Tricksters, Heroes, Shamans and Ritualists: A Cultural Analysis of Traditional Blackfoot Story-Telling

Bancroft Hunt, Norman. 1999. Tricksters, Heroes, Shamans and Ritualists: A Cultural Analysis of Traditional Blackfoot Story-Telling. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis considers traditional story-telling among the Blackfoot Indians of Alberta and Montana. It is based primarily, though not exclusively, on the collections of tales made at the turn of the century by George Bird Grinnell and Clark Wissler /David Duva 11 , which are reassessed in the light of opinions expressed by contemporary story-tellers, tribal historians, and ritualists. I suggest the tales are organised on a principle of "inversion", and that the structure encompassed within the tales relates to Blackfoot considerations of shamans and ritualists. Shamans and ritualists, though both are designated by a term that translates as "medicine men", are presented as opposing forces in Blackfoot culture.

A number of secondary structures are also established which follow the principle of inversion outlined above: there is seen to be an opposition between male and female, between Napi (Trickster) and Natos (Sun), and between chaos (expressed by Napi and the shaman) and order (expressed by Natos and the ritualist). In addition, these structures are presented as having been a consistent element in traditional Blackfoot story-telling since the pre-reservation period and which are still valid today. The nature of this study means only those tales which can be thought of as having a tribal currency are considered: that is, tales of Napi, of Natos and the Star People, and Tales of Ritualistic Origins. It is acknowledged the Blackfoot have numerous other categories of tales of a more personal nature which are not considered in detail here.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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Shamanism, ritual, tribal history, story-telling

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Date Deposited:

01 Jun 2020 10:46

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:30


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