September 22, 1947
The Blackfeet 50 Years Ago
Edith V. Murphy, Cavelo, CA
By passing on the Browning Chief to Omar Bates of Covelo, CA, I discovered that his first assignment in the US Indian Service had been at Browning, MT, about 1896. Mr. Bates was then about 25 years old and spent a year and a half at the Boarding School about 5 miles out from Browning at Willow Creek as disciplinarian. He would be called advisor now. His duties were to supervise the conflicts and work of the boys and to see that they were neatly and suitably dressed at all times.
There were about 150 children at the Boarding School, more girls than boys. The US Indian Agent was Major Steele. Mr. Matson was the school superintendent and Horace Johnson the principal-teacher. There were about 12 women employees, seamstresses, laundress, nurse, housekeeper, cooks, etc. There was an officers’ mess at which all ate.
At that time there was no hotel in Browning, no bank, no highway, no service stations. Mail came daily by train. There was a Methodist mission and also a Catholic one, the Holy Family. The Methodist minister was named Mr. Dutcher.
Browning then had a population of 125. All the whites were employees of the government. Joe Kipp had the only store, a trading post.
There were very few health problems at that time. Indians were just beginning to leave tepees for small houses with no ventilation and no provision for the escape of smoke, as it in the tepees. They were well-nourished as yet. Beef was issued regularly in amounts commensurate with the size of the families. There was very little eye trouble. TB did not make its inroads until later.
Among the names remembered as pupils was one girl, Mabel Two Guns. Among the boys Owen Heavy Breast, who learned English very fast; Richard Calf Robe, John Calf Tail, Charlie Under Bull, Charlie Many White Horses, Percy Bullchild, Walter Mountain Chief, Jimmy Little Plume, running Crane and Apikuni’s son, Hart Schultz. All these boys were 12 to 16 years of age. There was a Len (?) Burd.
Fish nor fowl was not liked by these people. The buffalo were gone. Their way of life was slowly changing.
Many amusing tales are recalled. It used to be said that the left wing of Price’s Confederate Army was settled in Montana. There was an old veteran, Goss, who bragged that no Indian ever lived that could slip up on him. He took his team and the running gear of his wagon and went out to haul poles. Out on the prairie where there was no shelter whatever, he looked around and there sat an Indian on the back end of the gear.
George Bird Grinnell killed a grizzly bear and wanted to make it seem as large as possible. So some willow withes were cut and inserted in the stretched hide. The hide split right down the back.
Eddie Double Runner was the night watch at the Boarding School. Dick Sanderville was the official interpreter. He always wore a gray suit. There were 35 policemen employed. These were to keep the Crees and Bloods back on their own (Canadian) side of the border, as they wanted to share in rations, blankets, etc. Older women and men wore blankets habitually. Their heavy braids and the elk teeth trimmings on costumes were very noticeable.
The big celebration of the year began about July 1st when all Indians came in and made their main camp northeast of the Agency in a circle. There were no canvas tepees at this time. All were cowhide or buffalo hide and were variously ornamented. One year Chief Crow won the prize for his teepee, which was very large, of buffalo hide, light in color and handsomely painted in crow and other designs.
The wealth of the Blackfeet was shown in the number of his horses and wives. Some men must have had at least 250 horses -- no tally on wives.
The grass was eaten off for 15 miles around the Agency. On 4th of July occurred the two big parades -- the horse parade and the costume parade. In the horse parade the Indian rider rode in the band of his outfit, his family dressed in their best and horses, too, all looking their best. Women and children acted as outriders. As they passed the grandstand in close formation, it was an eighth of a mile before the next band came on.
Many White Horses took the grand prize for his horse herd. They were all white or gray. He led out riding a great white stallion. A man usually kept to one color -- black, brown, gray, or white, not spotted as in Wyoming and Idaho.
The whole celebration was really a horse show as the costume parade was a mounted parade, too. Any one of those horses would make an excellent saddle horse by today’s standards.
There was horse racing all day long. In their rodeo was the best riding ever seen. No saddle or bridle -- bareback with rope around the horse’s jaw. There were no chutes. Horses were roped and mounted in a corral and were ridden until they quite bucking.
Gambling was continuous in the camps. Cards, but the favorite game was the old shill game, under which moccasin is the little shell.
There was much singing and dancing at night. It had been a hard winter and this was a real celebration.
The costume parade was as important as the horse parade to show possessions and pride of wealth. Handsome feathers, bead and shell and elk tooth decoration on buckskin. These are the tallest, handsomest Indians in the US and they wear their costumes well.
The climax of the celebration was the sundance and the medicine lodge held in the circle of tepees. Streamers of bright cloth, medicine rattles of rawhide, sweetgrass, sagebrush, etc. were attached to the medicine pole.
September 26, 1947
Loving Tribute Paid Venerable Indian, Wades
Services for the late Wades-in-the-Water, venerable Blackfeet who died at the local hospital last Saturday, were held at the Little Flower Church Tuesday at 2PM with Rev. Fr. Gerner officiating. Arrangements were in charge of the Beck Funeral Home. Active pallbearers were J.L. Sherburne, Harold Hanneman, Joe Ironpipe, Theodore Last Star and Reuben Black Boy of Browning and Wilbur Werner. Honorary pallbearers, token of the departed’s wealth of devoted friendships, included citizens in various walks of life in this and neighboring communities as well as in various cities in Montana and the country at large. Wades-in-the-Water, a full-blood Blackfeet, attained the age of 76. He was the son of the late Running Crane, one of the last official chiefs of the Blackfeet Tribe. A man of courage, with character as firm as was the environs that molded him as a child of Nature, he was regarded higihly by all who knew him. At the grave service in the Browning Catholic Cemetary, a beautiful tribute was paid the departed by an admiring friend, Warren L. O’Hara, superintendent of the Blackfeet Agency.
Oct. 31, 1947
Dr. Schaffer arrives to take over the Museum of the Plains Indian. BA in anthro from the U of Washington, then post-grad at Yale, PhD at U of Pennsylvania.
Nov 7, 1947
Robbery of DeVoe’s and then Starbucks drugstore. Got $2500 at the latter. Marshall Boyd shot to death by “Rowe” who was an escaped con from Minnesota.
Dec. 26, 1947
John McKay wins a second car at the Altar Society Bazaar!