owl

Káátohk – Horse

Imitáá(wa) – Dog

Móhtaohta – Buffalo

Káápssi – Eagle

Iína – Yes

Ninnaa – Father

Apistotoke – Creator God

Ihtsipatapiyohpa or Iihtsipaitapiiyo’pa – The Great Spirit

Blackfoot Colours
  • Aotahkoinattsi: Orange.
  • Maohksinaattsi: Red.
  • Otsskoinaattsi: Blue.
  • Saiaaksimokoinaattsi: Green.
  • Otahkoinaattsi: Yellow.
  • Apoyinaattsi: Brown.
  • Siksinaattsi: Black.
  • Ksiksinaattsi: White.

Online Translation Tool:

One online translation tool for the Blackfoot language is the Blackfoot Language Resources Center.

Online Dictionary:

One online dictionary for the Blackfoot language is the Blackfoot Dictionary.