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October 31, 2020

O-gyee. Nee-dahn ikoo Allen. (Hello. My name is Allen.)

As you can see, my prowess with the Blackfoot language is rudimentary at best. However, I am attempting to learn this language completely. Why? That’s a long story but here’s the short version:

Over a hundred years ago my grandfather, Lee Allen, grew up in Anaconda, Montana among miners, loggers and the Blackfoot Indians. He had learned some of the language in his contact with local tribe members from a very early age. These same people helped my grandfather gain a deep respect for the earth, its people and resources. This relationship started when my grandfather was only five years old in the year 1899. In that year a local Blackfoot family gave my grandfather a gift of a pair of moccasins as a thank you to his family for being kind to them. (See Blackfoot Moccasins.) I still have these moccasins and marvel at what they meant to both families at the time.

Being passionate about language, I have learned several in my life: actually, twelve. These languages help me understand others better. They understand me better. That’s the goal. Years ago in college, I learned Lakota because I was curious. Adding Blackfoot to my language base does two things. It helps me understand a people who helped shape the destiny of my family and it does justice to an indigenous race that has been all but wiped out by our country’s politicians. After a hundred years, it seems like a fair if small payback.

That’s the gist of it. So I will keep pounding away in the hope to master a language that I will rarely use but one that I will be proud to call mine.

You can find some Blackfoot phrases and their pronunciation here. These are from Keith Chiefmoon’s 1998-1999 classes in Seattle, Washington.

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  1. Wonderful story!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I totally admire your dedication to languages. I used to do fairly well with Spanish and am now working on my heritage language, German, but it doesn’t come easy.

    Liked by 2 people

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