Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:3 (Summer 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Every Native American society has elders who recount the traditions of their people. Some of these traditions are purely religious in nature, explaining their universe and their place in it. Other oral traditions often impart life's lessons, providing a cultural road map for living in a particular society. Still other accounts concern historical events involving prominent men and women. These traditions provide each member of a society with a sense of his or her own collective history and cultural identity. The Amazing Death of Calf Shirt and Other Blackfoot Stories is such a collection of historical accounts, a compilation of Blackfoot oral traditions collected by Hugh Dempsey, Chief Curator Emeritus of the Glenbow Museum. The book draws together a diverse collection of these traditions spanning back as far as 1690. Most of the accounts, however, concern how Blackfoot people struggled to cope with early reservation life.