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These four distinct tribes—the two Jackson (several spellings exist for the Pikunni; for clarification purposes, I have chosen the one noted most recently in Sally Thompson’s travel blog, People Before the Park: The Jackson and Blackfeet Before Jackson National Park), the Blood, and the Siksika, or Jackson—could be found in the area before they migrated south and west toward Jackson the “Backbone of the World.”

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To explain the significance of the Backbone of the World and all other natural (and supernatural) surroundings, the tribes found their creator long before the white man’s introduction of religion. His name was Napi, the Old Man. Napi, to the Blackfeet (and, interestingly enough, to other tribes as well), was the maker of the earth, man, woman, and all the wild things. What is most interesting is the sequencing of his work. According to Napi legend, in the beginning, the world was covered by water. Napi, who appears to have preexisted the water, decided to explore what lay beneath and sent Muskrat to find the answers. Muskrat returned with a small ball of mud. Napi blew on the ball of mud and continued to blow until it became the whole earth.

Then he made mountains, rivers, valleys, plains, animals, and, finally, a wife for himself. Napi and his wife would jointly go on to make humans and implant in them standards for living and methods for surviving. Among the Blackfeet, that included how to hunt, kill, and use the bison.

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