Fourth in the series on the original Plains culture (matriarchy)
^ Pierre-Jean ‘father’ DeSmet
“They [the Blackfeet] are plunged in coarse superstitions which brutalize their souls, they worship the sun and the moon and offer them sacrifices and propitiation and thanksgiving” -Pierre-Jean DeSmet, Society of Jesus (Jesuit)
Lying was not a common phenomena in the ancient Native American world. Likely this stems from the fact a high value was placed on interpretation of reality as accurately, factually as possible. Not only would this factual perception of reality through reliable reporting lend itself to survival in an existence fraught with danger, it would lead to a tendency to develop a high state of personal evolution.
There is a story of occasion where the Salish had captured a Blackfoot warrior, I do not recall his name, and tied him to a post at the center of their camp. The community then had gathered to witness his death by torture. The point of the torture was to see if this warrior could be made to cry, as he was slowly cut to bits. If this could be accomplished, it could then be reported back to the Blackfeet people how their warrior was weak when faced with death. It would never occur to the Salish to send a false report of the man’s behavior when meeting his end.
As it happened, this warrior fully being cognizant of the purpose of his death ritual, devised a strategy to circumvent the intended outcome. When the Salish man with first right to begin slicing him with a knife had approached and proceeded to cut and taunt the Blackfoot, the Blackfoot had kept his cool and returned insults as to be so vile, the Salish lost his temper and swiftly killed the Blackfoot in a rage. And this fact of circumstance of death is what was reported to the Blackfeet people.
The arrival of the Jesuits changed all this. If the destruction of the Buffalo had destroyed the Blackfoot nation physically, it was the Jesuits broke the spiritual back of the community. The Jesuits destroyed the lived truth of these people, destroyed the equilibrium between the sexes, destroyed the respect they had enjoyed in relation to each other as a whole and destroyed their spiritual relationship with nearly everything under the Sun. Here is how it happened:
It was inconceivable to the Indians a lie would be told by holy people. As Floyd HeavyRunner had precisely, correctly stated, this phenomena was exploited by the Jesuits, when using the Blackfeet women to make their inroad into the spiritual life of the community. It was the tempting (and subversive) idea if the Blackfeet community would embrace the Jesuit philosophy of only ONE man had to die, to correct everything in the afterlife, these women would be reunited with the many fine men they had lost to the extreme peril of historical Blackfoot existence, an existence that claimed a disproportionate number of men. The woman allowed the Jesuit Nicolas Point (sent among the Blackfeet by ‘Father’ DeSmet) to arrange the education of a number of children and in a single year’s time, with children taught Original Sin caused all of our world’s ills and this is the fault of WOMAN who is cursed, and that because ONE man died, you may be excused from taking responsibility for your own actions in this life, the damage was done. By the time these woman realized a great mistake had been made, it was too late. If these children had been killed outright per the native philosophy of eliminating any ugly life aberration, the Blackfeet would have been better off per their own cultural view, but the law of Blackfeet citizenship these new aberrations violated, in a paradox, prevented this. Nor would the consequence of not killing these children be seen immediately, it had to wait for them to grow up and see the infection mature.
The result had been, in a single generation, fratricide, it came to this; certain men had begun abusing women and became rapists, nearly unknown social phenomena in previous times. Subsequently, the worst of these among the Pikuni became exiles, they were pushed out and formed a distinct breakaway tribal entity. This in turn saw the group’s Pikuni men experience their women turning on them and become killers of their husbands, when the Blackfoot women’s warrior tradition in egalitarianism became socially inverted (these Blackfeet families know who they are, it’s not important to identify them by name here.)
This preceding is but early example of what occurred on a society-wide scale, with the badly damaged larger Blackfoot nation forced onto reservations and the subsequent kidnapping of entire generations of children into missions for education. Life became a lie and the law of Niitsitapi as had been known and practiced for countless generations, had become largely dead.
It was the great priest of Okan, Brings Down the Sun, made it his life mission to correct these mistakes in the Pikuni people. Recognizing the new Christian way could not be rolled back, one compromise he tried to make was to advise women to begin to submit to their husbands, but this was not easily swallowed by the women. What finally happened was, a compromise of Okan and other Blackfoot practices pursued distinctly and altogether separately from the Christianity forced onto these people, one might belong to both but they were carefully separated, never mixed. But these were never again Indian people in any sense close to what had been, lying and abuse of women has become a way of life in the case of by far too many Indians to count. And since the forced mission education days, the added curse of inter-generational pedophilia has gained a foothold as well. Of course the Jesuits will NEVER take responsibility for having wreaked this havoc, they can always arrange to be ‘forgiven’
“Christians are the meanest people on Earth” -A Blackfoot Holy Man
All that said, my experience has been, because of the unique traditions which had survived in small pockets, I discovered some of the finest, most brave, generous, kind and ethical people in this world, whilst living among the modern Blackfeet.
Essay 1 ‘Tobacco’
Essay 2 ‘War‘
Essay 3 ‘Women‘
Essay 4 ‘Conflict‘
Essay 5 ‘Birds‘
Collected stories, folklore and anecdotes concerning my many years life with Blackfeet Indians and traversing Native American territories