Thursday, August 27, 2015

1935 - 1968

1935: Warren O’Hara is superintendent. Blackfeet Tribal Constitution prepared and Tribal Charter approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1936: C.L. Graves in superintendent. New four year drought cycle beginning. An inventory of tribal goods and equipment shows much is missing, at a value of $100,000. For years now there has been a growing schism between the old full-bloods and the younger mixed-bloods. The mixed-bloods ally with the whites and they are accused of chicanery and dominating the Tribal Council.

1939: The Council’s cashbook journal is not updated betwen 1/1 and 9/1, so the books can’t be audited. Many payments have not been receipted by Nancy M. Goss, the treasurer. Hazlett is the Chair. Council includes Brian Connolly, Wright Hagerty, and Levi Burd.

1940: U.S. Census counts 4,000 Blackft. Hazlett removed from Chair. Levi Burd is new chair. Brian Connolly is identified as a lease trespasser.

1943: Makes Cold Weather gives his Blood Medicine Pipe to John Ewers for the Museum of the Plains Indian. The Council files suit against Superintendent McBride and the Forester A.D. Stephenson, defending Connolly. A certain amount of double-leasing seems to be going on. Different authorities make different deals with different people -- about the same land. The drought cattle, which were supposed to have been relief, have somehow become a debt.

1944: National Congress of American Indians formed as an Indian lobbying group. John Ewers is the curator at the Museum of the Plains Indian. Brian Connolly accuses George Pambrun of shady doings. D’Arcy McNickle is a member of the government commission that investigates the whole complication. So is Felix Cohen, who (as assistant Secretary of the Interior) had helped to create the Tribal Council and didn’t want to hurt it now. He was one of the most celebrated practitioners of Indian law in America and is employed by the tribe.

1945: The Tribal Council has gone into the red from 1942 to 1946.

1946: Warren O’Hara is the superintendent.

1949: Iliff McKay is the Tribal Treasurer. He was bonded, resigned, terminated his bond, and then was reinstated but without the bond. This meant the Council couldn’t receive funds from the local accounts on deposit with the Superintendent (Agent) Rex Kildow and precipitated an audit, which the bonding company insisted upon. The Council had loaned themselves $63,000. There was much other evidence of mismanagement. The Charter was not being enforced. Cohen advised the Council to put the money in a separate account of their own until he could work out the difficulties. The superintendent suggests terminating supervision. He asks for the FBI. D’Arcy McNickle, Chief of the Tribal Relations Branch, urges the Indian Bureau to sort things out as the new law requires.

1950: Relocation of Indians to cities. Indian slums form in Midwest and West Coast cities.

1951: The squabble goes on. Louis Plenty Treaty asks a senator via a petition if four or five hundred Blackft, voting as a block, could abolish the Tribal Council. George Pambrun is the Chair.

1953: Law forbidding Indians to purchase liquor off-reservation is repealed. White whiskey towns had sprung up around the dry reservations, causing accidents as drinkers in faulty cars tried to get to them. Termination of the reservation policy begins.

1954: Indian Health is transferred from the BIA to U.S. Public Health Service.

1960: JF Kennedy extends federal housing assistance to reservations, increases commodities, kills heirship bill. His influence extends to his death and begins the housing projects that cleared Moccasin Flats.

1964: Devastating flood of the reservation, caused by three poorly maintained federal dams breaking, sending walls of water down the valleys. Territorial centennial celebrations were cut short. Housing patterns were changed.

1968: AIM is organized in Minneapolis. From here on, the story involves many pan-Indian and national elements

The people in these stories are colorful and robust. They are, Montanans would say, “characters.” Many have wondered what would have happened if Iliff McKay had lived, since he was a strong leader with many good ideas. He had a cold, went to the Indian Health Service hospital, was given a penicillin shot and went into anaphylactic shock, soon dying. He is one among many leaders whose lives were cut short one way or another. His wife and children became leaders in their own right. In 2005 his daughter, Mary Margaret Johnson, is the Superintendent of Schools, which has grown to be a huge complex of buildings and programs. Mike McKay is a comedian of skill and power, with a collection of characters in his repertoire that leave people on the res aching from laughter and thinking about his satirical points.

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