Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS)

Degree Name

Interdisciplinary Studies

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Anthropology, Linguistics, Music Ethnology

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

Gregory Campbell

Commitee Members

Mizuki Miyashita, James Randall


Blackfoot Song, Transfer Rights, Ceremony, Blackfoot


University of Montana


Songs are a Blackfoot way of knowing, inseparable from ceremonies that express relationship and responsibility, belonging, and accountability. The relationships and obligations represented in ceremonies make a web that orders and knits together the community. Knowing the songs conveys awareness of, and commitment to, these relationships and obligations. Early reservation-era polices attempted to suppress Native North American cultures. Aggressive programs of assimilation separated children from parents and placed them in boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their own languages. On reservations, tribal ceremonies, dances, and songs were prohibited. Native ways of learning through oral culture, such as observation, storytelling, practice, and memory were not respected. This undermined tribes by destroying or interrupting the ceremonies, songs and dances that sustained and ordered communities. Songs are central to induction and transfer ceremonies, which assign responsibility to the new keeper of the powers associated with a specific pipe, bundle or lodge. The fact that sacred objects and ceremonies can be transferred from one person to another allows circulation of spiritual authority/responsibility among the people, unlike institutionalized hierarchies of Euro American Churches. A person has to be worthy of such responsibility, and committed to using the power of the pipe, bundle, or lodge to help those in need. People in the community can request help with life challenges from a pipe, bundle, or lodge holder. Society songs are the physical documentation of permission to join the society and of your commitment to the behavior required by the society. Society songs are the per formative expression of this permission and obligation. Pipe, bundle and lodge-keeping; like membership in societies, function as collective agreements that order and give meaning to life. Songs for these purposes express these agreements to community, self and spirit.

This record is only available
to users affiliated with
the University of Montana.

Request Access



© Copyright 2013 Kevin Dale Kicking Woman