On Nomenclature, Terms and Indigenous Peoples

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Sun Feb 24 14:03:23 MST 2002

Go to Browning, Montana and you will see signs saying "Blackfeet Tribe",
"Blackfeet Nation" and even the Tribal Chairman, Earl Old Person who
"bought" his supposed "Chiefship" from Jim White Calf (successor to the last
Hereditary Chief of the Amskaapipiikani, Piikani) for $3000 and 5 ponies in
a public "sale" calls himself "Chief of the "Blackfeet Nation."
Interestingly, in the Blackfoot language and in Blackfoot history, there is
no such use of the word "Blackfeet" to denote plural of Blackfoot. In 1934,
when the various Bands were being divided and "incorporated" as corporate
entities or "business councils" under the Indian Reorganization Act, the
whites took the word Blackfoot (Siksika) and said "well I don't have two
'foots', I have two feet, so a bunch of Blackfoot must be called Blackfeet";
and it is the ignorance of the hisotry and language that caused some
Amskaapipiikani to adopt and use the term "Blackfeet" grafting a non-Piikani
pluralization onto a Piikani word.

Indeed, Indigenous Peoples have appropriated and incorporated all sorts of
non-Indigenous terms, often used to divide and exterminate Indigenous
Peoples and Nations, into a new ersatz Indigenous lexicon.

Nations that are recognized in international laws as nations are typically
groups of people who share the following: a) common territory; b) common
language and culture; c) common economy and economic life; d) common
political-legal institutions; e) common history. Even common blood or family
ties are not seen as necessary and therefore one can have nations within
nations or nations of Peoples not tied by "blood" or composed of different
"blood lines" which is quite common.

Blackfoot, or more properly "Piikani"--traditionally speaking--share all of
the characteristics of a "nation" and have been recognized as a nation--by
other recognized nations, Indigenous and non-Indigenous--for many hundreds
of years; no nation makes "treaties" among its own citizens.Among the
Blackfoot or Piikani, there are four principal "Bands": Akainnaa (Bloods);
Amskapipiikani (Southern "Piegan"); Apatohsipiikani (Northern "Peigan"); and
Siksika (Blackfoot). Note the spelling differences between Southern "Piegan"
and Northern "Peigan"--from the french word for "Pagan". Piikani
traditionals do not use the term "Tribe" due to the historical and
anthropological uses of that term (I have seen several dictionaries defining
"Tribe" as a group of "primitives" or "savages"; we use the term "Band."
Among the Piikani, there are also groups large enough to be called
"sub-Bands" (e.g. so-called "Blackfeet Lakota" and Gros Ventre with Piikani
mixed with other Bands and Nations historically).

We therefore do not use the term "Tribe" or "Tribal Nation" due to the
historical use/meaning of the term "Tribe" and/or the fact that "Tribes" are
parts of whole nations.

Among the various "Bands" there are Clans and within Clans are Families.
Indigenous Societies maintained Family and Clan distinctions primarily to
prevent incestous relations and to promote localized and balanced
representations in Councils. Today, one can find among Piikani, overlapping
or multiple Clan and Band affiliations/roots. For example in my own case, I
am a member of the Big Bear Family of the Bear Clan of the Akainaa and
Apatohsipiikani Bands of the Piikani or Blackfoot Nation.

Our rights to sovereignty, self-determination and independence not only
hinge on the fact of our nationhood and the reality that we collectively
still constitute a nation in every meanginful way despite the myriad
attempts to divide and exterminate us, but also on the fundamental and
inalienable right of all Peoples not to be exterminated. Period.

Jim Craven

James Craven
Professor and Consultant, Economics
Clark College, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, WA. 98663
(360) 992-2283; Fax: (360) 992-2863
blkfoot5 at earthlink.net
*My Employer Has No Association With My Private/Protected
"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language;
but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth,
and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not
wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No!
Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm;
tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the
ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from
the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use
moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest--I
will not equivocate--I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single
inch--and I will be heard."
(William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist, on Slavery, 1831)

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