Shirleen Davies

Blackfoot and Crow of the Montana Territory

The Blackfoot and the Crow were two tribes of Montana whose lands overlapped. Both play a significant role in book six, Promise Trail, from my Redemption Mountain historical western romance series.

Crow Indian Brave

The Crow, sometimes we’re referred to as the “Crow Nation” derived their name from their own native word, Aspalooke (opp-sah-loh-kay), which literally means “children of a long-beaked bird.” The French translated this as “People of The Crow.”

The Blackfoot Tribe, or sometimes “The Blackfoot Confederacy,” trace their roots to lands near Alberta, Canada. Their territory stretched all the way to the Yellowstone River of Montana. They were united by a common language, and originally carried the name Niitsitapi, literally translated as, “the original people.”

Although tradition made them enemies, each tribe had many similarities. Both were nomadic hunter-gatherers, lived in tipis, were expert horsemen, and hunted buffalo.


Blackfoot with Bone Breastplate

Spirituality was important to both tribes, each embracing a mystical, earth-based religion. Both tribes believed everything in nature—plants, trees, rivers, mountains, and rocks—had a spirit. Crow and Blackfoot men used sacred sweat lodges to breathe in the steam from the sacred rocks, allowing mother earth to draw negative energy and toxins from their bodies and spirits.  The men emerged sweaty and virile, cleansed and rejuvenated.

Appearance was important to the Crow. Men never cut their sleek, beautiful hair. It flowed from their broad warrior shoulders past their muscled chests and flat stomachs to their powerful thighs and calves, and down to their feet. Oiled with bear’s grease, their long hair shined like raven feathers. When hunting or fighting, they’d pull the long tresses into a bun.

Crow men took great pride in their dress, wearing opulent sun-bleached buffalo robes which were a brighter white and finer than those of other tribes.

Crow Chief

The Crow were generally a friendly people, even towards the white settlers, securing them a sizable reservation in Montana. Their main food source came in the form of American Bison, which they hunted with impressive efficiency and innovation. They also used the bison skins for clothing in the winter and for their traditional shelters, the tipi and skin lodge.  Their main form of transport came from horses, which they learned to breed and train.

Crow women played an important role in society and were well regarded, evidenced by the fact that when a couple married it was always the man who moved into her home and never the other way around.

The Blackfoot were named that by French fur traders who watched them walk through a prairie fire, noticing the black bottoms of their moccasins. The name the Blackfoot called themselves means Lords of the Plains. And their plains, the majestic Blackfoot territory, held more buffalo per square mile than anywhere else in the northern lands.

Four northwestern plains tribes made up the Blackfoot Confederacy: the North Piegan, the South Piegan, the Blood, and the Siksika tribes. They shared the same language and culture, had treaties of mutual defense, gathered for ceremonial rituals, and freely intermarried.

Blackfoot Woman with Child

These handsome lords of the plains fashioned their flowing hair into three long braids with a topknot or pompadour. The women wore their hair loose or in two long, thick braids.

A war-like people, the Blackfoot granted a great deal of honor and tribal esteem to members who committed brave and heroic deeds. They played a significant role in the Indian wars.

Thank you for reading the post. I’d love to hear your insights or comments about the Crow and Blackfoot people.

Promise Trail, book six in the Redemption Mountain historical western romance series, includes scenes about the Blackfoot and Crow tribes, and is available at most online retailers.



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5 thoughts on “Blackfoot and Crow of the Montana Territory”

  1. Avatar
    Kim Hampton

    Beautiful pictures! I had heard of sweat lodges before, and vaguely knew that they were used for religious purposes but never knew the real details. I also love the info about their hair.

  2. Avatar
    Michael BadHand

    The photo captioned “Blackfoot Woman and Child” is a modern photo we took with an original camera for my book Plains Indians Regalia and Customs.
    I made all of the regalia in the photo too.
    I have no problem with you using it, I thought you would like to know more about it though.

  3. The Crow Chief is Crow King, a Hunkpapa Lakota headman. The photograph of the Blackfoot girl is a modern tintype, designed to replicate and old 19th century tintype. The Crow man is Curley, the man who escaped Little Bighorn

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