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Blackfoot Legend & Ammolite

Iniskim (Buffalo Stone)

The Blackfeet people include the Blood (Kainai), Pikuni (Peigan), and Blackfoot (Siksika). Various versions of this legend can be found in print and on the web. Versions told by Blackfeet storytellers are of course the most colorful and entertaining to read.

In general, ammolite represents wealth, abundance, good health, and stamina to the Blackfoot Indians. A buffalo stone (iniskim) is a very special and rare piece of ammolite shaped with 4 small bulges that represent front and back legs, such that it can be imagined to represent a buffalo. Its chief purpose is to bring good luck to the owner. It is held in high regard and used in spiritual ceremonies.

In some of the stories, the buffalo stone is said to have been first discovered by a Blackfoot woman searching for firewood through the snow of a particularly harsh winter. It was long before the Indians had horses. The buffalo had disappeared and there was no food. The woman heard beautiful singing and followed it to a stone that resembled a buffalo.

In other of the stories, the woman had a dream, in which she was instructed to go and search for the brilliantly colored, magical stone. After days of perilous travel, she found the stone hidden in the cave. She took the stone back to her people and followed the instructions she was given in the dream.

In either case, the stone claimed powerful medicine and the ability to communicate with the buffalo. It said that it was taking pity on her starving tribe and selected her as a humble person with good thoughts to take its message to her tribe. The stone warned her that its power was always announced by a strong storm that would look like a lone bull buffalo. The lone bull was never to be harmed - the rest of the herd would come after the bull had safely passed through the camp.

The holy men of the tribe allowed the woman to perform the ceremony, as the iniskim had instructed. They instructed their people to prepare for a strong storm and to allow the lone bull to go in peace.

The storm came. Those that did not believe and did not prepare watched as their tipis were blown away. No one dared to harm the lone bull.

In the morning, the storm was over and a large herd of buffalo grazed peaceably next to the camp. The tribe was able to bring down the animals it needed to survive. Everyone brought an offering to place before the sacred Iniskim.

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