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Blackfeet Medicine Pipes and Healing

The person whom the whites term “medicine man” is called by the Blackfeet Ni-namp’-skan. Mr. Schultz believes this word to be compounded of nin’nah, man, and namp’-ski, horned toad (Phrynosoma), and in this he is supported by Mr. Thomas Bird, a very intelligent half-breed, who has translated a part of the Bible into the Blackfoot language for the Rev. S. Trivett, a Church of England missionary. These gentlemen conclude that the word means “all-face man.” The horned toad is called namp’-ski, all-face; and as the medicine man, with his hair done up in a huge topknot, bore a certain resemblance to this creature, he was so named. No one among the Blackfeet appears to have any idea as to what the word means. The medicine pipes are really only pipe stems, very long, and beautifully decorated with bright-colored feathers and the fur of the weasel and other animals. It is claimed that these stems were given to the people long, long ago, by the Sun, and that those who own them are regarded by him with special favor. Formerly these stems were valued at from fifteen to thirty head of horses, and were bought and sold like any other property. When not in use, they were kept rolled up in many thicknesses of fine tanned fur, and with them were invariably a quantity of tobacco, a sacred whistle, two sacred rattles, and some dried sweet grass, and sweet pine needles. In the daytime, in pleasant weather, these sacred bundles were hung out of doors behind the owners’ lodges, on tripods. At night they were suspended within, above the owners’...

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