Beliefs and Rituals
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Beliefs and Rituals
The Plains Indians were spread thinly over a huge territory with a population density of one person per ten square miles.
On a vision quest the young boy would "bathe until he was very clean" and then head off on his own to seek the vision. (Pat Grasshopper, 1954) (As portrayed by Simon Baker in Canada: A People's History)
On a vision quest the young boy would "bathe until he was very clean" and then head off on his own to seek the vision. (Pat Grasshopper, 1954) (As portrayed by Simon Baker in Canada: A People's History)

Yet every person across the territory had a purpose: hunters and shaman, mothers and warriors. The Blackfoot believed that men and women would each find their role on their own, in the great silence of the prairie.

"To get some of the... power from nature and to find a spirit that would be his protector through life, a boy would go out alone on his guardian spirit quest," explained Pat Grasshopper, a Sarcee elder who described the puberty ritual in 1954.

"He would first bathe until he was very clean and then he would live alone for three or four or five days without food."
A boy would return from his vision quest knowing what his role in the community would be: hunter, shaman, warrior ... (As portrayed by Simon Baker in Canada: A People's History)
A boy would return from his vision quest knowing what his role in the community would be: hunter, shaman, warrior ... (As portrayed by Simon Baker in Canada: A People's History)

"Only a strong person can stay until the vision comes, for it often comes first in the form of a dangerous animal," he said. "The animal tests the person's courage. If he does not run away from it, something talks to him, something he cannot see. The voice tells him to stay a certain number of nights. At the end of that time the spirit gives the person power and tells him what his protector will be."


The world of the Plains Indians was defined by the sky and a distant horizon. They worshipped the sun through the Sun Dance -- an intense ritual that could last for ten days.

Among the Blackfoot and Sarcee, the dance was only held if a woman had vowed to remain faithful and useful to her husband and then kept that vow.

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