This chapter provides an overview of Blackfoot origins and life on the northwest plains prior to the eighteenth century. Blackfoot people credit the ancestral spirit Náápi, or Old Man, with the creation of the northwest plains landscape, where they have lived for millennia at least. The Blackfoot developed durable religious traditions, hunting and gathering practices, and diplomatic connections that long sustained their way of life. Beginning in the 1720s, the arrival of horses and European metal goods through trade networks of Indigenous “middlemen” disrupted their traditional practices but also provided new opportunities that many Blackfoot people embraced. The concurrent arrival of horses and metal goods also led to increased conflict and warfare between Indigenous people in the region.
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