Blackfeet 14

Wayne Many Guns and Joe Fisher
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Establishing shot: Blackfeet elder Leo Bull Shoe gives instruction on how to measure and cut a drumhead from cow hide. 

Named locations:Blackfeet Boarding School in Browning, MT

Major themes covered: This video is a continuation of Blackfeet 13 and ends the drum-making demonstration by Leo Bull Shoe. The majority of Blackfeet 14 focuses on Molly Bull Shoe. Here she is shown sewing a Tipi from canvas using modern tools such as  the sewing machine. Molly and Leo were Blackfeet traditionalists and artists who are shown making Native-style drums and mock-Tipis as a means of cultural preservation.

Native activities shown:  Molly Bull Shoe demonstrates the making of a Tipi from canvas

Individuals named: Leo Bull Shoe, Molly Bull Shoe, Wayne Many Guns

Noteworthy elements: Molly’s whole name is Molly Aims Back Bull Shoe and she is still alive today. Molly and Leo Bull Shoe were husband and wife and they both worked at the Blackfeet Boarding school during the 1970s and early 1980s. It was here that they taught younger Blackfeet students traditional knowledge as well as Native-style arts and crafts. Molly Bull Shoe specialized in sewing modern Tipis made from canvas and thread but she also knew how to build a traditional Tipi made from buffalo hide tied together with sinew. Modern Blackfeet people typically use canvas to cover Tipis because their traditional way of life has been completely altered i.e. the Blackfeet do not hunt Buffalo anymore therefore there is no need for Buffalo hide. Molly Bull Shoe taught children how to make Blackfeet Tipis by creating miniature Tipi patterns cut from canvas which provided a valuable means for practice. She also taught children how to make Blackfeet cradle boards.

Many Tribes (e.g. Blackfoot, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Osage, Northern Cheyenne, Apache, Salish, and Navajo), used cradle boards as a means to transport infants and carry infants during travel and labor. Traditional Blackfeet women were extremely busy and often times performed labor intensive duties in the Tribe (e.g. tanning hides and building Tipis). They also were responsible for caring for the children. Cradle boards provided a means for Blackfeet women to care for their infants while working on other tasks. A cradle board is basically an equivalent to the modern day baby carrier, but instead of the baby being in front of the parent, the baby is carried on the back. The reason for this positioning is purely practical. Because much of the work Blackfeet women performed was hands-on, they needed the area in front of them to be free, so they wore the cradle board on their back.

Molly and Leo Bull Shoe had one daughter, Mary-Jo Bull Shoe. Mary-Jo is now a leader to her people and has been honored to be a keeper of the Beaver Bundle. She is a spiritual guide and as protector of the Beaver Bundle she is held in a sacred place during the Okan (or Sundance Ceremony). In this way she has earned the title of being a Beaver Woman. The Blackfeet call this honor Ninamskas, or ‘you carry the people on your shoulder.’

Other useful information: none

Print sources:

Black, Boy C. Painted Tipis by Contemporary Plains Indian Artists. Anadarko: Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative, 1973.

Historic and Contemporary Plateau and Plains Cradles. Browning, Mont. (Intersection U.S. Highways 2 and 89, Browning, 59417: U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Museum of the Plains Indian and Crafts Center, 1995.

Hungrywolf, Adolf. The Blackfoot Papers Volume 2: Pikunni Ceremonial Life. Canada: The Good Medicine Cultural Foundation, 2006.

Hungrywolf, Adolf. Tribal Childhood: Growing Up in Traditional Native America. Summertown, Tenn: Native Voices, 2008.

Lacey, Theresa, J. The Blackfeet: Indians of North America. Alberta, Canada: Chelsea House Publishing, 2006.

Website resources:

This webpage contains information on Browning Publics School’s involvement in teaching Blackfeet students traditional life-ways.


More information on cradle boards.


This is a digital archive that holds information about Beaver Bundles and the Beaver Bundle ceremony.


--Sara Guzman, 2014