A student resource suitable for K-12 and university students. Content may be freely used for non-commercial purposes. All materials written by Gregg Paisley, except as noted therein.
Footnote / Endnote / Citations:
Paisley, Gregg E. The Blackfeet: The Blackfeet Today (or whichever website page is cited) www.americanindianpartnership.org (Nov. 2009).
Helping Our People Overcome Economic & Social Disadvantage
308 N. Piegan, Browning, MT
For many years scholars theorized that the Blackfeet migrated east-to-west from the forests of the Great Lakes sometime in the last few hundred years. This was based on analyzing variations in Algonquin dialects (the Blackfeet language is classified by linguists as Algonquin) and concluding we must have taken the language from east-to-west. Explanations for the Blackfeet’s supposed migration ranged from the introduction of the horse and gun to conflict with other tribes.
But scholars write books and give lectures and huff and puff about times in which they never lived, worlds into which they never stepped foot, and languages they can never hear spoken by the ancients they study. As an example of how little is really known about Indians in the pre-Columbian period, experts can’t even agree if the population of the Americas was 8 million or 112 million. If they know so little that they can’t get within an order of magnitude of each other, why bother guessing about anything else? Why, if it is generally agreed that Indians came across from Asia 12,000 or more years ago (which naturally means migration would occur north-to-south, and west-to-east) would anyone claim the Blackfeet must have migrated east-to-west?
In any case, anthropological theories aren’t interesting to the Blackfeet. We know who we are and where we come from. We come from right here. We know, and have always said, that we have forever lived next to the Rocky Mountains. And we are right: recent archeological evidence shows that for thousands of years we have lived where we now live. There is a nearby buffalo jump that has buffalo bones mixed in with our bones that are over 10,000 years old.
Not that we needed any proof: Our Creation Story, handed down through a hundred generations, takes place at Badger-Two Medicine, a sacred place next to what is today the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier Park. If a scholar wants to tell us that somewhere in the dark and distant mists of prehistory we walked from Asia, or came by raft across one ocean or another, we will listen and smile, because we like our Creation Story better.
From the time the white man came, and in fact because the white man came, our population has varied wildly, from perhaps 20,000 in the early 1800s, to possibly fewer than 2,000 in the 1890s, to over 16,000 today. Our grim mortality rate has been due to countless collisions between our tribe and non-Indians (Indians waged war on each other from time to time, but not necessarily to kill, and never with the aim of extermination). This is another way to say that left to our own abilities and able to make our own decisions, even in the most unforgiving of environments we have always flourished.
In 1837 smallpox was unwittingly brought by white men. Just ten days after visiting Fort McKenzie, Montana, the Blackfeet awoke to terrible and incurable symptoms of an unknown horror that quickly raged through the entire tribe. We lost 6,000 --half our tribe.
In the 1880s we came close to losing everyone to the Starvation Winter: Our numbers were diminished to perhaps less than 3,000. This occurred due to the near complete annihilation of the buffalo which represented 90% of our diet. (In the 1870s there we 5,000,000 buffalo on the Plains, five years later they were all but gone.) No one told us the buffalo had been wiped out until it was too late, and no one in Washington, D.C. truly understood how reliant we were on the animal. By the time the federal government realized its tragic mistake, we were dying in droves. Help came too little, too late, and if it weren’t for the good people of Montana rushing us food across nearly impassible terrain, there might today be no Blackfeet Tribe at all.
And of course war with invading white soldiers, against whose numbers and guns we didn’t stand a chance, depleted us in numbers, stature, and spirit at every turn.
In our “Dog Days” (when we use dogs to pull our travois from encampment to encampment) and into the horse and gun era which began about 1750, we relentlessly roamed the Plains following the enormous herds of buffalo. The moment our scouts came back with news of a herd, we would instantly pack up the entire camp and be in pursuit in matter of minutes. The tipi enabled our mobile lifestyle, and that venerable lodge has never been improved on. In all the world, what other large, lightweight, portable home has proven equal to the tipi’s unique ability to withstands prairie winds so strong that a strong man can barely stand up, buffer its inhabitants from killing cold, and house a large family in such great comfort, yet be easily taken down or set up in minutes?
Before guns we used arrows and lances and sometimes allied with the Gros Ventre and Sarcee to fight our traditional enemies the Crow, Shoshone, Cree, Sioux, Flathead, and Assiniboin. Once we were mounted and armed with guns, we quickly came to dominate the Northern Plains, pushing the Shoshone, Kootenai, and Flathead to the western side of the Rocky Mountains, and every other challenger to distant domains.
Controlling such a large region, rich in wildlife, made us a natural and necessary trading partner for the fur trappers that started to appear in the mid-18th century. For over 100 years thereafter, trading with European trappers and traders was an important part of our economy and social lives.
But we had long been aggressive warriors and raiders, and so we would sometimes attack trading posts and raid settlements. This terrified settlers, so it was just a matter of time before governments and armies got involved. They were after our land in any case, and they would get it by hook, crook, or force. Our fearsome reputation gave them just the excuse needed to take a hard line with us. So before we knew what had happened we had ceded the vast majority of our lands to the federal government through treaties and other agreements that we were not equipped to negotiate or even understand.
The first treaty, known as Lame Bull’s Treaty, was signed in 1855. More would follow, each taking huge chunks of our traditional land. We resisted as best we could, but retaliation was always disproportionate and murderous. In 1870, for example, a small confrontation sparked by the relentless, illegal encroachment of settlers and speculators resulted in the indiscriminate massacre of 173 women, children, and elderly by the U.S. Cavalry at Heavy Runner's Piegan camp on the Marias River. This was a peaceful camp under the protection of a safe conduct pass. It wasn’t the camp the soldiers were hunting for. A Calvary scout named Kipp frantically shouted to the soldiers that this was the wrong camp and they were about to make a terrible mistake. But bloodlust and hatred cannot be diverted by right or reason, and this was our Wounded Knee, our Sand Creek.
In the end, as a small grace, we ended up with the land that was most sacred to us: our present day reservation. But this was not due to any sort of good will or best intentions on the part of the United States. The simple fact is that the land we wanted most was the land they wanted least.
In 1896 we had the Northern Rockies taken from us for a paltry $1.5 million because speculators believed there were rich minerals to be had. When mineral riches didn’t pan out, this most sacred part of our homeland became Glacier National Park in 1910. As recently as 1925, Glacier National Park was still pressuring us to give up more land surrounding the Park.
To this day we question the legitimacy of the 1896 transaction. But thereafter, the modern-day reservation boundaries were essentially set, and lands within the reservation were allotted to individual Tribal members between 1907 and 1911 under the General Allotment Act. On the surface, the idea was to distribute reservation land to individual Indians, but in practice the Act enabled non-Indians to buy (or fleece) allotments from Indians or to purchase “excess lands.” On some reservations, for example the Puyallup Reservation near Seattle, nearly all the land quickly left Tribal hands as it was purchased for pennies from Tribal members desperate for cash or seized for non-payment of taxes, and then developed into a drab and sprawling low- and middle-income suburb for non-Indians. Today, no one passing through the Puyallup Reservation would have the slightest notion they are on an Indian reservation, except for the occasional smokeshop or firework stand.
By comparison, the Blackfeet fared much better: Today, over 60% of the reservation remains in Tribal or Tribal-member hands, and the portions we don’t own are generally very large ranches with few structures and fewer inhabitants. Our non-Indian ranchers are good neighbors and good stewards of the land, so the character and appearance or our rangelands has remained essentially unaltered since early times. Over 8,500 of the Reservation’s 10,000 residents are enrolled Blackfeet. The other 1,500 are mostly Blackfeet descendants or Indians from other Tribes, as well as a few hundred non-Indians.
In 1924, American Indians became U.S. citizens. In 1934, we became an “IRA Tribe” under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. This stemmed the tide of reservation land being sold to non-Indians by conferring trust land status on much of our acreage, and also formed the legal based for sovereignty, bestowed a measure self-governance, and provided a Tribal Constitution-based structure for our government.
Prior to the early 20th century it was uncommon for Blackfeet to be sufficiently skilled at writing to make good chroniclers for the Tribe. So, much of the best writings about us came from non-Indians that we welcomed into our world. Below are excerpts from an essay written in the 1930s by a longtime, trusted friend, a man named Frank B. Linderman. It’s from his book: “OUT OF THE NORTH: A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE BLACKFEET INDIAN TRIBE” and is a very good, lively, and romantic read.
(Many Blackfeet would not agree with some of the statements made herein, but anyone who would take such trouble to learn about us and write so affectionately and sympathetically deserves to be heard uncensored.)
BLACKFEET! No tribal name appears oftener in the history of the Northwestern plains; no other is so indelibly written into the meager records of the early fur-trade of the upper Missouri river, and none ever inspired more dread in white plainsmen. Hell-gate* was not so named because the water there was fiercely wild, or the mountain trail difficult, but because the way led from tranquility to trouble, to the lands of the hostile Blackfeet. *Near Missoula, Montana. Gateway through the Rockies to the plains.
The three tribes of the Blackfeet nation, the Pecunnies (Piegans), Bloods, and Blackfeet, are one people. They speak a common language, and practice the same customs. Long ago…they reached the wide plains bordering the Rocky mountains in what is now Montana. Here they found vast herds of fat buffalo, elk, and antelope, an exhaustless abundance they had never known; and here, after driving the Snakes, and probably the Flatheads, Kootenais, and Nez Perces, from the bountiful grass-lands to the narrow valleys west of the Rockies, the three tribes of Blackfeet settled down to become plainsmen. Nobody can tell their numbers when they came out of the north. Old Pecunnie warriors have told me that their tribe once counted 750 lodges, probably less than 4000 people; and we know that, of the three tribes of the Blackfeet nation, the Pecunnie was the most numerous.
All this happened before the Blackfeet had horses. Dogs had always transported their goods. Now, to steal horses, their raiding parties ranged over the endless grass-lands far toward the south, old warriors say even into the Spanish possessions. Often these raiders were absent for two years; and nearly always they were successful. Their pony-bands grew until men measured their wealth in horses. Meat, their principal food, was easily obtained; and yet these people did not permit life to drag, or become stale. War and horse-stealing were their never-ending games; and besides furnishing necessary excitement and adventure they kept every man in constant training, since a successful raid was certain to bring attempts at reprisal. To be mentioned by his tribesmen as a great warrior, or a cunning horse-thief, was the highest ambition of a plains Indian; and the Blackfeet were master-hands at both these hazardous hobbies.
When finally they obtained fire-arms they became the scourge of the Northwestern plains, claiming all the country lying north of the Yellowstone river to the Saskatchewan. In stature they average taller than the men of neighboring tribes, having thin, shapely noses, and intelligent faces. Like the other tribesmen of the great grasslands they were naturally a deeply religious people; and like all the plains Indians they were naturally jolly, loving jest and laughter when not in the presence of strangers. Even though the Blackfeet may have brought their social customs from the northern forests, they did not differ greatly from those of the other plains people. Each of the three tribes was subdivided into clans, or gentes of blood kin in the male line, there being in the Blackfeet nation perhaps fifty such clans known as Black-Elks, Lone- Fighters, Fat-Roasters, White-Breasts, etc. A man was not permitted by tribal law to marry a woman who belonged to his own clan; and the children of any union belonged always to their mother's clan. Young women were closely guarded. There was little courting. Marriages were arranged by parents, with the consent of near relations. And yet, when possible, the desires of young people were given consideration.
Smoking was a sacred ceremony. Old plains Indians sealed oaths and agreements with the pipe. In smoking, the host or master of ceremonies, filled and lighted the stone pipe, offering its stem first to the sun (the father) and then to the earth (the mother) before smoking, himself. Next he passed the pipe to the guest on his left, "as the sun travels." After smoking, usually taking three deep draughts, this guest handed the pipe to the man on his left, the pipe's stem being kept pointed at the lodge-wall in its movements. And the pipe must not be handed across the doorway. When the man nearest the door on the host's left hand had smoked, the pipe must go back to the "head" of the lodge where the host passed it to the guest on his right, the pipe going, unsmoked to the guest nearest the door on that side. When this guest had smoked he passed the pipe to the guest on his left, so that the pipe again began to move "as the sun travels." If the pipe needed refilling it was handed back to the host who replenished it, the guests passing it along, unsmoked, to the man who had discovered its emptiness. Nobody might properly pass between smokers and the lodge-fire.
Hereditary leadership was unknown. Men became chiefs by their prowess in war; and because he must ever be generous, a chief was usually a poor man. With the Blackfeet, as with the other Indians of the Northwestern plains, a chieftainship had to be maintained by constant demonstration of personal ability. It might easily be lost in a single day, since these independent tribesmen were free to choose their leaders, and were quick to desert a weak or cowardly character. This independence was instilled in the children of the plains people. They were never whipped, or severely punished. The boys were constantly lectured by the old men of the tribes, exhorted to strive for renown as warriors, and to die honorably in battle before old age came to them. The names of tribal heroes were forever upon the tongues of these teachers; and everywhere cowardice was bitterly condemned.
The girls were taught by their mothers and grandmothers to look seriously upon life, to shun the frivolous, and to avoid giggling. With the Blackfeet, women "gave" the sun-dances, the most sacred of their religious ceremonies; and because the "givers" of these sun-dances must have lived exemplary lives to have dared offer dances to the sun, they were forever afterward highly honored by both the men and women of the tribe. "Look, my daughter," a woman would say, "there goes Two-Stars. She is The-Sits-Beside-Him-Woman of White-Wolf. Two summers ago she gave a sun-dance, and she yet lives. If you try to be like her you may some day give a sun-dance, yourself."
The lodges, or tepees, of the plains Indians were the most comfortable transportable shelters ever devised by man. They were made of grained, and partially dressed, buffalo cow skins, from fourteen to twenty-four skins being required for a lodge. Indian women could easily pitch or strike a lodge within a few minutes. In cold weather the lodges were made comfortable, besides being brightened interiorly, by handsomely decorated linings which reached well above the heads of seated occupants, thus protecting them from draughts. From fourteen to twenty-six slender poles were required for each lodge, their length depending upon the height of the lodge. New sets of poles were usually cut each year, since dragging them over the plains in following the buffalo herds wore them out in a season. Lodges were often decorated with picture-stories of medicine-dreams, scalps, and buffalo-tails. In the village each clan, and each individual lodge, had its rightful position, the lodges of clan chieftains being pitched in a small circle within the village-circle, each always occupying its hereditary post.
Indians of the plains respect dignity and love formality. Conventional decorum, easy and masterful, was always evident in the lodges of old plains warriors. From the host's place at the "head" of a lodge his sons sat at his left, according to age; his wives, and their visiting women friends, on his right. A male guest, upon entering a lodge, turned to his right, around the lodge-fire, and was promptly assigned a seat on the host's left, according to his rank as a warrior. If a visitor had a message he stood while delivering it; and he was never interrupted for any reason until he had finished speaking, and had so declared. Once within a lodge even an enemy might speak as he chose without interference or heckling. After leaving the village he must look out for himself, however.
Basketry and the making of pottery were unknown to the Blackfeet. Their weapons, clothing, and robes received most of their artistic attention, the three-pronged design representing the three tribes of the nation being commonly used. Most of their bows were made of ash, or the wood of the chokecherry, their arrows being made of the shoots of service-berry bushes. Their shields were of rawhide taken from the necks of old buffalo-bulls. They would turn an arrow, and are said to have often turned bullets fired from old-fashioned rifles. The old time pipes of the Blackfeet were made of black, or greenish, stone, "straight" pipes sometimes being used in ceremonials.
The men wore shirts, breech-clouts, leggings, and moccasins, the latter soled with rawhide. In summer they wore no head-gear unless attending a ceremonial. In winter the men often wore caps made from the skins of animals or water-fowl. Eagle feathers were often worn by the men, beautiful war-bonnets being made with them. The women wore gowns of dressed deer, antelope, or mountain-sheep, skins that reached nearly to their ankles; and they also wore leggings, moccasins, and decorated belts carrying knives in painted scabbards.
The men were thorough sportsmen, loving horse-racing, foot-racing, and gambling. They were graceful winners, and good losers in games of chance. And they were firm believers in luck, and in the medicine conferred in dreams. Men often starved, and even, tortured themselves, in preparation for desired medicine-dreams. Then, weakened both physically and mentally by enervating sweat-baths and fatigue, they slipped away alone to some dangerous spot, usually a high mountain-peak, a sheer cliff, or a well-worn buffalo-trail that might be traveled at any hour by a vast herd of buffalo; and here, without food, or water, they spent four days and nights (if necessary) trying to dream, appealing to invisible "helpers," crying aloud to the winds until utter exhaustion brought them sleep, or unconsciousness—and perhaps a medicine-dream.
If lucky, some animal or bird appeared to the dreamer, offering counsel and help, nearly always prescribing rules which if followed would lead the dreamer to success in war. Thereafter the bird or animal appearing in the medicine-dream was the dreamer's medicine. He believed that all the power, the cunning, and the instinctive wisdom, possessed by the appearing bird or animal would forever afterward be his own in time of need. And always thereafter the dreamer carried with him some part of such bird or animal. It was his lucky-piece, a talisman, and he would undertake nothing without it upon his person.
In each of the three tribes of Blackfeet there were several societies, some of them being secret organizations. Most of them were military in character, some of them originally having police power over villages; and at least one of them was composed of boys who were not yet old enough to go to war. The Horn society of the Bloods, and the Kit-Foxes of the Pecunnies, seem to have been much the same society; and it may have been the most honorable and exclusive. The women of the Pecunnie also had a society which is said to have been secret. It was evidently not unlike the Horns in standing, since none but women of middle-age whose lives were known to have been upright were eligible to membership. This society selected its members, electing them before solicitation, one dissenting vote excluding a proposed woman.
Like all Indians of the plains, the Blackfeet formerly placed deep faith in the medicine-men, the "wise-ones" of their tribes; and even though these men resorted to intricate ceremonies which fascinated patients and onlookers there is no doubt that they often healed the sick and wounded through this faith alone. They did, however, possess considerable knowledge of the medicinal properties of herbs and roots, and often prescribed them. There was little sickness, since the daily lives of the plains Indians kept them in perfect physical condition. Sunrise saw most of the men and boys in the icy streams, winter and summer alike.
Burial of the dead was usually on platforms lashed to the limbs of trees beyond the reach of wolves. Securely wrapped in buffalo robes, firmly bound with rawhide thongs, the bodies were safe from ravens, crows, and magpies. Weapons and pipes were buried with warriors, root-diggers and cooking utensils with the women. Often a number of horses were killed at the burial of a warrior, so that his spirit might ride in The Sand Hills, the Heaven of the Blackfeet. In mourning for a son, or other male relative, both men and women scarified themselves, and cut off their hair, the women wailing piteously, sometimes for long periods. The mourning for women was of shorter duration, and not so wild.
The Blackfeet were meat eaters. Meat constituted fully 90% of their daily fare. It was either boiled or roasted, "meat-holes," which operated as fireless-cookers, being sometimes used. Roots and bulbs were also cooked in the ground; and the eggs of water-fowl were often steamed. Berries were eaten fresh; and they were dried for winter use, the latter being used in making the best pemmican, a mixture of dried, lean meat thoroughly pulverized and seasoned with the berries and bone-marrow. Ordinary pemmican was made with dried meat and melted tallow, no berries being used. The Blackfeet did not have salt, and like all the plains tribes dried their meat in the sun, unsalted, packing it away for winter use, the pemmican in buffalo-skin bags.
In the days before the white man came to the plains the Blackfeet were a happy people. An abundance of material for their food, clothing, and sheltering lodges was constantly in sight on every hand. Beyond these necessities their needs were few, so that with a firm belief in the exhaustless bounty of their loved grass-lands these practical folks lived each day for itself. And they knew how to live. Their pride in themselves forbade too much ease, even in their land of plenty. No successful hunter, no tribesman who, with crude weapons, plentifully fed a family, could have been a lazy man, no perfect horseman a weakling. The arms and wrists of men who could send arrows down to their feathers into the bodies of huge buffalo bulls were as powerful as spring steel; and men who loved war for its excitement could not have been weak-hearted.
The power of endurance of the plains Indians has always been beyond comprehension by white men. These tribesmen hunted, feasted, gambled, and eagerly made war, young men often faring forth alone over the unmarked plains to count coup, so that they might marry the young women of their choice, and be numbered among the tribe's warriors. Killing and scalping an enemy did not entitle them to count coup. They must strike an armed enemy with their hands, or with something held in their hands, without otherwise injuring the enemy; or they must capture an enemy's weapons, or be first to strike an enemy who had fallen in battle, etc., the rules for coup-counting differing somewhat among the plains tribes. And this coup-counting was expected of young men. For centuries, during the long, winter nights on these northern plains, red patriarchs feelingly extolled bravery and fortitude, reciting hero-tales, some of which may have had origin in far lands.* They were a change- less people, a romantically happy people, until the white man came to the * I once found one of them in a translation from the Sanskrit.
The Blackfeet instinctively opposed the coming of white trappers and traders. Nevertheless the fur companies built forts on the upper Missouri in the heart of the Pecunnie country; and nowhere has the white man stooped so low for gain as in the fur trade of the Northwest; nowhere has he been so reprehensible as in his treatment of the plains Indian. Besides his trade-whisky he brought infectious maladies to a people whose blood was clean. Nobody will ever know half the crimes that were committed by these avaricious traders. The enforced inoculation of a large band of visiting Indians with the virus of smallpox taken from the pustules on the body of a stricken white engages at Fort Union, whose blood was known to be otherwise unclean, is revolting enough, especially when one knows that the step was taken wholly in the interest of the traders who hoped to have the scourge over with before the fall trading began. It is even more revolting when one learns that all the vaccinated Indians perished; and yet this deed is no more fiendish in character than the discharge of a cannon loaded with ounce trade-balls into a crowd of unsuspecting Pecunnies who were visiting at Fort McKenzie, a little below Fort Benton, in the year 1843.
The American Fur Company's steamboat. Trapper, brought smallpox up the river in 1837. This devastating scourge swept through the tribes of the Northwestern plains like a poisoned gale. Nobody knows how many Indians perished, estimates ranging from 60,000 to 200,000 men, women, and children. Perhaps the least of these figures is high. Nevertheless the Mandans alone lost 6000 members, so that when the plague had spent itself the tribe had but 32 warriors left alive. Reaching Fort McKenzie the disease first attacked the inmates, deaths occurring so rapidly that burial was impossible. The dead bodies were thrown into the Missouri river. Within the fort there were 29 deaths, 26 of them being Pecunnie women who had been attached to the fort's engagees. Upon the arrival of the disease-laden boat there had been 500 lodges of Blackfeet camped at Fort McKenzie. Now they were gone. During all the time that the smallpox had scourged the fort's company not an Indian appeared on the plains.
In October Alexander Culbertson, the American Fur Company's manager at McKenzie, set out to learn what might have happened to his patrons. He did not have to travel far before reaching a village of 60 Pecunnie lodges standing among the dead bodies of hundreds of men, women and children, and even of horses and dogs. Here, in these horrid surroundings, Culbertson found two old women, too feeble to travel, chanting their death-songs among the putrid dead. And here, having seen enough, Alexander Culbertson, the trader, turned back to his fort. In November straggling groups of Blackfeet came to Fort McKenzie to tell their awful story. The disease had not made its appearance among them until the tenth day after leaving the post. Then its ravaging became so terrible that in the ensuing panic young warriors who fell ill stabbed themselves to death rather than have their fine bodies wasted and scarred by the loathsome disease. More than 6000 Blackfeet had perished, they said, more than half their nation. Many other tribes suffered as severely, the Assiniboins losing more than three-quarters of their warriors.
Nevertheless the trade in buffalo robes was that fall and winter greater than ever before at Forts McKenzie and Union, since dead Indians needed no robes. Stripped by thousands from their bodies by surviving tribesmen these death-robes were traded in at the Company's forts; and then, without the least attempt at disinfection, they were shipped to "the states" where, providentially, no epidemic of smallpox ensued. But the weakened tribes never again regained their numbers.
During all this time the heavy toll upon the immense herds of buffalo in the Northwest was scarcely noticeable; and now there was an exodus of traders. Having stripped the section of its beaver and land-fur, these avaricious white men began to abandon their trading-posts on the river, and to leave the country to the Indians and hungry wolves.
The Blackfeet, weakened in numbers, and tortured with bitter recollections, had scarcely settled down to their old life when the Seventies brought the professional skin-hunters to the plains. And now, for from 50 cents to $1.50 per head, these white men shot down the buffalo for their robes alone, leaving countless thousands of tons of fat meat to rot where it fell. By the middle Eighties the skin-hunters had finished. The buffalo were gone forever. The wide grass-lands, which for centuries had been so bountiful, were bleak, inhospitable, and bare. Even the elk and antelope had been wiped away. The Blackfeet, and all the Indians of the plains, were hungry now; and even while the Pecunnies searched in vain for the vanished herds, which the old warriors believed had hidden away, more than one-quarter of the tribe starved to death.
Dazed, unable to comprehend the terrible calamity which had overtaken them, clinging doggedly to their belief that the buffalo had hidden, and would soon return to their loved grass-lands, the Pecunnies were slow to rally. If the tardy Government of the United States had not acted the Pecunnies would have perished to a man.
But the Government did act at last; and the work of making wild hunters into gentle farmers in a single generation began. And this work is succeeding. The Pecunnies, and all the Blackfeet, are rapidly becoming self-supporting by raising cattle and crops on the old buffalo range.