Blackfoot Buffalo

Artwork by: Joseph Harrison, Jr

Blackfoot Buffalo

In-is'kim1-bless'd, the shaman, kneel'd upon
robes under a draped sky, unlaces his tobacco
bag 'n' Na'pi2-worships for pis'kun3-hunt fortune.

Early, he awakens 'n' transforms -- iinii4-head-
dress'd, iinii-robed. Herd-ward he trails, brethren-
follow'd, though Na'pi-guided. The horn'd beings
emerge, weed-chomping gracefully; they too
follow, but chute-wardly, pis'kun-wardly. Lurking,
his tribe spring up, shout, 'n' wag the quad-
pedal food over the precipice. Na'pi listened.

Rejoice! Aspen-coals pop 'n' blow air-warping
grays under a moapisakis5 spit roast. Peels
of atokis6 tan under wives' strain'd fingers.
Ragged moccasins will be replaced, 'n' trade
will bring alternative, bright-hued blankets!

Na'pi once ask'd, "which animal is the most
nat-o'ye7?" then self-answer'd with "the iinnii."

Algonkian Blackfoot Words
1 I-nis'-kim - According to Blackfoot legend, this is the Buffalo stone; this small (usually fossil shell) stone
was said to give its possessor great power with buffalo. Reference: George Bird Grinnell, Blackfoot Lodge
, pg. 193, Dec. 2005.
2 Na'pi - The supreme god of the Blackfoot natives, sometimes  called the "Old Man". There is
speculation that "The Old" man and The Sun are one in the same. Reference:
Frederick W. Hodge,
Handbook of American Indians, "Blackfeet Religion", 1906
3 Pis'kun - A deep-kettle used in a hunt (or a more accurate translation suggests "deep-red-kettle") which
was a large corral, or enclosure meant to sustain buffalo. Above the Pis'kun would be a bluff, and two
long lines of rock piles or brush led into the trap. Reference: (Hodge "Blackfeet Hunting Customs")
4 Iinii - Buffalo.
5 Moapisakis - Thigh
6 Atokis - Animal skin, hide, or pelt.
7 Nat-o'ye - Of the sun, possessing power from the sun. In Blackfoot legend, the Sun asked which animal
possessed the most Nat-o'ye, and he answered himself with buffalo. Reference: (Grinell "Origin of the
Medicine Lodge")

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Dwelling in the vast area of northwestern plains, were the nomadic Blackfoot native americans. They were a great happy people (up until the white man settled in), for they usually had all they needed -- buffalo. Great they were -- from warriers to hunters. Buffalo to them was sacred; they provided nutrients and shelter. Not even the stomach or scrotum of the buffalo was let to go to waste. This poem is my honor to the wonderful Blackfoot people. 7 Algonkian Blackfoot words were used, so I suggest you read the footnotes, else you will be lost! Na'pi Bless!

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