Main menu

Hudson's Bay Company

Various photographs of Blackfoot people in groups.

Subject: Clothing and dress, Family History, Women's clothing, Magee, Thomas Benjamin, 1862-1930, Magee, Henry Lincoln, 1896-1966, Magee, Donald Lee 1938-, Portraits, Group, Photographs, Glacier National Park, Hudson's Bay Company, Dresses, Headdress, Headgear, Coats

Transcript: The people in these photographs still need to be identified. Two of the photographs appear to have been taken at some kind of celebration. The other photographs look like they were staged so that the people could wear their best clothing or headdress'. Card information: Blackfeet Group � 1. A group shot of five Blackfeet men standing in the snow. Two of the men are wearing Hudson's Bay Company wool blanket coats and two other men are wearing feathered headdresses. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0062 Blackfeet Group � 2. A group shot of Blackfeet men, women and children, standing in front of an airplane. Most of the men are wearing feathered headdresses and some of the women are wearing dresses decorated with elk teeth. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0063 Blackfeet Group � 3. A group shot of five Blackfeet men. Two of the men are wearing Hudson's Bay Company wool blanket coats and four of the men are wearing feathered headdresses. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0064 Blackfeet Group � 4. A group shot of Blackfeet men, women and children. Most of the men are wearing feathered headdresses. Some of the men are wearing Hudson's Bay Company wool blanket coats, and some of the women are wearing dresses decorated with elk teeth. A triangular flag has the words ""Glacier National Park"" written on it. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0065 This photograph is part of the Magee Family Collection. The collection was donated to the Blackfoot Digital Library by Don Magee the son of Thomas Magee. The originals are now in the University of Alberta's archives.

Endorsed by

Ivan Soto


Group Photographs of Blackfoot Men

Subject: Clothing and dress, Family History, Magee, Thomas Benjamin, 1862-1930, Magee, Henry Lincoln, 1896-1966, Magee, Donald Lee 1938-, Portraits, Group, Photographs, Housing, Blankets, Hudson's Bay Company, Headgear, Coats

Transcript: Two group shots of Blackfoot men as yet unidentified. More information is needed. Card information: Blackfeet 1886 � 1. A group shot of twelve Blackfeet men standing outside a house. Some of the men are wrapped in Hudson Bay Company wool blankets. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0054 Blackfeet 1886 � 2. A group shot of eight Blackfeet men wearing Hudson's Bay Company blanket wool coats, standing outside a house. Words below photograph: ""A Group of Piegan Braves."" Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0055 This photograph is part of the Magee Family Collection. The collection was donated to the Blackfoot Digital Library by Don Magee the son of Thomas Magee. The originals are now in the University of Alberta's archives.


Two Guns White Calf (Blackfeet), Mike Gibbons (Professional Boxer) - his coat was made from a Hudson bay blanket

Subject: Clothing and dress, Portraits, Photographs, Hudson's Bay Company, Coats, Jackets, Two Guns White Calf, Men's clothing, Gibbons, Mike


Blackfoot group near Calgary, Alberta - wrapped in Hudson's Bay Blankets. You can see by the grouping of three thin lines, also known as points, which at one time, would indicate the cost in Beaver pelts given in trade for the blanket. As I understand it, this was a unique value marking system used only by the Hudson's Bay Company

Subject: Photographs, Blankets, Hudson's Bay Company


The overcoats are often referred to as a Capote, made from a wool Hudson Bay Blanket.

Subject: Clothing and dress, Photographs, Hudson's Bay Company, Headgear, Coats, Vests, Men's clothing


Wearing a three point Hudson's Bay Blanket coat

Subject: Clothing and dress, Portraits, Photographs, Horses, Hudson's Bay Company, Coats, Men's clothing


This is Chapter I of James W. Schultz's ethnographic book "The Sun God's Children" (1930:2-28). It was originally published by Houghton Mifflin Co., New York. In this chapter, Schultz quotes many early notes made by fur-traders Anthony Hendry and Alexander Henry, dating back to the 1700's, regarding their impressions of the Blackfoot tribes. Some aspects of these early records are viewed with heavy skepticism by contemporary Blackfoot elders.

Subject: Trade, Fur Trade, Hudson's Bay Company

Transcript: Of the fifty-six distinct linguistic stocks of Indians in North America, the Algonquian was the largest, embracing as it did forty-nine tribes, inhabiting the northern United States and Canada from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and thence south along the Atlantic Coast into Delaware. Of these Algonquins, the three tribes of Blackfeet, and their allies, the Gros Ventres (also Algonquian), were the westernmost. When first met by white men, these four tribes controlled an extent of country more vast, far more vast, than was dominated by any other tribe or allied tribes of Indians. It extended from the North Saskatchewan River, in Alberta, south for six hundred miles to the Yellowstone River, and from the Rocky Mountains, between these two rivers, eastward upon the plains for an average distance of nearly four hundred miles. It is uncertain who were the white men who first met the Blackfeet tribes. They were, most likely, the sons of Sieur Pierre Gaultier de Varennes de la Verendrie, who built a post, Fort Poskoyac, at the forks of the Saskatchewan River, in 1739. They may have been the ten Canadians (French) who, at the instance of the Chevalier de Niverville, ascended the North or the South Branch of the Saskatchewan, in 1751, and 'established a post near the Rocky Mountains,' only to abandon it in the following spring. Again, it may have been that the first whites the Blackfeet saw were Spaniards, for, even before the time of the Verendries, war parties of them went to raid the horse herds of those early settlers in the Southwest, leaving their own country in the spring and returning to it in the summer of the following year. As late as the 1870s, there were in the possession of the Pik� ni tribe of the Blackfeet, a Toledo blade, a shirt of mail, and a lance that had been taken from the Spaniards in those far-back raids. Prior to the advent of the horse in the Far Northwest, the Blackfeet tribes, and their close allies, the Gros Ventres, roamed about in a stretch of country extending from the Rocky Mountains east to the Forks of the Saskatchewan, and from the South Fork northward to the headwaters of the Athabaska River. We may take it, however, that they lived mainly upon the northern border of the Saskatchewan plains, living principally upon the meat of the buffalo, most plentiful and most easily obtainable of all the game animals of that country. Their nearest neighbors on the north and east were the Crees, also Algonquins, and the Assiniboins, of Siouan stock. Yet so long had they lived apart from the Crees that neither tribe could understand the other, although the grammatical structure of the two languages remained the same. And still more changed, and more difficult, was the language of the Algonquian Gros Ventres. Neither Blackfeet nor Cree ever attempted to master it. The Blackfeet were so proud that they, as they said, would not demean themselves by learning a foreign language. Many of the members of the Crees and the Gros Ventres, however, spoke the Blackfeet language fluently. The first white man to penetrate the country of the Blackfeet and to write his impressions of them was Anthony Hendry, of the Hudson's Bay Company. He left its York Factory, on Hudson Bay, in the spring of 1754, with a flotilla of canoes manned by the 'natives' of that section, Ojibways and Crees, with their families, and on Sunday, September 29 of that year, met some members of one or another of the Blackfeet tribes, as he called them, Archithinues, a few miles north of the present city of Calgary. The Crees and Ojibways had not then obtained horses; they traveled about with canoes or on foot, with dogs for their beasts of burden; but the Blackfeet, Hendry found, were the owners of great numbers of horses. It is probable that they obtained the beginnings of their herds as early as the year 1700. Hendry called the buffalo-leather lodges of the Blackfeet, tents, as did later adventuring fur-traders who penetrated their country. The entry in his 'Journal' for October 14, is as follows October 14. 4 men, Archithinue natives, on horse-back sent to find whether we are friends or enemies. We told them friends. Came to 200 tents of Archithinue natives pitched in two rows, and an opening in the middle, where we were conducted to the Leader's tent; which was at one end, large enough to accommodate 50 persons. He received us seated on a clear [white] buffalo skin, attended by 20 elderly men. He made signs for me to sit on his right hand, which I did. Our leader set up several grand-pipes and smoked all around, according to the usual custom; not a word was yet spoke on either side. Smoking being over, Buffalo flesh boiled was served round in a species of bent, and I was presented with 10 Buffalo tongues.... October 15. Tuesday. About 10 o'clock A.M. I was invited to the Archithinue's tent; when by an interpreter I told him what I was sent for, and desired of him to allow some of his young men to go down to the Fort with me where they would be kindly received and get guns &c. But he answered it was too far off, and they could not live without buffalo flesh; and that they could not leave their horses &c; and many other obstacles, though all might be gotten over if they were acquainted with a canoe, and could eat fish, which they never do. The chief further said that they never wanted food, as they followed the buffalo and killed them with the bows and arrows; and he was informed that the natives who frequented the settlements, were oftentimes starved on the journey. Such remarks I thought exceeding true. He made me a present of a handsome bow and arrows, and in return I gave him a part of each kind of goods I had, as ordered by Mr. Isham's written instructions. I departed and took a good view of the camp. Their tents were pitched close together in two regular lines, which formed a broad street open at both ends. Their horses were turned out to grass, their legs being fettered; and when wanted are fastened to lines cut of buffalo skin, that stretches along and is fastened to stakes drove in the ground. They have their hair halters, Buffalo skin pads and stirrups of the same. The horses are fine tractable animals about 14 hands high, being lively and clean made. The natives are good horsemen and kill the buffalo on them. These natives are dressed much the same as the others; but are more clean and Sprightly. They think nothing of my tobacco, and I set little value upon theirs, which is dried horse dung.... Saw many fine girls who were captives, and a great many dried scalps with fine long black hair, displayed on poles before the leader's tent. They follow the buffalo from place to place; and that they should not be surprised by the enemy, encamp in the open plains. Their fuel is turf, and horse dung dryed; their clothing is finely painted with red paints like the English ochre; but they do not mark nor paint their bodies. Saw four asses. May 16. 30 miles N. Came to 30 tents of Archithinue Natives. I talked with them as I did to the others; but all to no purpose. Our Indians traded a great many furs from them. They have the finest horses I have yet seen here and are a very kind people. May 21. 70 tents of Archithinue Natives came to us, headed by the Leader that I saw in the Muscoty country. I used my utmost endeavours to get a few of the young men to the Fort, but all to no purpose. They have very few Wolves or Furs of any kind, having traded them to the Pegoganaw Indians, who are gone to the Fort. We are about 60 canoes and there are scarce a Gun, Kettle, Hatchet or Knife amongst us, having traded them with the Archithinue Natives. The above was Hendry's last entry in his 'Journal' about the Blackfeet. He returned to York Factory without having induced them to go there to trade. They had no reason to go there, as it is clearly shown in the 'Journal' that the 'natives' who traded at York Factory annually made the long journey up the Saskatchewan to supply them with white men's goods in exchange for their furs. We learn from Hendry's notes that, in 1754, the Blackfeet owned many horses, and many slaves, female slaves particularly; that they were nomadic and successful buffalo hunters; that they were upon fairly friendly terms with the Assiniboins, with whom they were later on to be constantly at war. Hendry was mistaken in several of his observations of their customs. The 'turf' fuel that he believed they used was undoubtedly dried buffalo chips, to which always clung some of the earth and the grass upon which the chips had fallen. Nor did they smoke horse dung. It is unsmokeable. They had at that time tobacco of their own planting and harvesting � Nicotiana quadrivalvis � as the next trader to visit them carefully noted. Lastly, we learn from Hendry's 'Journal' that the Blackfeet were, when he visited them, 'a very kind people,' and that they 'looked more like to Europeans than Indians.' So far as is known, after Hendry, no other white man visited the Blackfeet tribes until Matthew Cocking, Second Factor at York Factory, journeyed to them in 1772, also to try to induce them to make annual pilgrimages to that post with their catches of furs. Like Hendry, he was accompanied by many canoes of 'natives,' who, instead of scattering out and trapping every winter, as the Hudson's Bay Company desired them to do, annually ascended the Saskatchewan, and, with a meager supply of kettles, knives, hatchets, vermilion, and trinkets, a few guns and powder and balls, obtained the fur catches of the Blackfeet tribes. Cocking kept a daily record of his long journey, from which I quote the following, pertaining to the Blackfeet: October 7. I found in an old tent place belonging to the Archithinue Natives, part of an earthen vessel in which they dress their victuals. It appeared to have been in the form of an earthen pan. October 16-19. The Natives shew me a tobacco plantation belonging to the Archithinue Natives, about 100 yards long and 5 wide, sheltered from the northern blasts by a ledge of poplars; and to the southward by a ridge of high ground.... November 4. I shall be sorry if I do not see the Equestrian Natives [Blackfeet], who are certainly a brave people, and far superior to any tribes that visit our forts; they have dealings with no Europeans, but live in a state of nature to the S. W. Westerly; draw to the N. E. in March to meet our Natives who traffic with them. December 1. Our Archithinue friends came to us and pitched a small distance from us.... This tribe is named Powestic Athinuewuck, i.e., Waterfall Indians. There are four tribes, or nations, more, which are all Equestrian Indians. viz. Mithco Athiniwuck or Bloody Indians, Koskitow Wathesitock or Black-footed Indians, Pigonow or Muddy Water Indians, and Sassewuck or Woody Country Indians. December 3. Smoked with Archithinue Indians, tried to persuade to go to Fort. They said they would be starved and were unacquainted with canoes, and mentioned the long distance. I am certain they never can be prevailed upon to undertake such journeys. December 4.... In all their actions they far excell the other Natives. They are all well mounted on light sprightly animals; their weapons, Bows and Arrows. Several have on jackets of moose leather 6 fold quilted and without sleeves. They likewise use pack horses; which give their women great advantage over the other women who are either carrying or hauling on sledges every day in the year. They appear to be more like Europeans than Americans. December 5. Our Archithinue friends are very hospitable, continually inviting us to partake of their best fare; generally berries infused with water with fat, very agreeable eating. Their manner of showing respect to strangers is holding the pipe while they smoke; this is done three times. Afterward every person smoked in common; the Women excepted, whom I did not observe to take the pipe. The tobacco they use is of their own planting; which hath a disagreeable flavor. I have preserved a specimen. These people are more cleanly in their clothing and food than my companions. Their victuals are dressed in earthen pots of their own manufacturing, much in the form of Newcastle pots, but without feet; their fire tackling a black stone used as a flint, and a kind of ore as steel, using tuss balls as tinder, i.e., a kind of moss.... The slaves whom they have preserved alive are used with kindness; they are young people of both sexes, and are adopted into the families of those who have lost their children, either by War or sickness. So end abruptly Cocking's notes on the Blackfeet tribes and their allies, the 'Waterfall Indians,' who were the Gros Ventres of the prairie, and the 'Woody Country Indians,' the Saksiks (Sarsees, as the Canadian Government has it), of Athapaskan stock. Interesting and valuable were his discoveries that they made earthen pots, planted tobacco gardens, and were very hospitable. And, like Hendry, he thought that they were more like Europeans than Americans. Not long after Cocking visited the Blackfeet tribes, the Hudson's Bay Company, and a little later, its bitter rival, the Northwest Fur Company, established posts on both branches of the Saskatchewan River, to obtain their trade. Edward Unfreville, of the latter company, who wrote 'The Present State of Hudson's Bay' (London, 1790), said of them (page 198): The usual method of conversing with the Fall Indians [Gros Ventre] is by speaking the Blackfeet tongue, which is agreeable, and soon acquired. (Page 200.) The Blackfeet, Blood, and Paegan Indians. These Indians, though divided into the above three tribes, are all one nation, speak the same language, and abide by the same laws and customs. For what reason they are thus denominated I have been unable to discover, but they go by no other name among the Nehethawas.1 They are the most numerous and powerful nation we are acquainted with; and, by living on the borders of the enemies' country, are the principal barrier to prevent their incursions. War is more familiar to them than the other nations, and they are by far the most formidable to the common enemy of the whole. In their inroads into the enemies' country they frequently bring off a number of horses, which is their principal inducement in going to war. These people are not so far enervated by the use of spirituous liquors, as to be slaves to it; when they come to trade they drink moderately and buy themselves necessities for war, and domestic conveniences. They annually bring a good quantity of skins to the traders, but a greater quantity by far of wolves. All these tribes have a custom peculiar to themselves, which is the cutting off the joints of their fingers, beginning with the little finger, and taking off a joint as often as superstition prompts them. I have not been able to learn for certain the cause of this singular custom, nor did I observe any but the old men, who had their fingers thus mutilated. They behave very friendly to those of our people who pass the winter with them, and none of them have as yet received any injury under their protection, either in person or effects. The people of this nation will eat no kind of waterfowl, amphibious animal, or fish. Their chief substance is the flesh of the buffalo, the deer species, and likewise vegetables. Their language is not very grateful to the ear of the stranger, but when learnt is both agreeable and expressive. (Page 203.) Before the fatal attack of smallpox, which broke out in the year 1781, all these nations of Indians were much more numerous than they are at present.... It is computed that at least one-half of the inhabitants were carried off by it. Of all the early fur-traders who had dealings with the Blackfeet tribes, Alexander Henry, Jr., left the most complete account of them. But he was a prejudiced observer of them and their customs. Dr. Elliott Coues, the editor of his 'Journal'1 gives the following estimate of the man: Intimately connected with his customers as he was, thoroughly versed in their characters, habits, and manners as he became, he had no sympathy with them whatever. They were simply the necessary nuisances of his business, against whom his antipathies were continually excited and not seldom betrayed in his narrative. He detested an Indian as much as he despized a Franco-Canadian voyageur, or hated a rival of the Hudson's Bay Company, or X. Y. Company. How much of 'sweetness and light' is likely to seep into the pages of a man whose prejudices were invincible and sometimes violent, of one who was quite out of touch with his own environment, the reader may judge for himself. In Chapter XIV, 'Ethnography of Fort Vermillion,' Henry wrote of the Blackfeet tribes, 'The Blackfeet, Bloods, and Piegans may be considered under one grand appellation of Slave Indians.' This term he got from his Cree and Ojibway friends, whose name for the Blackfeet tribes as a whole was � and is � Ahwa kan�k... (Slave People), for the reason that they had many slaves, captured in their wars with other tribes. There was, much farther north, on the tributaries of the Mackenzie River, a tribe of Athapaskan stock that was named Slave, or Slavey Indians, and it is probable that the earliest adventurers of the fur-traders named the Slave Lakes for them. Henry, as well as other early fur-traders, compiled a vocabulary of the Blackfeet language, and, like the others, he gave many of the words certain sounds which no Blackfeet could possibly utter. There is absolutely no sound of the letters b, d, f, g, j, l, r, and z in their language. The following are a few examples from his vocabulary: The following are a few of Henry's notes on the Blackfeet tribes: The Piegans, though the same people as the Blackfeet and Bloods, imagine themselves to be a superior race, braver and more virtuous than their own countrymen, whom they always seem to despize for their vicious habits and treacherous conduct. They are proud and haughty, and studiously avoid the company of their allies further than is necessary for their own safety in guarding against their common enemies.... They have always had the reputation of being more brave and virtuous than any of their neighbors; indeed they are obliged to be so, surrounded as they are by enemies with whom they are constantly at war.... The country which the Piegans call their own, and which they have been known to inhabit since their first intercourse with traders on the Saskatchewan, is, as I have already observed, along the foot of the Rocky Mountains, on Bow River, and even as far south as the Missouri. The buffalo regulates their movements over this vast extent of prairie throughout the year, as they must keep near these animals to obtain food. The ordinary dress of these people is plain and simple, like that of all other Meadow Indians; plain leather shoes, leather leggings reaching up to the hip, and a robe over all, constitutes their usual summer dress, though occasionally they wear an open leather shirt, which reaches down to the thigh. Their winter dress differs little from that of the summer; their shoes are then made of buffalo hide dressed in the hair, and sometimes a leather shirt and a strip of buffalo or wolf skin is tied around the head. They never wear mittens. I have frequently seen them come into our houses after a 10 or 15 days' march over the plains, in the depth of winter, with the thermometer 30 or 40 degrees below zero, dressed with only shoes, leggings, and a robe � nothing else to screen them from the cold.... Young Piegans are not so much addicted to fineries as the Blackfeet; their only ambition being for war; their manners, however, are the same. The gun which they carry in their arms, the powder horn and shot-pouch slung on their backs, are necessary appendages to the full dress of a young Slave. The bow and quiver of arrows are also slung across the back at all times and seasons, except that, when the Indian is sleeping or setting in his tent, these weapons are hung on a pole within reach.... War seems to be the Piegans' sole delight; their discourse always turns upon that subject; one war-party no sooner arrives than another sets off.... They take great delight in relating their adventures in war, and are so vivid in rehearsing every detail of the fray that they seem to be fighting the battle over again. A Piegan takes as much pleasure in the particulars of the excursion in which he engaged as a Saulteur does in relating a grand drinking match � how many nights they were drunk and how many kegs of liquor they consumed. In smoking there is more ceremony among the Piegans than I have observed in any other tribe. Some of them will not smoke while there is an old pair of shoes hanging in the tent; some of them must rest the pipe upon a piece of meat; others upon a buffalo's tongue. Some will smoke only their own pipe which they themselves must light; again, others must have somebody to light it for them, and then it must be lighted by flame only; no live coal must touch it, nor must the coal be blown into a blaze. No person must pass between the fire and the lighted pipe, particularly when in a tent. The first whiff of the pipe is blown to the earth, while the stem is pointed up; the second whiff is blown up, and the stem is pointed down, or sometimes to the rising sun; the midday sun and the setting sun also receive their share of attention. Every movement of the Slaves is a parade. When coming in to trade, young men are sent on ahead to inform us of their approach and demand a bit of tobacco for each principal man or head of a family. Six inches of our twist tobacco is commonly sent, neatly done up in paper, to which is tied a small piece of vermillion, with which they immediately return to their friends. The tobacco is delivered, and a smoking match takes place, while the messengers relate the news of the place, and give an account of their reception. This ceremony being concluded, they move on their journey in one long string. On the day of their arrival the men assemble at a convenient spot in sight of the fort, where they make fire and smoke; during which time the women and children come to the fort and erect their tents near the stockades. Observing that business to be nearly completed, then men arise and move toward the fort in Indian file, the principal chief taking the lead, the others falling in according to rank or precedence, derived from the number of scalps taken in war. The master of the place is always expected to go out and shake hands with them at a short distance from the gates, and the further he goes to meet them, the greater the compliment. This ceremony over, he walks at their head, and this conducts them to the Indian hall. There he desires the principal chief to take the seat of honor, in the most conspicuous place; the others to sit according to their rank around the room on benches provided for that purpose. The pipe is then lighted and presented to the chief, who, having performed the usual ceremonies, takes a few whiffs and passes it to the next person on the right, always in rotation, with the course of the sun. All having taken a few whiffs of the trader's pipe, the principal chief produces his own, which he fills and presents to the trader, who must take a few whiffs before it is sent around. The compliment is greater if the chief presents the pipe to the trader to light. If the Indians are numberous their own pipes are then demanded, filled by us, and presented to them, each one lighting according to his own particular notions of ceremony; but we must always have people to hand them fire, as their consequential impertinence does not permit them to rise for that purpose. The more pipes there are in circulation at once, the greater is the compliment. Some of the Blackfeet own 40 or 50 horses. But the Piegans have by far the greatest numbers; I heard of one man who had 300. These animals are got from their enemies southward, where they are perpetually at war with the Snakes, Flatheads, and other nations, who have vast herds.... A common horse can be bought here for a carrot of tobacco, which weighs about three pounds, and costs in Canada four shillings. The saddles these people use are of two kinds. The one which I suppose to be of the most ancient construction is made of wood well joined, and covered with raw buffalo hide, which in drying binds every part tight. This frame rises about ten inches before and behind; the tops are bent over horizontally and spread out, forming a flat piece about six inches in diameter. The stirrup, attached to the frame by a leather thong, is a piece of bent wood, over which is stretched raw buffalo hide, making it firm and strong. When an Indian goes to mount he throws his buffalo robe over the saddle and rides on it. The other saddle, which is the same as that of the Assiniboins and Crees, is made by shaping two pieces of parchment on dressed leather, about 20 inches long and 14 broad, through the length of which are sewed two parallel lines three inches apart, on each side of which the saddle is well stuffed with moose or red deer hair. Under each kind of saddle are placed two or three folds of soft dressed buffalo skin, to keep the horse from getting a sore back. Their tents are large and clean. The devices used in painting them are taken from beasts and birds; the buffalo and the bear are frequently delineated, but in a rude and uncouth manner. They are great warriors, and so easily prey upon their enemies that many of the old men have killed with their own hands, during their younger days, 15 or 20 men. Women and children are never reckoned; and he is considered but a moderate warrior who has killed only 10 men. They are exceedingly superstitious in all their actions; even their smoking is done with many superstitious manouvers. Some rest their pipes on a small stone which they carry about for that purpose; others on a dry buffalo dung; others again on a particular piece of earth, clay, wood, or metal. Some of them have a small bone whistle suspended to their necks, and on taking a fresh-lighted pipe, whistle several times before they smoke, at the same time waving the hands on each side of the stem. The pipe is always passed round in rotation with the sun; and they never press down its contents with the finger after it is once lighted, a small stick being used for that purpose. Each man draws only a few whiffs, and instantly hands it to the next on his left. The following is the present population, as nearly as I could ascertain it: Painted Feather's band are the most civilized, and well disposed toward us. The Cold band are notoriously a set of audacious villians. The Bloods are still worse, always inclined to mischief and murder. The Piegans are the most numerous and best disposed toward us of all the Indians of the plains. They also kill beaver. The other tribes stand in awe of them, and they have frequently offered us their services to quell disturbances made by other tribes. The Big Bellies, or Rapid Indians, are now stationed south of the Slaves, between the South Branch [of the Saskatchewan] and the Missourie. Formerly they inhabited the point of land between the North and South branches of the Saskatchewan to the junction of those two streams; from which circumstance, it is supposed, they derived the name of Rapid Indians.... Their dress, manners and customs appear to me to be the same. [Same as the Slaves.] Formerly they were very numerous, and much dreaded by neighboring nations. But since the smallpox their numbers have diminished very much, through the effect of that baneful disease, and in consequence of depredations committed upon them by tribes with whom they have been at variance. The Slaves have fought many bloody battles with them, though they are now on amicable terms. They are a more industrious people, and commonly bring us a good trade in dried provisions, beaver skins, and grizzly bear and buffalo robes. In dressing their robes they are far superiour to the Slaves, and fully equal to the Mandanes. They are an audacious, turbulent race, and have repeatedly attempted to massacre us. Their first attack was made at old Fort Brule in 1793, when they pillaged the Hudson's Bay Company's fort, and were about to commit a similar outrage upon that of the N. W. Co.; but, through the spirited conduct of one of the clerks, they were repulsed, and fled with the booty already acquired from the H. B. Co. establishment. The following summer they assembled and formally attacked the H. B. Co. fort on the South Branch, which they destroyed, massacred the people, and pillaged them of everything they could find, leaving the place in ashes. At the same time they attempted to destroy the N. W. Co. fort, which stood near that of the H. B. Co.; but, meeting with unexpected resistance, they retired with the loss of one of their principal chiefs, and some others killed and wounded; since which time they have been more peaceable. They now form about 80 tents, containing 240 men bearing arms. The Sarcees are a distinct nation, and have an entirely different language from any other of the plains; it is difficult to acquire, from the many gutteral sounds it contains. Their land was formerly on the N. side of the Saskatchewan, but they removed to the south side, and now dwell commonly S. of the Beaver Hills, near the Slaves, with whom they are at peace. They have the name of being a brave and warlike people, with whom neighboring nations always appear desirous of being upon amicable terms. Their customs and manners seem to be nearly the same as those of the Crees, and their dress is the same. Their language resembles that of the Chipewyans, many words being exactly the same; from this, and their apparent emigration from the N., we have reason to suppose them of that nation.... Of late years their numbers have much augmented; in the summer of 1809, when they were all in one camp, they formed 90 tents, containing about 150 men bearing arms. The Missourie on the S., the Rocky Mountains on the W., and the North Branch of the Saskatchewan on the N., seem to be the bounds of the foregoing numerous tribes, beyond which all are considered as enemies. So ends Henry's 'Ethnography of Fort Vermillion.' In 1813, he went from the Saskatchewan country to Fort George (Astoria), at the mouth of the Columbia River, and May 22, 1814, he, Donald McTavish, and five voyageurs, were drowned when attempting to go to the Isaac Todd, anchored in the river opposite the fort. In Part III, of his 'Journals,' he had much to say about the Indian tribes west of the Rocky Mountains. His hatred of them was even more pronounced than those of the plains. As I have previously explained, Henry's name for the Blackfeet tribes, Slave Indians, he and other early fur-traders in the Northwest got from the Ojibways and Crees. Henry's 'Painted Feather's band,' of the 'Slaves,' were the Sik'sika, the Blackfeet proper, now numbering about seven hundred and fifty, and living upon their reservation, sixty miles east of Calgary, Alberta. It is said that they so named themselves because their moccasins were generally balck from their walking over the burned plains. An ancient tradition, however, gives another reason for the name: In the very long ago, an old man and his three married sons, and their women and children, were near starvation, because of the scarcity of deer and elk, so they set out to try to find a better game country. They crossed some mountains, and for the first time came to a treeless country: great plains, upon which were countless numbers of huge, dark-haired animals new to them, the buffalo. The three sons attempted to approach and kill some of them, and failed, as the animals always outran them. Then, in accordance with a vision that the old father had, he made a black-colored medicine, rubbed some of it upon his eldest son's feet, and it enabled him to run so swiftly that he easily overtook and killed some of the strange animals. Whereupon the old father said that Blackfeet should thereafter be his name. At that, the two other sons became jealous of their elder brother, and demanded that they also be given some of the black medicine. The old man refused to give it, for, he said, his vision had plainly shown him that it was to be used only by his eldest son. However, they should also have new names, and they must earn them: they should go far away upon discovery of the new country and its life, and upon their return he would name them in accordance with what they had done. The two sons departed, and were gone a long time. The younger of the two, who went south, returned with several beautifully tanned and painted buffalo robes which he had obtained from a friendly tribe that he had met, so his father named him Pik� ni (Far-Off Robes). The other son, who went east, brought back scalps of a number of enemies that he had killed, and he was therefore named, Ah-ka-i na (Many Chiefs). Such was the origin of the three tribes. The Ah-ka-i na, or as it is now shortened, the Kai na, are the Blood Indian tribe, numbering twelve hundred, living upon their reservation, just east of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, and often frequenting the Park, to the delight of the tourists who gather there every summer. They feel insulted when called Blood Indians, the whites' name for them since the time of the earliest fur-traders, Henry and others. Their Ojibway and Cree interpreters informed them that the tribe were the Mikwin iwuk (Red People, or Bloody People), so named because they so profusely painted their faces and robes with the native paint of the country, red ochre. The Pik� ni (Henry's and Cocking's Piegans) are in worse case than the Kai na, for they are the Blackfeet of the United States Indian Bureau. Their reservation adjoins Glacier National Park, and they are still the largest of the three tribes, numbering at present about three thousand souls. Long before Alexander Henry's time in the Northwest, a part of the Ah pait�pi (Blood People) gens of the Pik� ni separated from the tribe, and lived for the greater part of the time close up to the foot of the Rockies, between the St. Mary's River and the South Branch of the Saskatchewan Henry named them the 'Cold Band';doubtless because their chief at that time was named �s toyimstan (Cold Maker). Eventually theybecame the Ap� tosit�pi (North People), or, more properly, Ap� tosi Pik� ni (North Pik� ni), North Piegans of the Canadian Government. Their reservation is a short distance west of Macleod, Alberta. They number about four hundred and fifty, nearly all of them full-blood Indians. Several Northwestern adventurers, later than Henry, mentioned still another tribe of the 'Slaves,' the Small Robes tribe. It was not a tribe, but a gens of the Pik� ni, so numerous and so warlike that it fearlessly separated from the tribe for months at a time to camp about and hunt by itself. The gens is still existent, though its members are few. Henry named the Missouri River as the southern boundary of the country of the Blackfeet tribes. The Yellowstone River was its southern limit. Every typographical feature, every river, creek, mountain range, and lone butte between those streams has its Blackfeet name. Favorite camping and hunting localities of the tribes, particularly the Pik� ni, were the Prickly Pear Valley, the Three Forks of the Missouri, the Musselshell River, the bases of the Belt, the Judith, the Moccasin, and the Snowy Mountains, and the valley of the Yellowstone in the plains. The Jefferson River Pass in the Rockies � their Ah wotan Inahp�t si It�k tai (Shield Floated-Down River) � was one of their favorite routes to the country of their West-Side enemies. Equally completely named by the Blackfeet tribes are the topographical features of their one-time territory between the Missouri and the North Saskatchewan. Henry wrote that the devices used in painting the lodges of the Blackfeet 'are taken from beasts and birds; the buffalo and the bear are frequently delineated, but in a rough and uncouth manner.' Would that he, and the fur-traders earlier than he, had been sufficiently interested to learn the reason for those pictographs! Would that they had been as much interested in the history, manners and customs, and beliefs of the tribes, as they were in the furs that they might obtain from them! For theirs was the opportunity to give light on some anthropological problems of those Northwest tribes which now can never be solved.


Blackfeet (Pikuni) man wearing a Hudson's Bay Blanket Capote - 1910

Subject: Clothing and dress, Weapons, Portraits, Photographs, Hudson's Bay Company, Coats, Men's clothing


A photograph of Turtle from the Magee Collection

Subject: Clothing and dress, Family History, Portrait, Magee, Thomas Benjamin, 1862-1930, Magee, Henry Lincoln, 1896-1966, Magee, Donald Lee 1938-, Photographs, Moccasins, Jewelry, Necklaces, Hudson's Bay Company, Coats, Turtle

Transcript: Father: Mad Bull Mother: Unknown Wife: Mary Ann Turtle Children: Annie, Louise and Little Owl Woman Turtle was well known for his bravery against Grizzly bears. Turtle killed seven bears in all and had the rights to wear a bear claw necklace. Turtle was a Beaver man and also owned a Crow Painted tipi. Turtle belonged to the Buffalo Chips clan. Card Information: Turtle. A portrait of a Blackfeet man wearing a feathered headdress and a Hudson's Bay Company wool blanket coat. Thomas B. Magee, 1862-1930; Henry L. Magee, 1896-1966 MGNGEN0061 This photograph is part of the Magee Family Collection. The collection was donated to the Blackfoot Digital Library by Don Magee the son of Thomas Magee. The originals are now in the University of Alberta's archives. Research on the photographs has been done by Adrienne Heavy Head using various published resources about the Blackfoot people and interviews.