I grew up in northern Montana, at the verge between prairie, mountains and sky. During my formative years we moved a number of times from farm to farm within Pondera County (pronounced pond-uh-RAY, a word derived from the French name for the Pend'Oreille Indians), before settling in the county seat, Conrad. With the Rocky Mountains marching down the western horizon and the vast dome of the Big Sky spreading over the northern Great Plains, I was surrounded by sprawling vistas of earth and sky.
I made many camping trips into the mountains with my family and with the Boy Scouts, most memorably in Glacier National Park. To reach the park's eastern entrance meant traversing the Blackfoot Indian Reservation (see map above -- click on any image to enlarge). One of many nomadic hunter-gatherer plains tribes, the Blackfoot were famous among whites and other tribes as having been fierce fighters and skillful hunters. Our visits often took us through the tribal seat at Browning, where I spent many hours exploring the Museum of the Plains Indians. The dioramas of pre-reservation life and the displays of Blackfoot culture and crafts were a window onto anothr time, another place -- details never mentioned in history books. Those visits were the beginning of my lifelong interest in native cultures all across the continent.
There are any number of informative books, both fiction and non-fiction, describing the Indian nations of the American West, and the ruthless manner in which white invaders conquered the tribes, stole their land, and robbed them of their ancestral way of life, their dignity, even their languages. Increasingly, the authors are themselves Indians -- Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene), Dennis Banks (Ojibwe), Russell Means (Lakota), Vine Deloria Jr. (Nakota), James Welch (Blackfoot), and Woody Kipp ( Blackfoot, seen in bottom image), to name a few. Even though Native Americans are by far the most neglected and abused minority in this country, more so than blacks and Latinos, there remains a strong spirit of native pride.
Yesterday I discovered a website devoted to Native culture and news -- nativeradio.com. It is a well-crafted portal to other Indian websites, music, news, and other links.
Here is a more thorough description of Blackfoot history, culture and modern life.