Thursday, August 27, 2015

1894 - 1901

1894: The Town of Browning is established on the flood plain of Willow Creek, about two miles from the railroad depot. Cooke’s son, who had been acting as a clerk, was terminated by the Indian Office, along with Chief Clerk Garrett. Richard Sanderville had been acting as Assistant Clerk, but now Cooke fired him and gave his job to Cooke’s son. Cooke began a campaign of driving off “half-breeds” and “Squaw men.” Cooke had been busily filing on the “mineral strip” towards Cut Bank, which is expected to yield oil.

1895: A park or reserve established at Waterton Lakes. Treaty with the Blackft for the “ceded strip,” south of Glacier Park. (Now Badger/Two Med.) Henry Kennerly has now come as trading competition for Joe Kipp. James McKnight is also a licensed trader. They are interested in the “mineral strip” (along the eastern edge of the reservation which is near Cut Bank, an oil field town), as are E.C. Garrett and J. W. Schultz. At a formal inquiry Little Dog speaks for the Christian Indians and Three Suns speaks for the “heathen” Indians. Little Bear Chief is impatient, but White Calf is conciliatory. Horace Clarke (son of Malcolm Clarke, the murder victim) suggests the government should help the Piegan develop their own minerals instead of just selling them. White Calf finally leads to the capitulation of the Blackfeet. Steell is reinstated. Thomas Dawson (son-in-law of the murdered Clarke) objects. Steell has him arrested for branding a slick calf and because he had a dance without getting permission.

1896: Glacier National Park sale concluded. Payments until 1912. $1,500,000 price. Some Blackft still don’t want to sell. Others want three million. George Bird Grinnell plays go-between. The Blackft cattle struggle but seem to be surviving. Steell insists upon branding them himself, thus diverting some. The inspector confirms the Blackft own 20,000 head and have shipped 600 to Chicago. There are 6,500 waitiing and the inspector recommends getting rid of 4,500 of them. 500 people are camped along the border, waiting for homesteading and mining to open. It is a regular practice to “pay” Indian labor with goods and money that are already supposed to be theirs according to treaty promises.

1897: George McLaughlin has been an editor of the “Benton River Press” and sheriff of Choteau County before he became agent. (He had asked for the position of consul in Hawaii.) Problems continue to include decrepit buildings, bad meat, cattle men who don’t want to pay passage acrtoss the rez, and increasing horse herds -- up to 10,000 now. A fire burned the boy’s dorm at the Boarding School.

1898: Ceded strip thrown open to “Sooners.” Rush of prospectors begins. Altyn (East Glacier) village is started. Landless Indians wander Montana. Thomas Fuller, the new agent, is not in good health and dies in office. Robert Hamilton asks the Indian Office for funds to support a “Red Man’s Literary Society” of young educated Indians (all male) who had attended Carlisle or the equivalent. They wanted to put up a building for meetings (probably with some political content as they were quite restless). Fuller labeled it a clubhouse for bad doings and denied the money. Bear Chief writes to Washington requesting a fence on the south and east sides of the rez to keep the whiteman’s cows out. Fuller belittled the chief, saying he was so foolish he had requested money for a brass band earlier. Fuller (and Grinnell) preferred the idea of range riders on the border, so they could watch for whiskey trader’s, too. Fuller points out that a fence could be easily cut. Fuller wants funds for proper bull management. Now cattle are estimated at 10,000 and horses are estimated at 20,000. Finally, Grinnell begins to advocate a fence. Meat and lumber are not issued fairly, but just put out for whoever can grab it. No records are kept and Canadians are not excluded. Sewage contaminates the boarding school water. Elisha B. Reynolds is the interim agent appointed.

1899. William Logan starts out strong as agent, but then wearies. Now the cows are down to 8,500 and the horses are over 21,000. The buiidings are collapsing, the school is a scandal, the hay crop is a failure, the irrigation ditches are empty, and Queen Victoria dies. Logan was often gone and resigned in 1900.

1900: Roosevelt appoints Herrig the first ranger of the Glacier area. There is smallpox again. James H. Monteath, the new agent, adopts a “New Policy,” which once again hopes to make farmers of the Indians. Cattlemen come onto the reservation with permits -- or at least that’s the theory. When they take their cattle back, they take Indian cattle along with them. Monteath is instructed to prosecute them for trespass and rustling, but doesn’t.

1901: Last recorded smallpox epidemic. Willow Creek School is in a disastrous state. Discipline is enforced with confinement to “cells,” like an old meat refrigerator with holes in it or a root cellar often flooded and full of rodents and rotten vegetables. These places were too small to permit lying down. The offenders were fed bread and water. Monteath recommends the Cut Bank Creek location for a new school. Smallpox returns. it seems impossible to keep a quarantine, especially with the railroad going through. There is much tuberculosis. Commissioner Jones wants the Indians to cut their hair and for their rations to be cut, though the rations were the legal compensation for giving up parts of the reservation.

Over the last forty-five years, I’ve taught ten years on the Blackft reservation, but I’m always startled when I read the old history and see how often the school was a point of uproar and how often the superintendent of the reservation was pitted against the superintendent of the school. These are still schools attached to the Indian Agency rather than the state, as they were when I came in 1961. But right up until now, schools have always been the main chance for improvement (How one aches for that Carlisle graduate “Literary Club!” What an incubator for leadership it would have been!) and the main way to pocket money, often by skimming food money.

Even back then they were worrying about hair length. On the rez it’s not about being a hippie -- it’s often about being an Indian.

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