Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 245-46.
Representational art depicting important historical events has always been integral to the lives of First Nations people. James Dempsey's Blackfoot War Art is concerned with the biographical art produced by the Blackfoot-speaking people, the original inhabitants of a vast territory that extended across the Plains of present-day southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and most of Montana. Dempsey begins by situating this art within its cultural context, including a separate chapter on the importance of the "warrior ethic." He then goes on to discuss the art in terms of its artists' media.
Rock art is the oldest surviving example of Blackfoot art, and Afsfnai'pi (Writing-On-Stone) on Alberta's Milk River has the greatest concentration of pictographs in the Northern Plains. Dempsey draws upon the work of archaeologists, rather than the Blackfoot, for the interpretation of the figures, tying some of them to historical events. This important place speaks to the antiquity of the Blackfoot presence in the region and the long-standing importance of warriors.