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[First] report of the committee, consisting of Dr. E. B. Tylor, Dr. G. M. Dawson, General Sir J. H. Lefroy,… British Association for the Advancement of Science 1885

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Array 1885*
has complied with all necessary formalities, so that it is to be assumed'
that this law is already in force. Its effect will not be inconsiderable
as the date of applying for a patent in any country of the Union fixes,
the time from which the applicant may be entitled to a patent in all the
other countries, even though he may not apply in the other countries for
a considerable time after having made application in his own, and even
though others may have applied in the meantime. Section 103 of the
1883 Act provided in effect that if Her Majesty became a party to the
Convention, an applicant from any of the States of the Union should be
entitled to an English patent in priority to other applicants, and that his-
patent should have the same date as the date of the protection obtained
in such foreign State. The amendment made by the sixth section of the
Amending Act is to change the words j date of the protection' which occur
in section 103 of the Principal Act, into jj date of the application,' which
seems to be more in accordance with the terms of the Convention.
The Committee desire to be reappointed, in order to be in a position
to watch the working of the Principal Act, of this Supplementary Act, and
of the International Convention, and to report upon any amendments-
that may be proposed in any of them.
The Committee would be glad for the grant of 51. for expenses to be
Report of the Committee, consisting of Dr. E. B. Tyloe, Dr. Gr. M-
Dawson, General Sir J. H. Lefeoy, Dr. Daniel Wilson, Mr.
Hokatio Hale, Mr. E. Gr. Halibueton, and Mr. G-eoege W-
Bloxam (Secretary), appointed for the purpose of investigating
and publishing reports on the physical characters, languages^
industrial and social condition of the North-western Tribes of the
Dominion of Canada.
The Committee have been in  active correspondence with missionaries
and others stationed among the Indians, but the unsettled state of the
country during the past year has made it impossible to do more than
collect materials for a preliminary report; the Committee, therefore, ask"
that they may be reappointed, with a continuance of the grant.
Report on the Blachfoot Tribes.    Drawn up ly Mr. Horatio Hale.
The tribes composing the Blackfoot Confederacy, as it is commonly
styled—in some respects the most important and interesting Indian communities of the North-west—have been until recently less known than
any others. It seemed, therefore, that the best contribution which a
single member could make to the general report of the Committee would
be a special study of these tribes. This view was confirmed by the
opinion of President Wilson, the only other member of the Committee
who was near enough for me to consult with. With his aid a correspondence was opened with two able and zealous missionaries residing
among these Indians, both of whom have replied most courteously and
liberally to my inquiries. These are the Rev. Albert Lacombe, widely
and favourably known as Father Lacombe, Roman Catholic Missionary
among the Siksika, or proper Blackfeet Indians, and the Rev. John
McLean, Missionary of the Canadian Methodist Church to the Blood and ON  THE NOBTH-WESTEEN  TEIBES  OF  THE  DOMINION  OF  CANADA.    697
Piegan (or Kena and Piekane) tribes. Father Lacombe has been many
years a missionary in the Canadian North-west, and has a very extensive
knowledge of the tribes of that region. His elaborate work, the ' Grammar and Dictionary of the Cree Language,' ranks among the best contributions to American philology. Mr. McLean has been engaged in his
missionary duties for five years, has prepared a grammar of the Blackfoot
language, and is at present occupied in translating the Scriptures into
that tongue ; he has been most considerate in furnishing the information
which was requested on behalf of the Committee, and is now making
special researches for this object.
The unfortunate troubles of the past season have for a time interrupted the correspondence, and have left the investigations necessarily
incomplete. The principal portion of the report on these Indians will
therefore have to be deferred for another year. It has seemed advisable,,
however, to submit a summary of the knowledge now obtained by way of
introduction to.the fuller account which the Committee may be able to
render hereafter. With this view some other sources of information
have been examined, particularly the valuable official reports and maps
of the Canadian and United States Indian Departments, which have been
obligingly furnished by those Departments for this purpose.
Fifty years ago the Blackfoot Confederacy held among the western
tribes much the same position of superiority which was held two centuries ago by the Iroquois Confederacy (then known as the ' Five Nations ')•
among the Indians east of the Mississippi. The tribes of the former confederacy were also, when first known, five in number. The nucleus, or
main body, was—as it still is—composed of three tribes, speaking the
proper Blackfoot language. These are the Siksika, or Blackfeet proper,
the Kena, or Blood Indians, and the Piekane, or Piegans (pronounced
Peegans), a name sometimes corrupted to ' Pagan ' Indians. To these
are to be added two other tribes, who joined the original confederacy, or,
perhaps more properly speaking, came under its protection. These were
the Sarcees from the north, and the Atsinas from the south. The Sarcees
are an offshoot of the great Athabascan stock, which is spread over the
north of British America, in contact with the Eskimo, and extends in
scattered bands—the Umpquas, Apaches, and others—through Oregon
and California into Northern Mexico. The Atsinas, who have been
variously known from the reports of Indian traders as Fall Indians, Rapid
Indians, and Gros Ventres, speak a dialect similar to that of the Arapo-
hoes, who now reside in the ' Indian Territory' of the United States. It
is a peculiarly harsh and difficult language, and is said to be spoken only
by those two tribes. None of the Atsinas are now found on Canadian
territory, and no recent information has been obtained concerning them,
except from the map which accompanies the United States Indian Report
for 1884, and on which their name appears on the American Blackfoot
The five tribes were reckoned fifty years ago to comprise not less
than thirty thousand souls. Their numbers, union, and warlike spirit
made them the terror of all the western Indians on both sides of the
Rocky Mountains. It was not uncommon for thirty or forty war parties
to be out at once against the Salish (or Flatheads) of Oregon, the Upsa-
rokas (or Crows) of the Missouri plains, the Shoshonees of the far south,
and the Crees of the north and east. The country which the Blackfoot
tribes claimed properly as their own comprised the valleys and plains
1 698
EEPOBT 1885.
along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, between the Missouri and
the Saskatchewan. This region was the favourite resort of the buffalo,
whose vast herds afforded the Indians their principal means of subsistence.
In the year 1836 a terrible visitation of the small-pox swept off two-thirds
of the people, and five years later they were supposed to count not more
than fifteen hundred tents, or about ten thousand souls. Their enemies
were then recovering their spirits, and retaliating upon the weakened
tribes the ravages which they had formerly committed.
In 1855 the United States Government humanely interfered to bring
about a complete cessation of hostilities between the Blackfoot tribes and
the other Indians. The Commissioners appointed for the purpose summoned the hostile tribes together, and framed a treaty for them, accompanying the act by a large distribution of presents. This judicious
proceeding proved effectual. Dr. F. V. Hayden in his account of the
Indian Tribes of the Missouri Valley (published in the jTransactions of
the American Philosophical Society for 1862 '), states that from the
period of this treaty the Blackfoot tribes had become more and more
peaceful in their habits, and were considered, when he wrote, the best
disposed Indians in the North-west. He remarks that their earlier reputation for ferocity was doubtless derived from their enemies, who always
gave them ample cause for attacking them. He adds: 'From my own
experience among them, and from information derived from intelligent
men who have spent the greater portion of their lives with them, I am
convinced that they are among the most peaceable and honourable
Indians in the West; and in an intellectual and moral point of view they
take the highest rank among the wild tribes of the plains.'
This favourable opinion of Dr. Hayden, it may be added, is entirely
in accordance with the testimony of the Indian agents and other officials
of the Canadian North-west, who place the Blackfeet decidedly above
the surrounding tribes in point of intelligence and honesty. At the
present time, while constantly harassed on their reserves by the incursions of thievish Crees and other Indians, who rob them of their horses,
they forbear to retaliate, and honourably abide by the terms of their treaty,
which binds them to leave the redress of such grievances to the
Dominion authorities. It has seemed proper to dwell upon this point,
as the marked differences of character among the Indian tribes has been
too little regarded. As a question of science and a matter of public
policy, these differences deserve a careful study. The good disposition
manifested by the Blackfoot tribes during the recent disturbances has
displayed their natural character, and has been a fact of the utmost
value to the welfare of the new settlements.
Since the general peace was established by the American Government
the numbers of the Blackfeet have apparently been on the increase. Dr.
Hayden reports the three proper Blackfeet tribes as numbering in 1855
about 7,000 souls. The present population of the three Canadian
Reserves is computed at about 6,000, divided as follows: Blackfeet
proper, 2,400; Bloods, 2,800; Piegans, 800. On the American Reservation there are stated to be about 2,300, mostly Piegans. This would
make the total population of the three tribes exceed 8,000 souls. The
adopted tribe, the Sarcees, have greatly diminished in numbers through
the ravages of the small-pox. In 1870 this disease raged among them
with great virulence. They were then residing on the American side, in
Montana.    Mr. McLean writes: f An eye-witness told me that at the ON  THE  NOETH-WESTEEN  TEIBES  OF  THE  DOMINION  OF  CANADA.    699
Maria's River, in Montana, there stood fully one hundred lodges, and not
one contained less than ten bodies. His estimate of dead Sarcees was
1,500.' This tribe, now numbering less than 500 souls, have their
Reserve near Calgary. They are reputed to be less cleanly and moral
than the proper Blackfeet tribes. In this respect their habits and character correspond with those of other Athabascan tribes.
During the past five years, as is well known, a great change has taken
place in the condition of the north-western tribes through the extermination of the buffalo. The transcontinental railways have brought
into the interior great numbers of hunters, armed with the most destructive weapons, who have engaged in a constant and reckless slaughter
of these animals, until it is now doubtful if any are left alive. The
Blackfeet have been the greatest sufferers from this cause. The buffalo
were their main dependence. The animals, which roamed the plains
during the summer, were accustomed to resort to the sheltered and
wooded valleys of the Blackfoot country during the winter; and thus the
tribes were assured of a supply of food at all seasons. The skins
furnished their clothing, their tents, and their couches. Suddenly,
almost without warning, they found themselves stripped of nearly every
necessary of life. The change was one of the greatest that could well
befall a community. If the inhabitants of an English parish were
suddenly transported to the centre of Australia, and set down there,
utterly destitute, to make a living by some unknown methods of tropical
agriculture, they would hardly be more helpless and bewildered than
these, unfortunate Indians found themselves. The Governments both
of the United States and of Canada came to the rescue; but in the
former country the urgency of the case was not at first fully understood,
and much suffering: ensued. The ag*ent on the Blackfoot Reservation in
Montana (Major Allen) states in his official report that when he entered
upon his duties in April 1884 he found the Indians in a deplorable
condition. The supplies of food which had been sent for them had
proved insufficient, and before these could be renewed many died from
actual starvation. Some stripped the bark from the saplings which grew
along their creeks, and ate the inner portion to stifle the sense of hunger.
On the Canadian side, fortunately, the emergency was better understood.
Colonel McLeod, an able and vigilant officer, was in charge of the
Mounted Police at that time, and through his forethought the necessary
preparations were made. In 1879 and 1880 the buffalo disappeared from
that region. Arrangements were at once made for settling the Indians
on Reserves, and for supplying them with food and clothing, and teaching
them to erect wooden houses and cultivate their lands. Daily rations of
meat and flour were served out to them. Ploughs, cattle, and horses
were furnished to them. Farm instructors were placed among them.
The Indians displayed a remarkable readiness to adapt themselves to the
new conditions. According to the reports of all the agents they have
evinced a quickness to learn and a persevering industry which place
them decidedly in advance of the other Indian tribes of that region. In
1882 more than 500,000 lbs. of potatoes were raised by the three Blackfoot
tribes, besides considerable quantities of oats, barley, and turnips. The
Piegans bad sold 1,000 dollars' worth of potatoes, and had a large supply
on hand. ' The manner in which the Indians have worked,' writes the
agent, ' is really astonishing, as is the interest they have taken, and are
taking,, in farming.'    Axes and other tools were distributed among them, 700
and were put to good use. In November 1882 the agent writes that
log-houses had ' gone up thick and fast on the Reserves, and were most
creditable to the builders.' In many cases the logs were hewn, and in
nearly all the houses fireplaces were built. In the same year another
official—the Indian Commissioner—going through the Reserves, was
surprised at the progress which he saw. He found comfortable dwellings, well-cultivated gardens, and good supplies of potatoes in root-
houses. Most of the famiHes had cooking stoves, for which they had
sometimes paid as much as fifty dollars. He ' saw many signs of civilisation, such as cups and saucers, knives and forks, coal-oil lamps, and
tables; and several of the women were baking excellent bread and
performing other cooking operations.' Three years before these Indians
were wild nomads, who lived in skin tents, hunted the buffalo, and had
probably never seen a plough or an axe. These facts are recorded, not
merely as gratifying to a sense of humanity, but for their bearing on the
question of the natural capacity of uncivilised men. Impartial investigation and comparison will probably show that, while some of the aboriginal
communities of the American continent are low in the scale of intellect,
others are equal in natural capacity, and possibly superior, to the highest
of the Indo-European nations. The fundamental importance of this fact
(if such it is) to the science of anthropology must be the excuse for
urging its consideration in connection with the present inquiry.
The Blackfeet have been known to the whites for about a century, and
during that period have dwelt in or near their present abode. There is
evidence, however, that they once lived further east than at present. The
explorer Mackenzie, in 1789, found them holding the south branch of the
Saskatchewan, from its source to its junction with the north branch. He
speaks of four tribes—the Picaneux, Blood, and Blackfeet, and the Fall
Indians (Atsinas), which latter tribe then numbered about 700 warriors.
Of the three former tribes he says: ' They are a distinct people, speak a
language of their own, and, I have reason to think, are travelling northwest, as well as the others just mentioned (the Atsinas) ; nor have I heard
of any Indians with whose language that which they speak has any affinity.'
The result of Mr. McLean's inquiries confirms this opinion of the
westward movement of these Indians in comparatively recent times.
' The former home of these people,' he writes, ' was in the Red River
country, where, from the nature of the soil which blackened their
moccasins, they were called Blackfeet.' This, it should be stated, is the
exact meaning of Siksika, from siksinam, black; and ha, the root of
oqhatsh, foot. The meaning of the other tribal names, Kena and Piehane,
is unknown. That they were once significant cannot be doubted, but the
natives are now unable to explain them, and use them merely as appellatives.
The westward movement of the Blackfeet has probably been due to
the pressure of the Crees upon them. The Crees, according to their own
tradition, originally dwelt far east of the Red River, in Labrador and
about Hudson's Bay. They have gradually advanced westward to the
inviting plains along the Red River and the Saskatchewan, pushing the
prior occupants before them by the sheer force of numbers. This will
explain the deadly hostility which has always existed between the Crees
and the Blackfeet.
It will seem, at first view, a perplexing circumstance that M. Lacombe,
who, of all authorities, should be the best informed on this subject, and ON  THE NOETH-WESTEBN  TEIBES OF THE DOMINION  OF CANADA.    701
who has himself recorded this westward movement of the Crees, is disposed to question the fact of the corresponding movement of the Blackfeet. In his last letter, in reply to my inquiries, he expresses a doubt as
to their former sojourn in the Red River region, and adds : ' They affirm,
•on the contrary, that they came from the south-west, across the mountains—that is, from the direction of Oregon and Washington Territory.
There were' (he adds) ' bloody contests between the Blackfeet and the
Nez-perces, as Bancroft relates, for the right of hunting on the eastern
slope of the Rocky Mountains.' Mr. McLean, who mentions the former
residence of the Blackfeet in the Red River country as an undoubted
fact, also says in the same letter, ' It is supposed that the great ancestor
•of the Blackfeet came across the mountains.'
Here are two distinct and apparently conflicting traditions, each
having good authority and evidence in its favour. One of the best tests
of the truth of tradition is to be found in language. Applying this test
in the present instance, we are led to some interesting conclusions. It
has been seen that Mackenzie, to whom we owe our first knowledge of
the Blackfoot tribes, declared that their language had no affinity with that
of any other Indians whom he knew of. He was well acquainted with the
■Crees and Ojibways, who speak dialects of the great Algonkin stock, but
he recognised no connection between their speech and that of the Blackfeet. Another traveller (Umfreville), whose book was published in 1791,
gave a list of forty-four words of the Blackfoot language. The distinguished philologist Albert Gallatin, whose great work, the ' Synopsis
of the Indian Tribes ' (which still remains the best authority on North
American philology), appeared in 1836, examined this list of Umfreville,
and pronounced it sufficient to show that the language of the Blackfeet
was ' different from any other known to us.' A few years later he
received from an Indian trader a more extended vocabulary, and he then,
in a second memoir on the subject, corrected his former statement, and
showed that there was a clear affinity between the Blackfoot speech and
the language of the Algonkin family. More recently the French missionaries made the same discovery, which seems to have been to them equally
unexpected. M. Lacombe writes to me: ' The Blackfoot language,
although far from, belongs to the same family as the Algic, Ojibway,
Sauteux, Maskegon, and Cree. We discovered this analogy by studying
the grammatical rules of these languages.'
Here will be noticed the rather remarkable fact that some of the
ablest and most experienced of North American linguists have at first
supposed the Blackfoot language to be distinct from all others, and have
•only discovered its connection with the Algonkin family by careful study.
M. Lacombe has been good enough to send me a pretty extensive vocabulary of Blackfoot words, compared with the corresponding words in the
•Cree and Ojibway languages. He has added what, for the purpose in
view, is equally important—many paradigms of grammatical forms in the
Blackfoot, compared with similar forms in the Cree and Ojibway tongues.
The Blackfoot language is thus shown to be, in its grammar, purely
Algonkin. The resemblance is complete in the minutest forms, and in
examining these alone it would seem incomprehensible that any doubt of
the connection of this language with that stock could have been entertained. But when we turn to the vocabulary, by which the first judgment of a language is necessarily formed, the origin of the early error
becomes apparent.    Many of the most common words are totally different 702
from the corresponding words in the Algonkin languages. Others, which
are found on careful examination to be radically the same as the corresponding Algonkin terms, are yet so changed and distorted that the
resemblance is not at first apparent. Of this variation and distortion the
numerals afford a good example. It should be mentioned that in the
Indian words which follow, the vowels are to be pronounced as in Italian
or German, and the consonants generally as in English. The only peculiarities are in the j, which has the French sound (like e in azure), and
the a, which I have employed to express a sound resembling the German
guttural ch, as heard in lachen. Mr. McLean writes this sound with ch,
as in German, and M. Lacombe with r. It seems to be a trilled guttural,
approaching the sound which French philologists designate as the r
mitaswi !
twenty •
one hundred
Other words in ordinary use will
cases, and the distorted resemblance
my father
my mother
my son
my daughter
my head
my mouth
my teeth
my skin
my tongue
my heart
my blood
my leg
show the total
in others:—
kitchi kijik
unlikeness in some
kitchi kijik
No one who examines this list will wonder that the connection between
the Blackfoot and the other Algonkin tongues was not apparent to those
who had to judge from brief and rude vocabularies of the former language.
But it will be noticed that the possessive pronoun I my' is evidently
expressed by the same prefix ni (or n') in all three languages. Pursuing
this trace we compare the personal pronouns, and find a close resemblance,
the difference being mainly in the terminations :—
In the possessive prefixes the resemblance is still more notable. Thus
in the Blackfoot language n'otas means ' my horse, or dog ' (the same
word, oddly enough, applying in this form to both animals) ; and in
Cree n't'em has the same meaning. These words are thus varied with
the possessive pronouns and in the two numbers :—
kistowa wa
My horse (or
thy     „
his       „
our      „
your    „
their   „
my horses (pi
: do
thy     „
his      ,,
our      „
your    „
their   „
So we may compare
my father, in
Blackfoot, with n'oss,
father, in Ojibway.
My father
thy     I
his      „
our      „
your    „
their   „
my fathers
thy     £
our      „
your    „
their   „
It will be seen that the close resemblance in grammar is as striking as
the wide difference in the vocabulary. These facts admit of but one
explanation. They are the precise phenomena to which we are accustomed in the case of mixed languages. In such languages—of which our
English speech is a notable example—we expect the grammar to be derived
entirely from one source, while the words will be drawn from two or
more. Furthermore, wherever we find a mixed language we infer a
conquest of one people by another. In the present instance we may well
suppose that when the Blackfoot tribes were forced westward from the 704
Red River country to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, they did not find
their new abode uninhabited. It is probable enough that the people
whom they found in possession had come through the passes from the
■country west of those mountains. If these people were overcome by the
Blackfeet, and their women taken as wives by the conquerors, two results
would be likely to follow. In the first place, the language would become
a mixed speech, in grammar purely Algonkin, but in the vocabulary
largely recruited from the speech of the conquered tribe. A change in
the character of the amalgamated people would also take place. The
result of this change might be better inferred if we knew the characteristics of both the constituent races. But it may be said that a frequent,
if not a general, result of such a mixture of races is the production of a
people of superior intelligence and force of character.
The circumstances thus suggested may account, not only for the
peculiarities of the language and character of the Blackfeet tribes, but
also for the different traditions which are found among them in regard to
their origin and former abode. It would be very desirable to trace that
portion of the Blackfoot vocabulary which is not of Algonkin origin to its
source in the language of some other linguistic stock. To do this would
require a careful comparison of this foreign element with the various
languages spoken in their vicinity, and particularly with those of the
tribes west of the Rocky Mountains. For such a comparison there has
been neither time nor adequate material, and this interesting subject of
inquiry must be left for another occasion.
The religion of these tribes (applying this term to their combined
mythology and worship) resembles their language.    It is in the main
Algonkin, but includes some beliefs and ceremonies derived from some
other source.    Father Lacombe's account of their cosmogony and their
deities cannot be better given than in his own clear and pithy style.    In
their view, as in that of the Lenape and other Algonkin nations, there
were two creations: the primary, which called the world into existence,
and of which they have but a vague idea; and the secondary, which
found the world an expanse of sea and sky (with, it would seem, a few
animals disporting themselves therein), and left it in its present state.
' The primitive creation,' writes M. Lacombe, ' is attributed to a superior
divinity, whom they call the Creator (ApistotoJciw).  This divinity, however,
is in some manner identified with the sun (Natos).    The earth itself is
believed to be a divinity of some kind, for, in their invocations, if they
•call the sun " our father " (Kinnon), they call the earth " our mother "
(Kikristonnon).    It seems also that the moon is considered to be one and
the same divinity with the sun.    At any rate, in the invocations it is
designated by the same name, Natos.    Yet it is often said to be the " old
woman," the consort of the sun.   The whole of this is confused enough in
the minds of the Indians to render them unable to give, when questioned,
exact explanations.
'As to the secondary creation, if it may be so styled, the Indian
•account runs as follows: At a certain time it happened that all the earth
was covered with water. The " Old Man " (Napiw) was in a canoe, and he
thought of causing the earth to come up from the abyss. To put his
project into execution he used the aid of four animals—the duck, the otter,
the badger, and the musk-rat. The musk-rat proved to be the best diver.
He remained so long under water that when he came to the surface he
was fainting, but he had succeeded in getting a little particle of earth,
which he brought between the toes of his paw.    This particle of earth ON THE NOETH-WESTEEN TEIBES  OE  THE DOMINION  OF  CANADA.    705
the " Old Man " took, and blowing on it he swelled it to such an extent as
to make the whole earth of it. Then it took him four days to complete
his work, and make the mountains, rivers, plants, and beasts. (This
number four is a fatidical one in the legends of these Indians.) The
" Old Man " worked two days more in' order to make the first woman, for
after the first day's work he had not succeeded in making anything
graceful. When the first woman, after much toil, was completed, a sort
of council was held, in which the woman opposed every one of Napiw's
propositions that would have been very favourable to the welfare of mankind. So we must conclude that all the evil on the earth comes from
the woman's contradictious will.'
This Napiw, or f Old Man,' adds Father Lacombe, ' appears again in
inany other traditions and legendary accounts, in which he is associated
with the various kinds of animals, speaking to them, making use of them,
and especially cheating them, and playing every kind of trick. In these
legends Napiw comes down from the high position of creator to a much
lower one, and appears not unlike to a buffoon and treacherous rascal. I
will mention only that, according to the account of the Indians, the "Old
Man " is said to have come from the south-west, across the mountains;
and after a prolonged sojourn in these countries he went toward the
north-east, where he disappeared, and nobody has heard of him since.
The Indians point out the place where the " Old Man " played with the
Coutonay Indians, not far from the Porcupine Hills ; on another spot he
slept; and on a hill not far from Red-deer River any one can see at the
present day the place where Napiw came down by sliding.'
Those who have read Schoolcraft's ' Algic Researches,' Mr. Leland's
' Algonquin Legends,' and, above all, Dr. Brinton's ' Myths of the New
World,' will recognise in Napiw the most genuine and characteristic of
all the Algonkin divinities. In every tribe of this widespread family,
from Nova Scotia to Virginia, and from the Delaware to the Rocky
Mountains, he reappears under various names—Manabosho, Michabo,
Wetuks, Glooskap, Wisaketjak, Napiw—but everywhere with the same
traits and the same history. He is at once a creator, a defender, a teacher,
and at the same time a conqueror, a robber, and a deceiver. Bnt the
robbery and deceit, it would seem, are usually for some good purpose.
He preserves mankind from their enemies, and uses the arts and craft of
these enemies to subdue and destroy them. In Dr. Brinton's view, his
origin is to be found in a nature-myth, representing, ' on the one hand,
the unceasing struggle of day with night, of light with darkness, and, on
the other, that no less important conflict which is ever waging between
the storm and sunshine, the winter and summer, the rain and clear sky.*
Napiw, the ' old man,' has, it seems, other names in the Blackfoot
tongue. He is known as Kenakakatsis, ' he who wears a wolfskin robe,'
and Mih-orhayew, 'he who wears a red-painted buffalo-robe.' These
names have probably some reference to legends of which he is the hero.
The name of the creator, ApistotoMw, as explained by M. Lacombe, offers
a good example of the subtle grammatical distinctions which abound in
the Siksika (or Blackfoot) speech, as in the other Algonkin tongues.
The expression ' he makes,' or ' he creates' (which, like other verbal
forms, may be used as a noun), can be rendered in four different forms.
Apistototsvm signifies ' he makes,' when the complement, or thing made,
is expressed, and is an inanimate object. Apistotoyew is used when the
expressed object is animate.    Apistotahiw is the indefinite form, used
1885. z z
/ 706
when the complement, or thing made, is not expressed, but is understood
to be inanimate; and, finally, Apistotohiw, the word in question, is
employed when the unexpressed object is supposed to be • animate.
The world, therefore, as first created, was, in the view of the Blackfoot
cosmologist, an animated existence.
But while these beliefs are all purely Algonkin, the chief religious
ceremony of the Blackfoot tribes is certainly of foreign origin. This is
the famous ' sun-dance,' to which they, like the Dakota tribes and some
of the western Crees, are fanatically devoted. That this ceremony is
not properly Algonkin is clearly shown by the fact that among the tribes
of that stock, with the sole exception of the Blackfeet and a few of the
western Crees, it is unknown. Neither the Ojibways of the lakes nor
any of the numerous tribes east of the Mississippi had in their worship a
trace of this extraordinary rite. The late esteemed missionary among
the Dakotas, the Rev. Stephen R. Riggs (author of the ' Dakota Grammar
and Dictionary') says of this ceremony : ' The highest form of sacrifice
is self-invmolation. It exists in the "sun-dance," and in what is called
" vision-seeking." Some, passing a knife under the muscles of the breast
and arms, attach cords thereto, which are fastened at the other end to
the top of a tall pole, raised for the purpose; and thus they hang suspended only by those cords, without food or drink, for two, three, or
four days, gazing upon vacancy, their minds, intently fixed upon the
object in which they wish to be assisted by the deity, and waiting for a
vision from above. Others, making incisions in the back, have attached,
by hair-ropes, one or more buffalo-heads, so that every time the body
moves in the dance a jerk is given to the buffalo-heads behind. This
rite exists at present among the western bands of the Dakotas in the
greatest degree of barbarity. After making the cuttings in the arms,
breast, or back, wooden setons—sticks about the size of a lead-pencil—
are inserted, and the ropes are attached to them. Then, swinging on the
ropes, they pull until the setons are pulled out with the flesh and tendons;
or, if hung with the buffalo-heads, the pulling-out is done in the dance
by the jerking motion, keeping time with the music, while the head and
body, in an attitude of supplication, face the sun, and the eye is unflinchingly fixed upon it.'
My correspondent, the Rev. Mr. McLean, sends me a minute and
graphic account of this ceremony as he witnessed it, in June last, on one
of the Blackfoot Reserves, when most of the Kena, or Blood Indians,
were present as actors or spectators. His narrative is too long for insertion here in full, but the concluding portion will show the resolute constancy with which this sacrifice of self-immolation is performed—some
new features being added, which are not found in the brief account of
Mr. Riggs, though they may possibly belong also to the Dakota ceremony.
3 This year several persons, young and old, who had made vows
during times of sickness or danger, had a finger cut off by the first joint,
as an offering to the sun ; and others had the operation of cutting their
breasts and backs. The old woman who cut the fingers off held the
suppliant's hand up to the sun, and prayed; then placed it upon a
pole on the ground, laid a knife on the finger, and with a blow from a
deer's-horn scraper severed the member. The severed piece was taken
up, held toward the sun, and the prayer made, when it was dropped into
a bag containing similar members. This ceremony was gone through
by each in turn.    After this was done each carried  an offering, and, ON THE NOBTH-WESTERN • TBIBES  OF  THE  DOMINION  OF  CANADA.    707
climbing the sacrificial pole with the face reverently turned toward the
sun, placed the offering on the top of the pole. This year seven or eight
persons went through the above ceremony. The other sacrificial ceremony consisted of the slitting of the flesh in two pieces in each breast.
A wooden skewer was placed through each breast\ a rope fastened to
the sacrificial pole was placed around each skewer; and then the suppliant, whistling upon the bone-whistle, jumped about until the flesh
gave way. In some instances the flesh was cut so deeply that the men
had to press heavily upon the performers' shoulders in order to tear it
away. The " shield ceremony " was the same process, only performed on
the back, and the rope with a shield attached fastened to the skewers,
and the ceremony continued until the suppliant was relieved.'
Mr. Riggs, it will be noticed, says that the ceremony was most
I zealously performed among the most westerly of the Dakota tribes, that
is, those which are nearest to the Rocky Mountains. We are thus led to
suppose that it may have had its origin among the tribes west of the
mountains. Possibly the Blackfeet may have learned it from the tribe
from which they acquired the foreign element of their language, and
they may have taught it to the western Dakotas and Crees in their neighbourhood. In any case it is clear that they have a mixed religion, as
well as a mixed language—which are both facts of considerable interest
in ethnological science. -
The form of government among the Blackfeet, as among the Algonkin
tribes generally, is exceedingly simple, offering a striking contrast to the
elaborately complicated systems common among the nations of the
Iroquois stock. Each tribe has a head-chief, and each band of which the
tribe is composed has its subordinate chief; but the authority of these
chiefs is little more than nominal. The office is not hereditary. The
bravest or richest are commonly chosen; but in what manner the
election is made is not stated. Formerly tne principal function of the
head-chief consisted in deciding on the question of peace or war. At
present it is limited to fixing the place of the camp, or directing a change
of encampment. He presides in the council of his tribe, and is, in a
conference with other nations, the representative and spokesman of his
The term ' confederacy' commonly applied to the union of the Blackfoot tribes is somewhat misleading. There is no regular league or
•constitution binding them together. ' The tribes are separate,' writes Mr.
McLean, ' and the bonds of union are the unity of religious belief, social
customs, and language. They united against a common enemy, but I
have never heard of their fighting against each other.' Father Lacombe's
account is similar. ' The Blackfeet,' he writes, ' have no league or confederation, properly so called, with councils and periodical reunions.
They consider themselves as forming one family, whose three branches or
bands are descended from three brothers. This bond of kinship is sufficient to preserve a good understanding among them.' They can hardly
be said to have a general name for the whole community, though they
sometimes speak of themselves as Sawketakix, or 'men of the plains,' and
occasionally as Netsepoye, ' or people who speak one language.'
Whether the system of clans, gentes; or totems, as they are variously
styled by different writers, is found among the Blackfoot tribes is
uncertain, the replies to inquiries on that subject being thus far somewhat indefinite.    This system is regarded by some eminent ethnologists;
z z 2 708
as one of general prevalence, marking a certain stage in the progress of
society. Others consider it to be merely a special and local manifestation of the associative impulse, frequently important, but by no means
universal or essential in any stage. The fact that, while it prevails among
the Iroquois, the Dakotas, and the Ojibways, it is not found among the
Crees or the tribes of Oregon, seems to lend countenance to this view,
and gives, at all events, particular interest to the inquiry in the present
case. This and other questions remain for future investigation. For the
reasons which have been stated, the present report is unavoidably imperfect. It is offered chiefly for the purpose of preserving the information
which has already been obtained from sources of the highest authority,
and of thus affording a trustworthy basis for further inquiry.
Report to the Council of the Corresponding Societies Committee,
consisting of Mr. Feancis G-alton (Chairman), Professor
A. W. Williamson, Captain Douglas G-alton, Professor Boyd
Dawkins, Sir Rawson Rawson, Dr. G-aeson, Dr. J. Evans,
Mr. J. Hopkinson, Professor Meldola (Secretary), Mr. Whit-
akee, Mr. Gr. J. Symons, and Mr. H. GfEOEGE Foedham.
The Corresponding Societies Committee beg to report that they have
received and considered applications from fifty-two Societies, and they
recommend that those of the thirty-nine whose names are entered in the
accompanying list be granted.
The Committee in making their selection have interpreted the phrase
' local scientific investigation/ which occurs in the new Rules (see Report
1884, pp. lxv. and lxvi.), according to the tenor of the examples they gave
of such work in the Report 1883, p. 319, taken from among the subjects
of inquiry assigned to Committees of the Association during the past
five years, and rearranged as follows, in the order of the Sections that are
now severally concerned in them :—(A) Luminous meteors; meteoric
dust in various localities; rainfall; underground temperature. (C) Erosion of sea-coasts ; height of underground waters ; erratic blocks. (D)
Migration of birds at lighthouses and lightships; periodical natural
phenomena (flowering of plants, &c.) ; injurious insects (their first appearance, &c). (F) Working of Education Code in elementary schools;
rudimentary science in schools. (G) Effective wind-pressure on buildings.
(H) Photographs of typical races and crosses; ancient earthworks; prehistoric remains; anthropometric collections.
They have placed only one Society (the Liverpool Astronomical Society)
on the selected list which published no results of local scientific investigation during the past year; they have included it, and some others whose
publications of that description were few, on account of their general
scientific activity and influence.
Two Societies—the Inverness Scientific Society and the Isle of Man
Natural History and Antiquarian Society—have been included in the
selected list, and the titles of the papers furnished by their secretaries, as
read before them in 1884, have on this occasion been catalogued, although
the publications have not yet been received. It is proposed that for the
future Rule 5 be strictly adhered to.
The Committee are glad to find that the Societies they have selected
prove to be evenly distributed throughout the United Kingdom.


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