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.

1921 - 1934

1921: Louis Hill (the railroad tycoon) gets a ten year lease for oil through Agent Wilson. A second competing application was denied. Hill did not drill successfully. Wild cat leases through the tribe granted. Hazlett acting as agent and go-between. Wilson dismissed and convicted of bigamy. (Elsie was right!) Blackft are still starving. Over the winter of 1920-21, two thirds of the people need rations. F.C. Campbell is the new superintendent. He says the reservation is bankrupt and he starts a series of “five year plans.” He goes house-to-house, visitng four-fifths of the people. Half of the full-bloods have no cash and not everyone is cutting wood for winter. He feels they will have to do some small farming to survive and organized them into groups who could share heavy equipment. All this was to be financed by the “Reimbursable Plan” which had lost the people much of their land. James Willard Schultz became critical and headed The Executive Committee for the National Association to Help the Indian. He felt his father-in-law Yellow Wolf was allowed to starve. The Red Cross is present, but their funds are lost in a bank closure. A little flour mill is established in Heart Butte. (Indians think of meat -- white men think of bread.)

1922: James Willard Schultz publishes a pamphlet entitled, “The Blackfeet are Starving.”

1923: Prospects for farming are poor and the white farmers are not renewing their leases. Robert Hamilton becomes chairman of the Tribal Council and Joseph Spanish becomes secretary of the Tribal Council. Richard Sandervile and Levi Bird are loyal to the agent. Campbell wants to remove Oliver Racine (a Hamilton supporter) from the Council on grounds of adultery. There are more problems with overgrazing, trespassing and rustling, to say nothing of the confusion over who leased what from whom for how long. Forrest Stone is the assistant to the superintendent.

1924: All Native Americans become citizens of the United States.

1925: The Browning City Council asks the government to provide relief for the aged and infirm. Oliver Sanderville complains about Campbell, but he is cleared by the inspector. Campbell was bypassing the Council and going by the community chapters’ directions. The Council, in turn, voted him out. (Campbell had organized “granges” who focused on agriculture. The Tribal Council wants to drill for oil and get rich that way.)

1926: Merriam Report delineates Indian poverty, unemployment, lack of health care and education for all Indians, not just Blackft. (For more material plus photos, see the website at: You might Google a bit -- there’s quite a lot of material on the Web.)

1928: Campbell charges horse owners for mange control and for roundup costs, then sells the horses to Chappel Brothers exclusively.

1929: Stone becomes the new superintendent. Major hearings in the summer as part of a general investigation of all reservations. (Senators Frazier, Wheeler and Pine). Senate Investigator Liggett write a long report, not released until 1932. It boils down to six clusters of complaints:

1. Indian are defauded by deliberate conspiracy.
2. Tribal possessions are dissipated.
3. No accounting of the tribal herd.
4. Indians’ interest seem secondary. (This is mostly about the Great Northern, including their practice of exploiting Indians as tourist attractions.)
5. Agency officials dominate the Tribal Council.
6. No accounting is made to the Indians about leasing. (This is the matter now -- 75 years later -- settled by Eloise Cobell's lawsuit against the Department of the Interior.)

(This report has been running in installments in the Glacier Reporter this year.)

1930: Holy Family Mission closes. Many accusations about how and why. The Depression is beginning and religious congregations are suffering. U.S. Census counts 3,000 Blackft on the rez. Stone asks for $300 from the tribe to pay the hospital bill of a sick old man: Robert Hamilton, leader of full-bloods. “Tip” O’Neill and Louis Hill hit the first big gusher of oil on Michael’s ranch near Cut Bank. Stone asks for a geological survey of the reservation but is denied.

1933: Santa Rita well comes in. Much drilling in the Cut Bank area. Many bids for leases, but no criteria are developed and not much regulation for how to go about it.

1934: Indian Reorganization Act (part of the New Deal). Creates the present form of tribal government. (See Rosier notes later.) Government supplies 5,500 head of drought relief cattle, but 300 are lost over a hard winter, partly because they were in rough shape to begin with. 138 Indian families are classified as self-supporting. 747 families are receiving federal welfare assistance.

These notes are beginning now to reach modern times. People born after 1934 were the grandchildren of the original traders and Indian leaders and the tensions remain alive today in ordinary life. This is the part that newcomers never really understand, even if they have the means of researching some of the competitions and double-crosses, the incomplete schemes, and sudden wealth of some. The granddaughter of T.E. Scriver was determined that her family not be subjected to the raking that the Sherburnes continue to receive, so she took all the records of the Browning Merc out to the burning barrel. (The actual Browning Merc burned down during the big Scriver Artifact Sale to Edmonton in 1990 -- the artifact collection itself has been partly dispersed. What remains of the Sherburne papers are in the Mike Mansfield Library in Missoula. The Sherburne Artifact Collection went to Gonzaga and is now at Cowles-Cheney Museum. It is also partly dispersed.)

1929 was evidently a watershed year. That was when the footprints of the last sign-talkers were recorded in bronze -- you can stand in them now in a circle in front of the Museum of the Plains Indian. A silent movie of the signing was also made. Adrien Voisin, a Paris-educated sculptor whose wife was a sign-talker, was on the reservation and her father was employed here. Voisin worked with John Clarke, the deaf-mute wood-carver grandson of Malcolm Clarke, creating John’s bust and busts of a dozen other old-time Blackft. They are in the Denver Art Museum.

One wonders what would have happened if the Depression had not struck. Bob Scriver was in high school through those years and had very little consciousness of it. “Everyone was already poor and living off the federal government,” he said.

1911 - 1920

1911:  McFatridge is the new agent. He, his wife and his son are called “The father, son and Holy Terror.” 9,000 outsiders’ cattle remain and McFatridge asks to throw them off. (Part of the problem these agents have is that they are “remote-controlled” by higher authorities.) His reservation doctors quit, so he ends up treating tuberculosis, trachoma, and VD himself. Rev. R.A. Riggin, the Methodist missionary, is running cattle instead of doing mission work, so he is assessed $1,700 in fees and pays half that. There is constant wrestling with the Conrad Investment Company and the Conrad-Valier Water Company over water rights. The cost of the rez irrigation systems is charged against the assets of the tribe, a million dollar burden. The Indian Office gave Great Northern a right-of-way for a wagon road from Midvale to the Glacier Park entrance as well as timber and gravel. Congress approved the Great Northern to build hotels and take land from townsites for $30 an acre. McFatridge first valued them at $90, but was clued in by the Indian Office and made adjustment downward.

1912: Reservation allotted to individuals via the Dawes Act.   Blackfeet reservation-wide survey on land. Cattle rustling still a major problem. McFatridge formed “The Blackfeet Stock Protective Association.” The reservation fence was taken down and sold. Rocky Boy’s Chippewa had been allotted Blackft land, but showed little enthusiasm and instead were given Ft. Assiniboine’s abandoned land. Robert J. Hamilton, a half-breed who had been adopted by A.B. Hamilton, a Fort Whoop-Up whiskey trader, led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to complain that the old people were starving, the tribal council was being run by the agent, and the Blackft water rights had been stolen. (Hamilton built a career on representing the old-time full-bloods who could not speak English.) McFatridge’s son, Leslie, had threatened S.E. Selecman, the Browning Public School principal, who thrashed him. From then on it was war between the agent and the principal. Selecman had to go to court to keep his job.

1913: T.E. Scriver, now an American citizen, buys Willets out of Willets share of the Browning Mercantile. The Great Northern railroad had stumpage fees for their new road waived.

1914: Dealing with “surplus” lands (unalloted) becomes an issue. McFatridge has his own committee which includes James Perrine, Levi Burd, Malcolm Clarke, and Charles Buck. (Relatively assimilated mixed bloods.) The only land being farmed by irrigation was a thirty-acre demo plot on Seville Flats, toward Cut Bank. Wolf Tail is the Chair of the Tribal Council and James Perrine is the secretary. Perrine says that only half-breeds of proven competence (i.e. like himself) should get their allotments and that the irrigation project should be shut down. The Blackfeet want to reserve the mineral rights, but the Indian Office tries to assure them there are no minerals except low grade coal. Now McFatridge is willing to allow outside cattle (Rocky Creek Ranch Company, which is C. B. Power and friends -- C.B. is the son of T.C.) as many as 20,000 head. At the time the Blackft owned 12,000 cows and 9,000 horses. Indians with allotments were leasing them to white ranchers. Many complain that the elderly full bloods around Heart Butte are starving. White Antelope leads a group of 200 full-bloods who complain of agent corruption. Elsie Newton, sent to investigate morals, reports six or eight polygamous families, adultery, prostitution and “two flourishing churches.” (Methodist and Catholic probably, but maybe she means Methodist and Presbyterian, as both had missionaries in place.) She thought the whites were as immoral as the Indians. Other inspectors from the government find McFatridge in chaos, Cut Bank Boarding School a tragedy, and the stock and land allotments confused if not unfairly distributed on purpose. They recommend the agent be removed.

1915: McFatridge is dismissed and runs off to Canada with $1200. C.L. Ellis takes charge. A million dollars has been spent on irrigation projects that are not used. Some were badly made and others are in disrepair. All this cost was handled as liens on the allotments. The Indians are collectively in debt to Indian traders for $115,000 and the agent feels they are overcharged anyway. Everyone is after the “surplus” lands, the lands unassigned after the Dawes Act. A tribal herd (as opposed to cattle distributed to individuals) includes 1200 head but is in danger from rustlers and other attrition. 90% of the full bloods have trachoma and 75% have tuberculosis. Over 1,000 are on rations including some of Rocky Boy’s band who didn’t leave. McFatridge has failed to register the tribal brand with the state. The allotment boundary markers are missing and must be resurveyed.

1916: Standard Oil of Ohio requests a blanket lease for oil and gas. Sampson Bird and Hamilton go to Washington but don’t get permission.

1917: Mountain Chief is told Washington is still consideriing the oil lease. There are 35,000 head of cattle on the reservation, excluding the tribal herd, but nine-tenths of them are owned by thirty families. By now allotments have been approved and patented and some half-breeds are mortgaging their land to make profits on the war-driven meat prices. The full bloods are making money from hay. Thomas Ferris is briefly the acting agent.

1918: A quick succession of superintendents includes Wadsworth, F.C. Campbell, and Harvey O. Power, who is dismissed for offences. Four years of severe drought. Tribal herd is up to 6,000 head. Stuart Hazlett, the lease clerk, conspires to strip people of their land by improperly certifying them. Sherburne Mercantile (a corporation) ends up with 40,000 acres that have been improperly allotted to incompetent and in-debt Indians. Livestock on the res numbers 65,000 cattle, 25,000 horses and 5,000 sheep. There are worries about overgrazing. The sawmill is in disrepair and borer beetles are killing trees. There is a forest guard now. Dr. George Martin is a reputed morphine addict.

1919: Dec. 1 election to see whether Cut Bank or Browning should be the county seat of Glacier County. Many stories about how Cut Bank managed to capture the honor. Power is ejected. The Agency staff is openly drunk. Horace Wilson is superintendent. He shows up drunk on the Navajo reservation in the middle of prohibition, shows up at a hearing about illegal liquor on the rez -- drunk himself. There are few internal fences, so stock wanders and trespasses. Tribal herd estimated at 4,000. John Hall handled the sales and shipment that year.

1920: The mismanaged tribal herd is finally disposed of, at a loss. Wilson and Snell, project manager from the Reclamation Bureau, are pushing more irrigation projects. They call a meeting, take minutes of what they say to each other, and send it up the chain of command as what the people want. The only people on the rez doing a good job of irrigation farming are the Jesuits -- and they haven’t paid anything for the water.

The chronology has now met the beginning point of Paul Rosier’s book, “Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912 - 1954” which is currently being remaindered by Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. (The website is or The latter accepts credit cards.) Rosier’s is a dense, hard-to-read book but I’ll try to post notes from it later. It certainly rewards effort. The GOOD news is that everyone goes on trying and trying to make the reservation work, maybe for selfish reasons, but inching bit by bit towards success.

The bad news is that in 2005 the irrigation system still has problems.

1902 - 1910

1902: “Great Falls Tribune” headline: “Piegan Indians in Open Revolt.” Monteath threatens to arrest White Calf, whereupon the Indian police all quit and Little Dog comes to the agency office to say that if he dares to do such a thing, Monteath will be bound with ropes and thrown in front of the next train. Blackfeet population is estimated at 2,084 with 50 births and 33 deaths. (This is the first time for a long time that births have exceeded deaths.) Cattle are at 10,000 (with 4,000 calves) and horses at over 22,000. Mike Connelly is one of the Montana stockmen running cows on the rez. The entire focus is on farming and much attention is given to irrigation and water rights. This is a flood year, washing out 75% of the seeds. 64 kids attend the Jesuit school at Holy Family and 57 go to the deplorable Willow Creek School run by the agency. Monteath blames his troubles on half-breeds, especially Joe Kipp, Maggie Wetzel (who married Joe Kipp) and Horace Clarke. He wants them confined to a separate reservation or removed completely.

1903: Old White Calf dies. He is the last of the head chiefs. A formal tribal council is organized. Joe Kipp and Horace Clark are on it, plus seven older full-bloods. By now the ration roll is cut down from 2,100 to 550. Cattle have gone from 19,709 to 19,090. Monteath is complaining about Horace and Helen Clarke (siblings) and Horace is banned from the reservation, though he’s on the tribal council. There is an outbreak of mange among the cattle.

1904: Through a lease for cattle grazing, the Conrad Investment Company manages to divert water from Birch Creek. (Valier, where I live, grew up alongside the irrigation reservoir, now called “Lake Frances.”) Ration roll cut to less than 100. This is a drought year and gardens fail. Grass is dried up. The north and south boundary fences are finished. Rev. Matson, who had run the Willow Creek mission for ten years, dies. Grazing permit system begins. Daniel Floweree brings 7,000 cattle in. Hugh Denson gets thrown off, as an example. J. H. Sherburne, W.C. Broadwater, and Simon Pepin are in business around the town square, though the latter partnership is denied permits at first. T.E. Scriver has arrived as a clerk for Sherburne.

1905: A list of stock on the reservation shows 12,000 Blackfeet horses, 1,200 cattle owned by the Agency traders, 300 cows belong to the Jesuits at the Holy Family Mission, and enough others to total 42,464. Most of these are “lease” or “permit” cattle which the fence built to keep them out are now being kept in by it. Charles Conrad’s heirs claim he is due $30,000 for helping with negotiations in 1896.

1906: James Jensen comes as acting agent, then Captain J.Z. Dare. He discovers that the Indians are having to pay the same grazing fees on the rez as the white cattlemen are. Dare lets Horace Clarke come back. Floweree, Pepin, and Broadwater all expand their grazing permits. The drought continues and overgrazing begins to be evident. ‘06-’07 was a bad winter and much stock was lost. Floweree wanted a 40% rebate on his permit.

1907: The Blackfeet ask Dare, who asks Washington, whether there isn’t a “Big Claim.” This idea is traced back to Agent Baldwin, but the government denies any claims at all. The Blackfeet win the case over water with the Conrad Investment Company. 1907-08 turns out to be another rough winter. Montanans succeeded in getting “allotments” on the reservation, which they equated with it being opened for exploitation. (Dawes Act meant that instead of the tribe holding the land communally, it would be divided up and assigned to individuals -- with a good bit left over for sale to outsiders.) In the end allotment takes ten years and requires Congressional intervention to solve the scramble over oil and mineral lands. It turns out Dare had not been properly putting Tribal money in the Tribal fund. Rather he has been putting it into the United States account. There is no way to trace the lost money. Lebreche is encouraged to sell all his cattle and buy a much-needed sawmill, but once he has it, the government prohibits him from using it. Willits and Scriver begin what became the Browning Mercantile.

1908: James Sanders briefly acts as agent and then C.A. Churchill comes. Churchill gets into a fracas with Broadwater, who allowed several thousand sheep to graze on the rez through his job as Stockyard Manager for the Great Northern. Churchill is depositing stock permit money in his personal account. He divides the rez into districts and tries to control the removal of cattle, but Floweree defies him. Churchill points out that the money brought in by permits is at least balanced by amount of damage (overgrazing and diseases) and informal rustling that goes on, so there is little or no profit. Churchill’s daughter, Eula, marries J. L. Sherburne, the son of J. H. Sherburne.

1910: US Census counts 2,268 Blackft on the rez. Complaints that traders are overcharging or have a number of different prices, depending on who is asking. Hints that Churchill uses his position as agent to pressure those who don’t pay their trading bills. 150 Rocky Boy Chippewa are dumped on the rez. They have no place to go.

These events are recent enough that I’ve known some of these people and taught their descendants -- almost always with braided-together heritages of white and Indian, though carrying names familiar from these tales. T.E. Scriver, my father-in-law, didn’t talk about political matters or even economic matters from those times. What he remembered were high times and bright prospects, everyone feeling that they were poised on the edge of oil strikes, with an expanding town, and a new century of progress. People believed in progress, often industrial -- like the railroad.

They were young. The “media” were an eight page newspaper and the telegraph. Roads anywhere were nearly impassable unless conditions were just right, but most people still depended on horses anyway. The reservation was an intense microcosm where everyone knew everyone else.

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.


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.

1870 - 1884

1870: Baker Massacre. A pre-emptive strike is urged against Mountain Chief by Lt. Col. Alfred Sully, now Superintendent of Indian Affairs and charged with stopping the whiskey trade. At the same time General Sheridan had “initiated a campaign” against the Blackft through orders to General Philip de Trobriand, the commander at Fort Shaw. He sent Colonel E.M Baker to intercept Mountain Chief and keep him from escaping into Canada. Instead Baker mistakenly struck the Heavyrunner band. Heavyrunner was a “peace” chief. 37 lodges. 173 Blackft killed. 140 captured. Lt. William Pease, Indian Agent for the Gros Ventre, reported only 15 of the dead were men of fighting age. The rest were old men and women except 50 were children under 12. Sully criticized Baker and Baker was removed from his command in September of 1870.

Still in 1870: Blackft reservation assigned to the Methodists. Whiskey trade flourishing. Alfred Healy, Joe Kipp, etc. fronted for Martin Maginnis, Isaac G. Baker, Charles Conrad, William Conrad, T.C. Power, John Power, C. A. Broadwater, Samuel T. Hauser. R.S. Ford (inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame) illegally drove several thousand head of cattle into the Sun River area. He was not alone. Lemon’s prospectors cross Marias Pass.

1871: More prospectors in Marias Pass. Congress ends treaty-making with Indians as sovereign nations. Hereforward, all covenants will be called “agreements.”

1872: Cattle drives begin to arrive in “Blackfeet territory.” Joshua or Jess Armitage, agent, dismissed for drunkenness. William Ensign, next agent, dismissed for embezzlement.

1873: Men from Fort Benton massacre Assiniboines in Cypress Hills. Duncan McDonald and some Kalipells cross Marias Pass on snowshoes that winter. Executive order moves the boundary of Blackft lands to the Sun River. Dan Floweree’s ranch was thus made legal. There remained ranchers farther north on what was still legally reservation.

1874: Royal Canadian Mounties arrive. Set up supply line to McLeod via Fort Benton. They mean to intercept the booze being supplied by Montana people who move from Fort Benton through the Blackfeet Reservation to Canada. Second boundary survey of the reservation. St. Peter Mission established. Executive order moves reservation boundary to Birch Creek, which opens lands between Sun and Marias Rivers to homesteading. Agency goes to the northern side of Birch Creek, alongside Badger Creek at Running Crane’s place.

1875: Executive order of April 13.   Blackft lose more land. William Ensign replaces John Wood as agent because Wood sides with the Blackft for their land and is criticized by state newspapers.

1870-83: The Methodists had been expected to put money into the Blackft but they make no financial contribution at all. Their agents are not an improvement.

1876: Wm. Veach and prospectors in Glacier. John Young, agent, gives jobs to his sons and daughters and is accused of putting tribal funds in his personal account. Still buffalo to hunt. Old people are the main occupants of the agency. Their rations are supplementary. When Agent John Young arrives, he is appalled by conditions. He is the first to give candy to Indian children at Christmas services after reading the story of the First Christmas. He has a special concern for education. His daughters are put on the payroll as teachers.

1877: The Nez Perce exodus. U.S. scraps the Sioux Treaty of 1868 but this isn’t ratified by the tribe. Broadwater’s commodity goods are rejected as not good enough.

1879: Duncan McDonald, railroad man, crosses Marias Pass with a party. Fort Assiniboine is established. Lower court rules in the case of Standing Bear vs. Crook that an individual Indian has the same constitutional rights as a non-Indian. On Sept. 8 the first formal education begins at St. Peter’s mission on Sun River.

1880: Decision of Ex Parte Crow Dog establishes federal jurisdiction on the Indian reservations in cases of the seven major crimes: e.g. murder, rape, burglary, et al. Indian police are formed by the BIA. Old Agency on Badger Creek lasts from 1880-95. There is no more hunting north of the border. Serious mange epidemic kills many Blackft horses.

1881: Serious decline in the number of buffalo. Young asks for more food. Kipp is operating from Robaire. T.C. Power fails to deliver flour in full.

1882: Common knowledge that the buffalo are about gone. Bloods and N. Blackfoot from Canada are coming south in search of buffalo. Whitecalf is baptised by Father Prando. 1,600 Blackft are near the agency. The nomadic days are ending. Young is trying to get trespassing cattle off the rez, trying to buy more beef, and is accused of mismanagement by the government inspector. Young asks that no more money be put into goods -- just food. The people are starving. Four Blackfeet arrested for killing white man’s cattle.

1883: In February Young says his people are starving and the local cattlemen will not sell him beef. In April he tells the Indians to go ahead and eat any cattle on the rez. He is indicted by a grand jury for this. He is 72 years old, but the cattlemen accuse him of “keeping a Harem of young Indian girls.” Chair of the jury is William Conrad. His Circle outfit is running over 12,000 head of cattle on the rez without paying any fees. T.C. Power defends Young. He has the transportation contract for the annuity goods, which got destroyed this year in a steamboat fire. All wild game is gone. Inspectors and military confirm Blackft deaths by starvation.

1884: No more buffalo. Severe winter. 600 died. Blackfeet disarmed and living on meager and unfit rations. Many dead laid in the snow. Caskets charged to annuities. Some say the unsuccessful hunts of this November mark the end of Blackfeet culture.

Now we’re past Afghanistan and talking about the equivalent of famine in Somalia, except that these are American citizens on American soil in the presence of American beef. Now we’re talking hard-core genocide. Doubters should read John C. Ewers’ “The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains,” pages 290 to 296. Keep in mind that Ewers is a conservative man who often tactfully understates the case. The only reason he can offer for the Blackft not attacking the nearby whites is that the “shock and awe” campaign of the Massacre on the Marias by Baker was all too effective.

1839 - 1870

1839: Kutenai War

1840: DeSmet visits the Small Robes Band of Blackft.

1841: DeSmet founds St. Mary Mission in Bitterroot Valley. Point and Manuel visit the Blackft. December 25 the first five Blackft are baptized by Father DeSmet.

1844: Harvey et al massacred Blackft at Piegan post and ruined trade. 50 lodges of Small robe band destroyed by invasion of Crow. 160 women and children captured. Small Robes down to 20 lodges. Smallpox strikes again.

1845: Culbertson makes a new peace with the Blackft. Monroe camps with the Kutenai at St. Mary. DeSmet approaches Waterton/Glacier area from the north.

1846: DeSmet and Point (Jesuit missionaries) visit Piegan. Jesuit map made. Chief Victor (Flathead) helps the Small Robes (now 12 lodges) defeat a superior force of Crow in retaliation for 1944. In September 2,000 lodges of Blackft, Blood, North Blackft, Gros Ventre, Flathead, Nez Perce attend a mass by Father DeSmet. All wish to learn the “Black Robe” medicine.

1847: Fort Benton is built. Paul Kane hears the Big Horn battle story.

1849: BIA transferred from the War Department to the newly formed Department of the Interior. Blackft wipe out a 52-man Assiniboine horse raiding party.

1850: Treaty. Negotiations begun by Isaac Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory, to provide for a transcontinental railroad route. One outcome considered is moving the Blackfeet off their reservation. Alfred Cumming, head of the Central Indian Affairs Superintendency in St. Louis, came to incorporate the Blackft and Gros Ventre into the “Peace of the Plains” becaues they were not in Fort Laramie in 1851 when the others signed. Part of this treaty was the allotment of $15,000 for the instruction of Indians in proper agricultural skills. Annuity goods delivered through the Chouteau Company (successor to the American Fur Company).

1851: Cholera epidemic on the upper Missouri. Laramie Treaty Council defines the hunting grounds of the various plains Indians.

1853: Isaac Stevens meets with the Blackft to prepare a treaty. He remarks that the “quantity of buffaloes is unbelieveable.”

1854: Lieutenant Doty and Monroe explore eastern Glacier Park area. Crow forego Laramie Treaty annuities for fear of the Blackft. 

1855: Isaac Stevens makes Judith Treaty (AKA “Lame Bull Treaty”). $15,000 gift. First treaty between Blackft and U.S. Government. No more Small Robes band left.

1856: Edwin Hatch appointed first agent for the Blackfeet Agency. He was present for five out of the next nine months.

1856: Lame Bull, chief signer of the Judith Treaty, is killed when his horse is run over by a large bull during a hunt.

1857: “The Slipping Year.” Area is covered with ice. Agent Vaughn establishes the Sun River Farm. Alfred Vaughn came as a replacement. He was married to an Indian and had worked for the Office of Indian Affairs for fifteen years. Complained constantly to the government about the quality of annuity goods. Smallpox strikes again.

1858: Thomas Blakiston explores Waterton and northern Glacier. Estimate 7,000 Blackft.

1859: Jesuits accept Alfred J. Vaughn’s invitation to build a mission among the Blackft.

1860: Boundaries of the reservation surveyed. Bull Society (for the big powerful men) dies out. First steamship makes it to For Benton.

1861: Henry Reed is the next agent. Described as “weak and inept.” That same year the Blackft annuities supposedly burned with the steamboat Chippewa. Chouteau offered to replace them from his own stock. Reed put Malcolm Clarke in charge of the problem. Suggestions of graft.

1862: The Mullan Road is in progress. The annuities came with no proper bills of lading and 20 boxes were missing.

1863: Reed goes home to Iowa. 18-month gap with no agent. James Vail is the supervising farmer, evidently not a good one. There is an eclipse in summer. Smallpox again.

1864: Montana Territory created. Gad E. Upson is next agent. He is inexperienced and into private mining. Whiskey trade booming. Goods arrived late, damaged and incomplete. Vail is still hired.

1865: Meagher attempts unauthorized treaty with Blackft which precipitates hostilities at Fort Benton. Fighting between Blackfeet and white settlers. Another reservation push-back of boundaries: never ratified, signed by a minor chief passing by. Residents of Fort Benton, where the agency is, attack Bloods who retaliate against woodcutters. (They sold the wood to steamships.) Upson negotiated a treaty, but died on the way to Washington, D.C. Deputy Agent Hirum Upham became a clerk to Indian Trader T.C. Power & Co. Whiskey trade flourishes.

1866: Little Dog and son assassinated. George B. Wright becomes agent. He rents warehouse space from William J. Clarke, a business partner of the late Gad Upson. Wright does a lot of traveling. He is accused of selling annuity goods.

1861 to 1866: War between Blackft and Gros Ventre, who are now starving.

1887: Acting governor Thomas Francis Meagher issues a proclamation for volunteers to join the war against the Blackft. Idea terminated when Meagher takes a dive in the night from a steamboat at Fort Benton and is never seen again. (For a novelized biography of the fiery Irish Meagher, try “The Exile” by Richard S. Wheeler.) The new governor, Green Clay Smith, is ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Montana. He asks for the Indian goods money in cash to his own account, but can’t keep track of it. Uses Indian money to pay his own debts and gambles some of it. Agency is moved to Teton river and then Milk River. Special Agent Nathaniel Pope finds the situation corrupt and recommends reform.

1868: Sioux Treaty of 1868 gives the Teton Sioux the Black Hills. Special Agent William J. Cullen recommends reform.

1869: First rebellion of Riel in Canada. Prospectors are arriving. Three Persons Agency is established at Choteau and headquarters are moved there. Site picked by chiefs. (Now marked with huge stones. An excellent video of kids visiting the site is available through Piegan Institute, PO Box 909, Browning, MT. 59417)

1869-70: Years of hunger and smallpox, violence and whiskey trade. Much interference from the “merchant princes” I.G. Baker and T.C. Power.

1870: The "Baker" Massacre

The whole situation cries out for comparison with today’s Afghanistan and Iraq.  If you're doing original research, some records are in Helena.

  • Bibliographic Information

    Blackfeet Agency records, 1856-1857
    United States. Office of Indian Affairs. Blackfeet Agency.
    This collection consists of Blackfeet Indian agency annual reports (1856-1857, 1879) by E. A. C. Hatch, Alfred Vaughn, and John Young; and a letter (March 24, 1874) from agent R. F. May to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, opposing a change in reservation boundaries. [1857 report is handwritten; 1856 and 1879 reports are typed transcripts]
    Item info:
    1 copy at Montana Historical Society Research Center.


TIME-LINE 1806 - 1837

1806: Captain Lewis and companions skirmish on the Marias after leaving Camp Disappointment at the junction of the Two Medicine and Badger Creek. He-That-Looks-at-the-Calf and another are shot.

1806: John Colter makes his famous stripped “race for life.”

1808: Finan McDonald builds a post at Kutenai Falls.

1809: David Thompson founds a post at Thompson Falls, visits Flathead Lake. Henry submits a population count: Piegan, 350 lodges and 700 warriors; Blackfoot, 200 lodges and 520 warriors; Blood, 100 lodges and 200 warriors. Whites in trading posts: 200.

1810: Thompson sends McDonald, Michel Bourdeaux and Batiste Boucher with many Indians over Marias Pass. They battle the Blackfeet near Skyland Siding on Bear Creek. Andrew Henry and Pierre Menard are driven out of Three Forks by Blackft. Joseph Howse may have post near present Kalispell. Blackft have first contact with US Soldiers. Robert Stewart skirts Blackft territory and charts the Oregon Trail.

1811: Empty Kutenai lodges still standing near Rocky Mountain House.

1818: 49th parallel becomes US/Canada border.

1820: Hugh Monroe is living with the Blackfeet.

1823: Blackfeet attack Henry near Great Falls.

1828: Kenneth McKenzie and James Kipp found Fort Union.

1830: McKenzie sends Jacob Berger to win over Blackft for trade. Berger meets Blackft on Badger Creek. Blackft agree to traders but NOT trappers. Worcester vs. Georgia: U.S. Supreme Court rules Indian tribes must be recognized as foreign nations with the right to govern their own internal affairs. Severe winter. Many Blackft perish and the warriors go on the warpath the next summer to capture women and children to recoup losses.

1831: McKenzie arranges a peace between Blackft and Assiniboine.

1832: First steamboat reaches Fort Union, bringing George Catlin, who says the Blackft are “perhaps the most powerful tribe on the continent: 16,500 people.”

1833: Prince Maximilian and Alexander Culbertson arrive upriver. Maximilian estimates 18,000 to 20,000 Blackfeet. A MAJOR meteor shower, taken as bad luck. On August 28, 600 Sioux and Assiniboine attack 20 Blackft lodges outside Fort MacKenzie. Bodmer witnesses and depicts it. Blackft push Sioux and Assiniboine back to the Marias River and east past the Bear’s Paw. There is a total eclipse of the sun.

1834: Bureau of Indian Affairs is formed in the War Department. First government official designated to meet with the Blackft. Fort McKenzie lists their intake thus: 9,000 buffalo hides; 1,020 beaver; 180 wolf; 19 bear; 390 buffalo tongues; 40 otter; 2,800 muskrat; 200 red fox; 1,500 prairie dogs.

1836: Hugh Monroe sees the St. Mary Lakes. Smallpox pandemic along the Missouri. Mandan exterminated. Pikuni Blkft suffer grave losses. 6,000 Blood and North Blackfeet perish. Estimated 7 - 12 thousand Blackft perish in the U.S. No life from Fort Benton to Three Forks. Horses and dogs dead. Some evidence of deliberate infection.

1837: Smallpox in Blackft and all tribes north of the Sioux. Caused by clothes infected with smallpox. Alfred Jacob Miller estimated forty to fifty trappers killed by the Blackft. Americans blame the British for inciting killings.

By now trappers, traders, adventurers and artists are milling around in Blackft country, infecting the locals with deadly disease. The modern parallel might be Africa or South American frontiers where humans act as vectors, both carrying disease in and carrying them out. HIV/AIDS is the long slow modern pandemic and Ebola Fever is the disease so violent that it usually kills the vectors before they can pass it on. Smallpox was in between.

It’s clear that though at first whites didn’t think of infecting Indians deliberately, they soon realized the potential, and though Lewis & Clark carried smallpox vaccine with them, they didn’t vaccinate enough people to do much good. Of course, it is widely speculated that syphillis caught in the NW killed Lewis and the others except Clark.  They had thought it was safe to seek a little comfort since they were so far from whites -- but it hadn’t occurred to them that sailors had been accessing the Pacific Coast for a long time and he wasn’t so far from that coast. (A fictionalized history of Lewis’ fate is “Eclipse: A Novel of Lewis and Clark” by Richard Wheeler, Forge, 0-312-87846-X.) When explorers start out nowadays, they take a lot of condoms.

Long, long ago I took a history class in which the professor gave us some pointers on how to read journals and other sequential document records of chronological events. What he pointed out was that even the gaps will tell you something. There is one conscientious accounting of births and deaths in Europe that comes to a thirty year blank. Puzzling until you realize that the gap covers the Black Plague pandemic that decimated Europe. It was brought back from Mongolia by the silk trader caravans -- Marco Polo and all that. What’s amazing that the recording book starts back up again.

Lately I’ve been seeing reinterpretations of the European plague as a kind of social harrowing that broke up rigid controls by small kingdoms and religious orders. New religious orders appeared. (The Cistercians formed at this time to put land back into crops and always built their monasteries right on top of mountain streams so that they could channel clean water in and filth out. A rigorous bunch.) There is even the suggestion that the plague indirectly caused the Renaissance by making people anxious to find new ways, to learn new things. It took a century or so to flower.

A Blackft renaissance may be on the way now. It doesn’t happen overnight. One of the most interesting phenomena is that so many youngsters see the value of college and their goal, when they finish school, is to return to the reservation to help their people. It’s not lip service. They’re doing it. Some did it twenty years ago. They don’t make a big fuss -- they just get to work.