CBC Aboriginal
CBC Aboriginal
Legends Project

Legends Project: Legends of the Kainai (Stories from the Blackfoot People)

March 11, 2009 | 10:13 PM

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Legends of the Kainai: Stories from the Blackfoot people of southern Alberta was originally broadcast on Ideas on CBC Radio One. The CD is available for purchase at CBC Shop Online.

This segment features dramatized versions of traditional Blackfoot legends recorded in March 2007, on the Blood Reserve in southwestern Alberta. These legends are only a small part of the many hours of stories told by Blackfoot elders of the Blood Tribe (Kainai), in their original language. It is the hope that these precious recordings will help preserve the endangered language of the Kainai and will showcase the traditional lifestyle, history, values and creation myths as they were shared by the Blackfoot for more than 10,000 years.

Once referred to as "Lord of the Plains" the Blackfoot Confederacy were one of the most feared and respected warrior nations. They dominated the plains from the Rockies to Saskatchewan, living nomadically in Niitoyisi (tipis) made from buffalo hides and poles. With the assistance of dogs and later horses, the Blackfoot followed the herds of buffalo, which provided them sustenance. They lived in camps made up of families and clans, adhering to a complex governing system and protocol. They shared stories, traditions and celebrations that reflected their vast knowledge of the land, sky, plants and animals. This knowledge helped them thrive for thousands of years on North America's prairies.

Compared to other First Nations the Blackfoot were colonized relatively late. Although there have been generations of assimilation through residential schools and other means, their cultural and sacred traditions, along with their language, remains intact. This continues to be threatened by dominant English media. Many traditional Blackfoot stories are still told today that explain rituals, sacred duties and ceremonies practiced since the beginning of time. Involvement in these sacred societies, such as the Horn, Dove and Crazy Dogs is often mandatory and it is these societies that have protected the cultural pride, belief system, songs, stories and Blackfoot ways of life, even though they were outlawed until recent times.

LISTEN to Legends of the Kainai: Stories from the Blackfoot People (runs 53:58)