Why Is the Blackfoot Indian Tribe History Important?


Quick Answer

The Blackfoot Confederacy was a collection of four tribes noted for their skill in buffalo hunting. For the most part, they managed to avoid the Indian wars with both American and Canadian settlers, yet were in the midst of two notably violent encounters: an encounter with the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the Marias Massacre.

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Full Answer

The Blackfoot Confederacy consisted of four tribes: the Blackfoot, the Blood, the Peigan and the North Peigan Pikuni. The Confederacy's territory covered western Montana and much of Alberta. Blackfoot chieftains were notable for keeping their people out of the various wars against white expansion. Crowfoot, head of the Blackfoot Tribe, refused to take part in a mass Native American rebellion against the Canadian government in 1885, gaining him the thanks and support of said government. At the same time, he would harbor refugees from other tribes, establishing himself as a neutral, not pro-white, chief.

Despite their neutrality, it was Blackfoot Indians who sparked the only violent encounter on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. In late July of 1806, the explorers met a band of Piegan hunters and as with other tribes they met, they offered peace and trade with the American government. However, as they did this they mentioned that tribes hostile to the Blackfoot Confederacy would be supplied with guns. Waiting until night, the Piegans tried to steal the explorers' guns, sparking a struggle which saw two of the natives killed.

The Blackfoot Tribe was the victim of the Marias Massacre on Jan. 23, 1870. While pursuing a violent gang of Blackfeet, Major Eugene Baker and his men came upon a civilian camp and attacked it, killing almost 200 men, women and children. The massacre sparked outrage among American civilians, as not only were noncombatants massacred, but the hostile gang being pursued escaped.

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