Blackfoot Property Rights
Discover your family's story.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
When a man dies his property is raided by his relatives. The older sons usually take the bulk but must make concessions to all concerned. If the children are young, the father’s relatives take the property. In any event, nothing goes to the widow. She may, however, retain her own personal property to the extent of that brought with her at marriage. She may claim, though not always with success, the offspring of her own horses. These are horses given her by her relatives and friends. Though not clearly thought out, the feeling seems to be that as the widow returns to her band she is entitled to take only such property as she brought with her at marriage.
At the death of a wife, her personal property is regarded as due her relatives, and may go to her daughters, if grown, otherwise back to her band. Theoretically, at least, the woman owned the tipi, the travois, the horse she rode, her domestic implements and clothing. Even today, when the white conception of property tends to dominate, a man seldom speaks when his wife bargains away her own handwork, bedding, and house furnishings.
Formerly, disputes concerning property were taken to the headmen for adjustment: now the settlements of estates go to the authorized Indian court. Property was bequeathed by a verbal will. A man would state before witnesses and his relatives what horses and property were to go to the wife, to the children, etc. At present, written wills are sometimes executed to protect the family. Under the old regime, the relatives sometimes disregarded the wishes of the deceased and left nothing for the widow and children; but, if a woman of good character with many relatives, she was seldom imposed upon.
In the division of meat from a co-operative hunt, the best cuts went to the chief, the medicine men, and the owners of medicine pipes. This is somewhat at variance with the usual democratic way of doing things and bears a striking resemblance to a similar custom among the Western Cree. In an individual hunt anyone approaching a man engaged in butchering was given meat, sometimes even the last piece. However, he was certain of being invited later to eat.