This is the winter the buffalo never returned. Allen, the new agent, asks if he shouldn’t be collecting a fee for the tens of thousands of cattle and sheep being driven across the rez in order to reach the newly completed Canadian Pacific Railroad to the Northwest Territory or to other markets in the south. He wants to use the money to pay Indian policemen to keep the people from eating the stock as it travels through. At least three ranchers have set up operations on the rez without permission or payment.
1885: Second Rebellion of Riel in Canada. (The definitive book about the Red River people is “Strange Empire: A Narrative of the Northwest,” by Joseph Kinsey Howard. @1952 &1994. Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-298-7) Many Metis refugees in Montana. General John Biddle explores the Cut Bank area of Glacier. 2,000 Blackfeet on the reservation. Mining strikes in the Little Rockies, Bear’s Paw and Sweetgrass Hills are technically on the rez. Allen is instructed to evict the miners, but didn’t. Allen drinks, has difficulty managing the ordering of supplies of acceptable quality, and hires his own relatives. He is instructed to shut down the ration ticket system, which supports a black market, but doesn’t. Several companies begin cutting timber on the rez.
1886: Severe winter wipes out range livestock. CMR paints ”The Last of the 10,000.” This is the end of open range grazing. DHS Cattle Co. alone lost 40,000 head. According to Gene Guardipee, horse raiding also ceased now.
1887: Cattlemen demand range on Blackft rez. Dawes Allotment Act -- NOT ratified by the Blackft. Whitecalf gave the land on the lower Two Medicine for the Holy Family Mission. Mark Baldwin is the agent and attracts scathing attack by George Bird Grinnell. Baldwin can’t seem to get his accounts straight. He and his clerk are said to be “in the power of the cattle syndicate.” Many Blood and Cree Indians come to visit and there is an exodus of white agency employees. White ranchers complain that the cattle they are grazing on the reservation are confiscated by Mounties when they wander into Canada. Baldwin’s daughter dies for lack of even a few doctor books. Baldwin and Mead, the school superintendent, have a violent feud.
1888: Sweet Grass Hills Treaty. Blackft have now lost one-fourth of the state of Montana. The center of power in Montana shifts from Fort Benton to Great Falls because of Jim Hill’s railroad, but the cast of characters remains about the same. Bob Ford, Dan Floweree, the Conrads, T.C. Power, Sam Houser, Con Kohrs. Mandan halfbreed Joe Kipp becomes licensed trader on the rez. Grinnell ( with G. Gould and J.W. Schultz) holds his own investigation and begins a barrage of letters. White Calf is leading the Indian complaints. Also, “Old Eagle Flag.” J.K. Toole wants permission for Floweree, Jessie Taylor, and others to graze cattle on the rez because of fires (which he blames on the Indians) and drought -- without having to pay fees. When an Indian inspector, Frank C. Armstrong, comes, J.B. Monroe and George Starr reverse their opinion about abuses, covering up.
1889: This time John F. Stevens reconnoiters Marias Pass and C.F. Haskell explores the western approach. MONTANA BECOMES A STATE. The first Blackft men are sent off to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Agent Catlin gives jobs to all his friends and family. He pays Indian labor with the commodities that were supposed to be payment for the land according to the treaty. The buildings are decrepit. School Superintendent Coe reports the schools are a disaster. The agent reports both Coe and the chief clerk of the agency, Livinstone, are drunks. George Magee, a local justice of the peace, complains about Catlin to the Indian office, specifically that he had collaborated with a salesman of cheap jewelry to cheat the Indians. C.L. Bristol, a former agency trader, Joe Kipp, and Bud Allison, a foreman for Dan Floweree, backed up this complaint. But Kipp used the agency sawmill when he was building the Jesuit Holy Family Mission School on Two Medicine.
1890: The railroad is being built through Marias Pass. McCarthyville is settled. Lt. Ahern makes an extensive exploration of Glacier. Dalton gang is here. Holy Family Mission begins operation. The Sioux Massacre at Wounded Knee, what we now call “Wounded Knee I.” Steell is the agent. (A mountain visible from Heart Butte is named “Major Steell’s Backbone,” which is decidedly sway-baked.) He was a morphine addict who would only talk to the Indians through a tiny peephole door in the office door. Somehow he got the support of Grinnell, who tried to save his job. By this time there was an “Agency Ring” of cattle barons and merchants. (Steell was one of the founding partners of the “Diamond R” freighting company and associated with C.A. Broadwater and T.C. Power.) Grinnell complains abut the whiskey towns at the edge of the reservation: Robare, Dupuyer and Muddy. Railroad crews were working on the rez by presidential authority. Bear Chief complained that they were cutting Blackft hay for their horses and Blackft wood without any payment. At first Steel makes a great point of cleaning up the whiskey trade. He gets payment for the hay and wood, but leaves too little for the Blackft themselves. The railroad wants to store dynamite on the rez (against regulations) and is taking a 200 foot right-of-way when they are supposed to take 150. Steell fights with Bartlett, the school superintendent. Neither farming, nor irrigation, nor cattle are working out. At last, Dr. John E. Jenkins, agency physican blew the whistle on Steell for his major morphine addiction. Steell was the first agent to allow a delegation of chiefs to go to Washington, D.C. (With Joe Kipp as interpreter.) White Calf was with them and complained abut cattle trespass. Bear Chief and Little Plume also spoke.
1892: First settlers on Lake McDonald. Willow Creek Boarding School west of Browning. Great Northern finally admitted they took too much land for their stations and paid for some of the wood, the amount determined by themselves. Steell wants to move the agency close to the railroad and to build a bridge with free Indian labor. George Magee, White Calf, Bear Chief, Tail Feathers Over-the-Hill, Mountain Chief and others protest. Paris Gibson, founder of Great Falls and friend of Hill, played a part in the final removal.
1893: Agent Cooke criticizes the reservation irrigation project as a waste of money. BIA had appropriated funds for it since 1891. Few Blackft used it, but it was charged against their account. Great Northern Railroad is completed through the reservation. (A tunnel is necessary to cross the Rockies.) Cooke orders the removal of the Agency to Willow Creek (where it remains until now), but he is gone before the new buildings are occupied. Hill is using various contacts to pursue mining strikes on the western part of the rez and in what became Glacier Park. Rev. E.S. Dutcher, a Methodist, constructs a home and chapel. The home -- very modest -- was in a cluster of cottonwoods west of Browning. It has been replaced with a modern house nearer the highway. The chapel was moved to Browning where it still serves the congregation -- with additions. (For a history of the Methodist mission, see “Mission Among the Blackfeet” by Howard L. Harrod. University of Oklahoma Press, @ 1971. ISBN 0-8061-1301-4) Cooke is so much opposed to Blackft culture that Ewers noted he “even threatened to jail women who did beadwork.” The Willow Creek irrigation project was begun, but never seemed to work. Steell moved his cattle across Birch Creek and befriended the new agent. (His herd had gone from 80 to 400 in two years.)
1894: Town of Browning established. J.H. Sherburne arrives from Ponca City, Ok. There are already hints that the Blackft may have oil, just like the Ponca. (See “Mean Spirit” by Linda Hogan. @ 1990. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-8041-0863-3)
The hustlers and exploiters have arrived by now and are struggling among themselves for the resources of the reservation, altogether ignoring the Blackft whose reservation this is. The Blackft are supposed to be making a living from it, but these outsiders are determined to make a killing.