Major themes covered: Blackfeet youths trying to interview and discuss the arts and crafts of elder tribal member, John Bear Medicine. This video documents a perfect example of the cultural gap between the older generation and the younger generation of Blackfeet tribal members. The youths are seeking to learn from an elder of their community, but it is difficult to communicate with him because they do not know their Native Blackfoot language.
Native activities shown:
Native language spoken: John Bear Medicine and translator speaking their traditional Blackfoot language (Siksika)
John Bear Medicine was an elder Blackfeet tribal member who was also an artist and craftsman. Born to Bear Medicine and Ragged woman, John was the eldest of eleven children. John was born in 1886 in the Blackfeet Nation; both of his parents were also born in the Blackfeet Nation, in 1866. John Bear was an original member of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and was a singer of songs. He is mostly known for crafting Blackfeet dolls of men and women, and drawing images with accompanying stories. All of John Bear’s stories are reminiscent of the “old days” when the Blackfeet lived freely, and practiced the traditional way of life without intrusion.
The Sun Dance (Okan) is a ceremonial dance that takes place once a year in the summertime in a Sun Lodge. As the myth goes, a young woman from a Nitsitapi camp had married the brightest star in the sky, the Sun. The Sun took her to live in the realm of the sky. Some time passed when the girl saw that her people below were in trouble and became divided. The Sun told her that if she wanted to help her people she would need to bring them a gift. The Sun taught his wife this gift and she went down to teach it to her people. The gift she brought to her people was The Sun Dance, which is practiced in a Sun Lodge. The Sun Dance is a ceremony that includes all members in the Tribe and creates unity within it. One hundred songs are sung during the Sun Dance Ceremony, which lasts for a duration of one and a half days.
In the Piegan Blackfeet culture, Napi means Old Man, and he is a creator. According to oral tradition Napi was the first man on Earth, and he was the creator of the land the Blackfoot tribes live on. He also created the first woman. Several Plains tribes have Napi stories in their culture, however each tribe has their own versions of him. Napi is a creator in some stories, while being a trickster, trouble-maker in others. Despite the differences in Napi’s character from tribe to tribe, he still remains an important figure to the Blackfoot tribes of North America.
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Genealogy of Blackfeet tribal members
Blackfeet traditions: Sun Dance Lodge
American Indians of the Plains: Sun Dance traditions
--Sara Guzman, 2013