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Black Plume's Traditional Native Studies

Black Plume's Blackfeet

Kainai Elder Provides Empowerment For Seekers

Black Plume is a Kainai elder, Blood Tribe, of Alberta, Canada. His reserve is the largest of the Blackfeet Confederacy. In his vintage years, he has become intent upon sharing his ancient knowledge with others. Sharon "Spirit Dancer" Oakley continues the Tsalagi oral tradition of storytelling given to her by her maternal grandfather, W.H. Palmer. As the CEO of Black Plume's Cultural Studies, a non-profit organization, she wrote the book BLACK PLUME'S WEASEL PEOPLE.

Excerpt from BLACK PLUME'S WEASEL PEOPLE by Sharon A. Oakley


The real people were put on this continent to live in harmony with nature. They thrived from this cohabitation with all the flora and fauna in respect and reverence. They understood the spirits of the plants and animals, and the forces of nature. Everything in their lives is based on spirituality.

The medicine man was highly respected among the tribe for he was in synch with these forces and the flora and fauna and connected to use this power to heal.

Dreams and visions guided the real people in many ways. The medicine knowledge came to medicine people through this means. Spiritual and physical healing were interconnected. The spirit would be healed and therefore the physical body.

The sacred items such as the sacred bundles and pipes were given to the people through dreams and visions. The songs that accompany these sacred things also came by these means. Also, sacred societies were formed through the guidance that came from the spirit world.

All power comes through the sun for it can be readily reasoned that all good comes through this light. This is why the real people were so reverent of the sun. They have been called sun worshippers. When the saskatoon berries are ripe in the summer it is the time for a great thanksgiving. This takes form as a sun dance. The people gather and have many sacred ceremonies at this time. Most of the vows made were for the intercession for a sick kinsman or for protection for a warrior in a future battle.

Traditional Men's Chicken Dancer, BlackPlume is still on the Pow Wow Trail

Black Plume heads toward the arbor for competetion dancing in Heart Butte, Montana during their summer "Indian Days" Pow Wow.

He began dancing in 1939 at a Kainai Sun Dance and has traversed most of the U.S. and Canada participating in warrior dances and Pow Wows.


How Blackfeet Acquire Names

Black Plume uses that name as his last name in society now. When he was christened by an Anglican priest as an infant, that priest gave him an English first name of Reginald and a middle name of John. But he was actually called "Small Eyes" ("Ba-ti-ga-sa-pi") this was his name during his infancy. As a toddler he was given a name by "Weasel Tail" ,("Ko-nah-nee") a famous warrior on the reserve. Ko-nah-nee, or Weasel Tail called the lad "Good Rider" ("Ach-so-ti-po-kie").

When the young Black Plume grew into a child, his step grandmother, who was named "Pretty-Wolverine-Woman", bestowed a name on him as well. She named him "Messy Back" ("Neits-tsi-meo-ka-kei-nai-key"). This unusual name originated from the story of the largest manhunt that ever occured in Southern Alberta, Canada.

Pretty-Wolverine-Woman was once the elder of two wives of a warrior named Charcoal ("Cha-koh"). Char Coal was ridden with Tuberculosis and self medicated with alcohol causing him to be terminally ill and increasingly deranged. Pretty Wolverine Woman was more of a nurse to him, out of compassion, than a wife. Pretty Wolverine Woman was the most beautiful of all the women in the area, and Char Coal's jealousy grew to a fever pitch. He accused her of having an affair with Medicine Pipe Stem. He murdered Medicine Pipe Stem and went on a killing spree as well as kidnapping six people and holding them hostage, Pretty Wolverine Woman being one of them. He tied her and Sleeping Woman together when he left the camp for awhile. Pretty Wolverine Woman used her strong medicine powers and two women rolled in the dirt and grass in their desperate but successful escape from their bonds. Her story is an epic journey of a heroine. Pretty-Wolverine-Woman later married Black Plume's grandfather after Charcoal's demise. Charcoal was executed in 1897 after the huge manhunt ensued resultant of his killing an officer of the Northwest Mounted Police.

When Black Plume joined the Canadian Military in 1950, he was blessed with a power name to protect him in battle. An elder named "Bull Head" ("Stom-ic-su-to-kahn") from the Northern Peigans named him "White Bear" ("Ah-po-kai-you"). Upon his completion of his military duty Black Plume became friends with the Chief of the Northern Blackfeet, Chief Joe Crowfoot, ("Is-sha-po-bach-i-kai") the grandson of Crowfoot who signed Treaty 7. He give him his name, "Is-sha-po-bach-i-kai", because Black Plume had been an adept student of ancient stories and songs. Chief Crowfoot saw this as an opportunity to give his name to a young man who honored and was knowldgeable of the traditional ways of the Blackfeet.

Black Plume went into the Armed Forces a second time and served his country proudly. Upon completion of this service he chose to take his great grandmother's (Long-Time-Pipe-Woman) brother's name. He was "Pretending-To-Carry" ("Ka-yi-po-pa-ta-key"). Traditionally with the Blackfeet people, whenever an individual accomplished something honorable, they would be granted another name in a naming ceremony. He still carries this name at the time of this writing.

Names were most often chosen after flora and fauna, events, battle successes, physical appearance, or an earth or sky element.


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Screenplays by Sharon A. Oakley


Read a chapter from the book.