Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of LifeHome

 

Summer Gathering

How we lived with the Land

Summer Gathering

Each year all of our clans met for ceremonies that renew our sacred connections with our world. We call this
"Akoka’tssini" or "The Time of all People Camping Together." As people arrived in camp they put up their tipis next to other members of their clan, creating a large circle with an opening facing east.

Summer Camp

Each summer all of our clans came together in a circle camp. We call this akoka’tssini (the time of all clans camping together).

In the late 1890s the government tried to stop us from having akoka’tssini. Our people resisted and kept our traditions alive. The ceremonies at the camp remind us that we are part of nature and must respect the plants and animals. Akoka’tssini has always reminded us what it means to be Niitsitapii. It is part of our identity.
Tipi

Blackfoot camp at Blackfoot Crossing, Alberta, ca.1900, Glenbow Archives NA-1094-4

Glenbow Archives NA-1094-4

   

Painted Tipis

Many of our tipis were painted with special designs that came to people in dreams. These designs helped the family have a good life.
Tipi

Decorated tipis of Blackfoot, ca. 1900-1903, Glenbow Archives NA-919-37

Glenbow Archives NA-919-37


Hand Games

Our summer camp was a time for socializing as well as for ceremonies. Men played piiksikahtasin (hand games) and told stories.

Hand games were played by two teams that faced each other. One team passed a pair of small bones among themselves and sang songs to distract their opponents. The other team tried to guess which hand held the bones. Sometimes each team bet horses, guns, and other items.
Hand Games
Gerald Tailfeathers, The Hand Game, 1961, Collection of Glenbow Museum

Gerald Tailfeathers,
The Hand Game, 1961,
Collection of Glenbow Museum

   

Social Dances

Our lives were not all work and sacred ceremonies. We enjoyed visiting and telling stories. Social occasions were a chance to relax, sing, and dance. Young boys often used these times to dance with girls they liked.

People joined in o'taksipaaskaan (round dances), siipisttoipasskaan (owl dances), and other styles of social dancing.
Social Dances

Blackfoot performing the Owl dance, August 10, 1961, Glenbow Archives NA-1481-399; Blackfoot dancer in full costume at Cluny, Alberta, August 28, 1967, Glenbow Archives NA-2557-87 Blackfoot dancer at Cluny, Alberta, August 28, 1967, Glenbow Archives NA-2557-85

more images

Glenbow Archives NA-1481-399

Glenbow Archives NA-2257-87

Glenbow Archives NA-2257-85


The Time of All Camping Together

The akoka’tssini (The Time of All Camping Together) has always brought our people together. It is still one of our most important times of the year for us.
Tipi

Gerald Tailfeathers, Blood Camps, 1956, Collection of Glenbow Museum

Gerald Tailfeathers,
Blood Camps, 1956,
Collection of Glenbow Museum


 

"We would like to stay camped here, but we have heard that there are abundant chokecherries and many elk to the east."
Moving camp

 

"Our summer ceremonies are over. Tomorrow all the clans will start leaving."
Moving camp


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