March 13, 2002

Mountain Chief (Ninastoko), last hereditary chief of the Blackfoot tribe


Mountain Chief (Ninastoko), 1848-1942
Tribe: Blackfoot

Mountain Chief, the Blackfoot’s last hereditary leader, was born on Old Man River in southern Alberta.

Mountain Chief began his career as a warrior leader in 1866 at age eighteen, when he led a Blackfoot war party against the Crows at Cypress Hills.

Mountain Chief (Ninastoko), last hereditary chief of the Blackfoot tribe
In 1867, Mountain Chief went to war against the Kutenai and survived a hand-to-hand fight with the Kutenai leader, Cut Nose.

In an 1873 battle against the Crow, Mountain Chief was badly wounded in one of his legs. Ninastoko limped for the rest of his life. 

Although aggressive in the face of the Blackfoot’s traditional native enemies, Mountain Chief was more accommodating to immigrating Euro-Americans.

Ninastoko made several trips to Washington, DC, as a representative of the Blackfoot.

Mountain Chief signed the Treaty of 1866 ceding the Sweet Grass Hills, and in 1895 signed away the land that now composes Glacier National Park.

During his work as a negotiator, Mountain Chief met four US presidents-McKinley, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Wilson. He also worked with General Hugh L. Scott for several years to record Plains Indians’ sign languages.

In his later years, Mountain Chief frequently assisted tourists at Glacier National Park.

Ninastoko went blind late in life and died in 1942 at age ninety-four at his home near Browning, Montana.

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