Blackfoot Birth Customs
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As the period of pregnancy nears its end the women discard their bracelets and most of their metal ornaments. They dress in old clothes and affect carelessness of person. Should a person look fixedly at one, she will say, “Don’t. My child will look like you; you are ugly,” etc. As the hour approaches, they retire to an isolated tipi where they are attended by other women, men not being admitted. A medicine woman may be called, who usually administers decoctions for internal use, supposed to facilitate delivery. For bearing down, the patient holds to a pole of the tipi, an attendant grasping her around the waist. When delivered she is laced up with a piece of skin or rawhide as a support. She is then required to walk or creep about in the tipi for a while instead of resting quietly, in the belief that recovery will be hastened thereby. The after-birth is thrown away and not placed in a tree as among the Dakota.
Men should not approach the birthplace for a period as their medicine and war powers would be weakened thereby. The father may enter but at some risk. It is bad luck for men to step upon the clothing of the newly born or touch those of the mother; lameness and other disorders of the feet and limbs will surely follow.
Birth marks are regarded as evidences of re-birth. Boys so marked are believed to be returned warriors bearing honorable scars. Twins are neither regarded with suspicion nor especially favored. What data we have seem to be against infanticide even in the case of great deformities. Tales emphasizing the enormity of the crime are told of mothers to whom suspicion attributed the death of such unfortunates. The stillborn, it is believed, will be born again.
There is no special taboo upon a menstruating woman requiring her to live apart but she is not supposed to come near the sick. The belief is that in such a case something would strike the patient “like a bullet and make him worse.” Further, at this time, women are supposed to keep away from places where medicines are at work. These restrictions also apply to immediate associations with men and to women lax in virtue.