Blackfoot / Blackfeet


Blackfoot / Blackfeet Legends

In the Blackfoot and Blackfeet tribes, (these are the same tribe, spelled Blackfoot in Canada and Blackfeet in the United States), only elders are allowed to tell the traditional legends. They are not often shared with outsiders.

There are several creation myths in Blackfeet culture. One of those involves Napioa, who is also known by many other names, including the Sun, Old Man, and Napi (Nah-pee). Napioa is mentioned in almost all Blackfoot myths and is considered an important figure in Blackfoot mythology.

Napioa is said to have created the earth using the mud from a turtle’s mouth that was found on a river upon which he floated. Napioa not only created the earth using the mud, but he also created the men and women as well, and made the bison tame for the people to hunt.

He is said to also have created the animals and the grass and everything else that is on the earth.

The Blackfeet have a great flood mythology, and after the flood, Old Man made the water different colors. He gathered the people on top of a large mountain where he gave them the water of different colors, then told the people to drink the water, then speak.

Everyone was speaking a different language except those who received the black water. They were the Piegans, the Blackfeet, and the Bloods, who speak the same language to this very day.

This was said to have taken place in the highest mountain in the Montana reservation.

The traditional stories of related tribes like the Gros Ventre and Plains Cree are very similar to some Blackfeet legends.

Characters from Blackfeet Legends:

Above-People (Sspommitapiiksi in Blackfoot) also known as the Sky People or Sky Beings, are sacred spirits were the first creations of Apistotoke and live in the Sky World far above the clouds.

Apistotoke is the Blackfoot name for the Creator God, who is also known by the name Ihtsipatapiyohpa (“Source of Life”) or, in English, Great Spirit.

Apistotoki is a divine spirit with no human form or attributes and is never personified in Blackfoot folklore. The name is pronounced similar to ah-piss-toh-toh-kee.

Blood-Clot Boy (also known by his Blackfoot name, Katoyis) was a mythical Blackfoot hero who has many adventures slaying monsters and wicked people.

Horned Snake (Big Water Snake, Omachk-soyis-ksiksinai or Omahksoyisksiksina.) is a fearsome water-monster that lurks in lakes and rivers and eats people. Blackfoot people often blamed Horned Snakes for drowning deaths.

Komorkis is the Moon, second eldest of the sacred Sky People. Komorkis is the wife of the sun god Natosi and mother of the stars, of which the most important is Morning-Star. Komorkis is said to be the grandmother of several heroes of Blackfoot legend, such as Star-Boy.

Little People in Blackfoot stories are usually child-sized, benevolent, and shy nature spirits. They are said to have a variety of magical powers, most often the ability to become invisible or shapeshift into animals. In many legends they reveal themselves only to children, with whom they have a special affinity.

Morning Star, (Iipisowaahs, also known as Apisirahts) is  the most important of Naato’si and Ko’komiki’somm’s star children. He is the father (or by some some tellings, the adopted brother) of the mortal hero Star Boy.

Naato’si (also spelled Natosi and other ways): This is the Blackfoot sun god, ruler of the Sky People. Some anthropologists consider him to be the same as Apistotoke, but Blackfoot speakers are adamant that they are two different mythological figures and Naato’si, although the principal god of the Blackfoot people, was not the one who created the universe. “Naato’si” is pronounced nah-toh-see, and literally means “Holy One,” though it is often used to refer to the sun in everyday speech as well.

Naato’si is married to the Moon, Komorkis, and his son is the hero Morning Star, Iipisowaahs.

Old Man (Napi, Napioa, the Sun)  is a trickster, a troublemaker, and sometimes a foolish person, but he is also responsible for shaping of the world the Blackfeet live in and frequently helps the people.

He is assisted in these tasks by his wife, Old Lady (Kipitaakii in Blackfoot). Naapi shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Cree Wisakedjak, Wabanaki Glooscap, and Anishinabe Manabus, and many of the same stories are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist differing. Napi is pronounced similar to nah-pee, and Kipitaki is pronounced similar to kih-pih-tah-kee.

Star Boy was a magical hero who was the son of a Blackfoot woman (Soatsaki, or Feather Woman) and the immortal Morning Star. After he and his mother are banished, he is known as Poia instead, translated as “Scar-Face” in English (from the Blackfoot word payoo, “scar,”) and after visiting the Sky Land his scar is healed and he gains the additional name of Mistaken-for-Morning-Star (because of his resemblance to Morning Star.)

Thunder Bird (Ksiistsikomiipi’kssiiwa or Ksistsikumipitaw.) A huge bird of prey, common to the mythology of most Plains Indian tribes,who is responsible for creating thunderstorms. In some Blackfoot legends, the Thunders are part of the Above People and have human form, instead of being giant birds. They are the sworn enemy of Horned Snakes and are frequently invoked as guardian spirits.

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How a Piegan Warrior Caught the First Horses

A Blackfoot Horse Legend

A long time ago a warrior of the Piegan Blackfoot dreamed about a lake far away where some large animals lived. A voice in the dream told him the animals were harmless, and that he could use them for dragging travois and carrying packs in the same way the Indians then used dogs. “Go to this lake,” the dream voice told him, “and take a rope with you so that you can catch these animals.”

How Sky Dogs (the horse) were created

Blackfoot Legend, Oral Story, Myth
As told by He-Who-Loves-Horses

When the horses first appeared to the Blackfeet people, they thought the strange animals were dogs sent as a gift from the sky from Old Man, creator of all things.

Origin of the Buffalo Dance

When the buffalo first came to be upon the land, they were not friendly to the people. When the hunters tried to coax them over the cliffs for the good of the villages, they were reluctant to offer themselves up.

They did not relish being turned into blankets and dried flesh for winter rations. They did not want their hooves and horn to become tools and utinsels nor did they welcome their sinew being used for sewing. “No, no,” they said. We won’t fall into your traps. And we will not fall for your tricks.”

So when the hunters guided them towards the abyss, they would always turn aside at the very last moment. With this lack of cooperation, it seemed the villagers would be hungry and cold and ragged all winter long.

Story of the Ancient Blackfeet
The Buffalo Rock
Water Sprit’s Gift of Horses