Saturday, May 06, 2006


In 1967 Adolf Hungry Wolf showed up at Indian Days in Browning, Montana, with a white wife and an armored car converted to a camper. I hasten to say, in my white man’s competitive way, that I got here earlier (1961) encumbered only by the trunk that my father before me took to the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and about fifty whiskey boxes packed with books. Now I’ll shut up about me, because this is about Adolf.

Over the years many napi-kwans (white people) have come to Browning both to take and to give, but none have been quite like Adolf. Born in Austria, his birth name is hard to spell and can only be pronounced properly by people like Mary Eggermont-Molenar, translator of “Montana, 1911.” But unlike Uhlenbeck, the Dutch linguist who came to study for two summers, Adolf took on the life of the Blackfeet -- the 19th century Blackfeet at that. Remarrying to Beverly Little Bear Hungry Wolf (also an author and educator), they raised a family in a lodge -- not a hunting lodge but a real tipi. He’s one of the few napi-kwans to really learn to speak Blackfoot (It’s said singular on the Canadian side.) and to sing the old songs. He became a Bundle Keeper in the early days before the Neo-Traditionalists realized what they were. Of course, though he didn’t become Siksika (the Blackfoot name for their nation) he is now the father of more than a few of them. To do this, he has paid a high price in energy, emotion, and economic hardship.

But he never surrendered some of his Austrian qualities and training: high standards of historical scholarship, relentless research, tenacity, a certain stick-game attitude of mischief, and conservation of collections. He has supported his family by self-publishing and professionally publishing a whole tribe of books about the Piegan or Pikuunni (same thing) based on his research and acquisitions, which included more than 2,000 photographs -- each of which he showed to tribal elders to get good descriptions. The early books were locally printed, stapled together, and mailed out by the family. You can pick them up on Amazon or through the usual used book resources. Not very expensive.

Now comes something entirely new, a real jump in both Hungry Wolf’s production and in what is available in terms of Siksika research. Four big volumes, each packed with information acquired over a long period of time and checked by authoritative Siksika elders -- lots of stuff you can trust about the undivided nation that is located on both sides of the 49th parallel. I assume it is mostly 19th Century material.

Volume One: “Pikuunni History and and Culture” $70
Volume Two: “Pikuunni Ceremonial Life” $75
Volume Three: “Pikuunni Portfolio” $65
Volume Four: “Pikuunni Biographies” $95

These are available on the USA side only through the Blackfeet Heritage Center at 406-338-5661. The information is not posted on their website yet: I personally will call my bank for a loan on Monday and then drive up to get all four books. They are that significant. Any student of the Blackfeet, academic or not, would be a fool not to buy them before they’re all gone.

Adolf’s courage and imagination have allowed him to exist in a space he had to invent -- not just between Siksika and Napi-kwan, but also between institutional and personal. The academic world has been a strangling and strangled force, imposing outside values on inside cultures, so that anthropologists and linguists come only for a season and then are dependent on committees to recognize and publish their work -- often committees hostile or deaf to the work they have done or more concerned about budget than knowledge. Before the professors got here, it was the missionaries who at least tried to learn the language before they blindly set about extinguishing it along with its culture. Adolf is an “assimilated anthropologist,” who became what he studied, sometimes baffling enrolled Pikuunni who were struggling to go the other way: figure out the Napi-kwan and enter their economic world.

Naturally, this kicked up a lot of emotions and reactions among a broad spectrum of people. Some thought he was a nut, some thought he was a thief, some thought he was absolutely stone cold sincere. I’ve been converted to the last position.

Adolf never pretended to be a born Indian, though he wore braids and ribbon shirts. He never charged Germans thousands of dollars in order to include them in elaborate ceremonies. He never did a Sioux-style Sun Lodge complete with fasting and piercings. He never blathered on about "spirituality." Lots of others with his interests DID do all this and in the process moved many Holy Objects out of the Siksika world, let the ceremonies relax, and slipped around behind the scenes to make deals. (Well, maybe Adolf did a little of that last.)

When one goes into archives across the continent with the intent to study Pikuunni materials, maybe hoping to find something previously unknown, when you get the check-out card you find out Adolf was already there.

Just let me put this bug in your ear that’s about Bob Scriver, who built the building that now houses the Blackfeet Heritage Center. Before he sold his collection of Blackfeet artifacts to the Edmonton Royal Museum, thinking they would be protected there, he paid Marshall Noice -- a very fine photographer -- to photograph every object. His thought was that everyone could buy the book for $65 or at least go look at it in the library. Those self-published books now sell for $800. ("The Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains".) The collection itself has been partially dispersed.

There is no immortality for things, people or even cultures -- but one can lend them time by making and keeping a record. Bless that Adolf -- on his own terms.


sevenindians said...

Wow, Mary, that was a really amazing review of my old Pops. Thanks, its a pleasure to read something so accurate and concise- and positive for once!
You are a fantastic writer, clearly very knowledgable, and I'll be reading this from now on.

Chief Body said...

Adolf's a krout.

prairie mary said...

"Chief Body" can't even spell.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

a "krout"? vass iss?
not very original, not very correct, and not very brave.
but pretty funny.

Ed said...

Mary, that was really a great "mini-bio" of what I have come to see as a really unique individual. I very truely hope that it wasn't given because Adolf has gone over to the other side! I was still harbouring hopes of somehow meeting him! What a totally fascinating man. Besides, anyone who likes trains can't be all bad! Especially if he owns cabooses!
Thanks again

prairie mary said...

Ed, not to worry. Adolf is alive and quite well. But he's on his way to South America. He'll be back in April. Save your pennies for your own copy of "The Blackfoot Papers."

Prairie Mary

diane said...

It's a trip to stumble (no pun ?)across this article about my brother in law. My sister, Carol is the "white wife" referred to in the beginning. I was about 9 years old when she first brought him home. Before moving to B.C. he was well known in our large town of Long Beach. Definately a bright individual with lots of talent and determination.

prairie mary said...

Diane, I didn't know Carol -- just saw her at Indian Days -- but she seems to have acted gracefully through many surprises. Adolf this week (April 16-20) is in Browning and last night Yellowstone Public Radio broadcast a presentation he made in Missoula last October. I got a couple of things wrong in this post: he's Swiss and that vehicle was not an armored car but a cinema van. He told me without anger.

We knew many of the same old people. He has served them well. His books are wonderful. It was good to see your comment.

Prairie Mary

diane said...

Thank you Mary and you know I kind of wanted to mention that the van was a cinema van ( remember it fondly). I remember Adolph was told that very van ran over one of the many "Lassies" used in that old show...useless trivia if it's true...ha-ha and thank you for your kind reference to my sister.

Anonymous said...

Hi I read a lot about Hungry Wolf.
I am a Kraut actually I come from near his Home town Heidenheim (not Heidelberg) a town on the ""Swabian Alp" South of Germany , pretty in the Middle of the south between Stuttgart and Munich near, but not Bavarian and for sure not Austrian.

We are quite oecologic here.I would be interested in this books, is there any chance how i could get them herein Germany? Anybody could help?

for any info of Hungry Wolf

prairie mary said...

This is the information from Adolf's website, which is

The Good Medicine Cultural Foundation
Box 844
Skookumchuck, B.C. Canada, V0B 2E0

Email; Because I do not have telephone service I can only answer emails when I get to town and a computer. This may take two to three weeks or more depending on trhe time of year.

The best way to reach me at this time is still snail mail to the above box number.

All the best.



Anonymous said...

Let me tell you one thing about this adolf hungry wolf. He is a great man but, he used the blackfoot people to publish books to make money and lots of people dont even like him anyways. Why doesnt he do us all a favour and quiet the bullshit and stop acting like someone your not!!!!!

prairie mary said...

Ordinarily I just delete comments like that of "Anonymous," who doesn't have the courage to give his or her name. But these remarks probably need to be confronted:

1. Adolf is a lot of things and not everyone's cup of tea, but I don't find him to be a phony. He's been the same for fifty years. A person has a right to choose the way they live -- any old Blackfoot would tell you that -- and he has done it completely

2. No Blackfeet has been willing or able to write the books that Adolf has written. Can you begrudge a man a living when he has raised his children well, participated honorably in his community, and recorded material that would have been lost otherwise? His four big books may end up COSTING him money -- publishing is in chaos right now and very few are "getting rich." This is a way to give to everyone what he could have hoarded. I'm proud and glad to have these books and look at them often.

3. When I find out who posts such remarks (and I often DO find out), they almost always come from a coulda/woulda/mighta person who never lifted a finger and is defending his or her OWN self-esteem.

4. The biggest crooks and rip-off artists I know who capitalize on Blackfeet material are at least partly Blackfeet.

Prairie Mary

mel said...

I am so glad to see that Adolph is receiving recognition for the wonderful work that he does, I have had the honor of meeting and working with him and Beverly, they are good people and I love them both. They are only doing their best to preserve what they can so keep up the good work Adolph!!!

star said...

I always have to laugh when I hear someone saying my Dad got rich off the Blackfoot- its a classic cheap comment from someone who obviously doesn't know the first thing about him. If you knew him you would know he has lived for the past 35 years without running water or electricity. He has been paying off a piece of land that will be saved by the nature conservancy for most of that time, raising us kids, settling his divorce and paying for the publishing of his own books (which I hate to break it to you, anonymous, but Blackfoot history is not the best seller you might imagine!! LOL). He is far from rich, money-wise, culturally and spiritually yes, of course.

prairie mary said...

The new Director of the University of Calgary Press, Donna Livingstone, was here in Montana over the weekend. I was happy to commend Adolf HH's work to her. If all the jealous people put that energy into their own writing, we might get somewhere!

Prairie Mary

carla moses said...

i commend adolf hungry wolf for being insightful enough to know when he is being given a gift from the creator. this collection of works will ensure the stories of the old people will last on into the hands of our unborn ancestors. i look forward to reading your collection, as money permits. lim-lim
carla moses lower similkameen band b.c. canada

Amaryllis said...

Happy new year 2010 and may peace and understanding each other help us getting a better world.
My husband and me (from Germany) saw half an hour ago a tv programme on the Rockies and there was a part telling us about Adolf Hungry Wolf. We find it, although filterd through the eyes of a reporter, quite amazing, that a white man, who admits to be a white man, dedicates himself to beware and live the life of blackfoot. Respecting the nature and trying
to give other people the chance to learn about the Black foot culture, what he knows from his old blackfoot teacher.
If he sells books, why not, better to earn a living with books than with other ways which may have a negative effect on this beautiful land and nature.

all my best wishes

Chris said...

I knew Adolf from his time in Cuba, and from his beautiful writings about his passion for steam trains. The most salient characteristic that pervades his 12 years in Cuba was of a humanist with a tremendous empathy for the underdog. In short, a truly honorable man, constantly giving of his time and generosity to others. And a damn good writer to boot! I highly recommend his "Letters from Cuba." In the end he was hounded out of Cuba by the ugly, corrupt side of the Communist system. Hounded much in the same way that I sense he is being hounded in these posts in the most petty of manners. It was a pleasure and a honor to have known him, and a great learning experience, too.

Pete Gannon said...

Great acknowledgment for an amazing man. I knew Adolf when he and Carol had 'Frenchie's Trading Post' in Long Beach. I bought Frenchie's from him, and helped a little in seeing him off on his journey which led to so many wonderful things. Once, I had a copy of the first 'Good Medicine' book, but it went off in the wind of my life. Now and then I review the site. He, unknowingly, had a profound impact on my view of life and of the Earth. I now live in Uruguay, South America. Where is he traveling down here?

larry1960 said...

I knew Adolph, a little, in high school and from surfing. I remember Frenchie's Trading Post well. It makes me very happy to find this information and hear that he is living a good life and doing good in the world.

oldoaks said...

Your original post was almost 6 years ago and I have just discovered it. Back in the '70s I owned a small alternative bookstore (now an almost obsolete phenomenon). Current favorites were titles such as 'Be Here Now', the Casteneda Don Juan books, 'High Times' mag, and titles related to yoga and meditation, Peter Max, building domes, orgasms, living on a commune, traveling overland to India, (can you imagine going thru Pakistan and Iran today? Nevertheless I had friends that did at that time), surviving on one acre of land, group marriage, giving birth naturally at home, converting a bus to a funky get the drift.

A few of the things that came in the store changed my life, and I have never looked back at the middle- aged doctor's wife who innocently walked in to check out the books, ended up owning the place, and changed her way of life forever. 'The Good Medicine' books were one of those books I remember with gratitude to the author.

Why the authors of little gems this are left to struggle financially is one of life's mysteries, but alas, it has always been so with the individual that lives in that 'other space' -artists, visionaries, people who are unwilling to compromise their way of life with the status quo. Adolph Hungry Wolf belongs in this group.

I owe him for my love of nature, my ability to raise my children to walk gently on the earth, knowledge of my connection to everything that is, and awareness that life is a circle that is never-ending.

Don Wapahilo said...

Hi I am a writer and part Native American myself, 1/4 Shawnee, the rest Irish-English-Scottish, and I am happy that I discovered AHW's wonderful Good Medicine books in the early 1970s at a pow-wow and then continued to buy them at a Native American trading post in Orange County, California in the 1970s, and collected as many of these classic works as I could. I also bought a copy of his one and only fiction novel, "The Spirit At Hidden Valley" (1972) and in recent years wrote a movie screenplay adaptation of it, "The Hidden Valley" (2005) with full permission of the author, whom I corresponded with from 2001 to 2005. It is registered with the WGA (Writer's Guild of America, West) in Los Angeles. It was my intent to market this with an agent so both AHW and myself would benefit from this by having a theatrical motion picture made of it, but I got so busy with other work I never pursued it, until now. I am considering partnering with Native American filmmakers who would be interested in forming a production company to make the film from my script of his novel.
I did have it critiqued in 2006 by a well-known Native American filmmaker, Georgina Lightning, who said she really liked it, but some of the speeches our characters give in it are too long-winded and need to be cut down. Other than that, she thought it has great commercial potential as a movie.
If anyone is interested in this worthwhile project, with a percentage of the profits to go to the Blackfeet Nation, please contact me and we will go from there. I have had AHW's blessing on this project, and still am looking forward to meeting him in person sometime soon! Yata-hey!
Don Wapahilo (Soaring Eagle)

joseph said...

Hello Prairie Mary,

It's been a long time since you wrote this article. I was wondering if you know M. Hungry Wolf and if you have any way to reach him... If yes, please answer and i'll explain to you why this is important to me:)

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Hello Joseph,

I didn't see Adolf this summer since I wasn't up to Browning much. His quite wonderful set of four Good Medicine books were bought by School District #9 and should be available there. Otherwise, his website is:

That's the only contact for him that I have.

Prairie Mary

joseph said...

Hello Prairie Mary,

Just saw your answer, thank you very much for taking the time to reply. I'm French, and asked you about Adolf Hungry Wolf because my father was with him around 40 years ago. He was a photographer, and recovered some pictures of that time he'd like to send to him. But since it was a long time ago, there's no way to contact him:( I guess he'll have to try with the publishing companies... Anyway, thank you again for your answer:)

best regards,

Jasperg said...

Wow, I just stumbled across this,7 years after it was published & have to say Thank you Mary (& Star) for your words on a man I have been a fan of since the mid seventies. I am in the process of buying up a number of Adolph's titles I have lost, or lent out over the years. His work is invaluable to all, irregardless of race, for we all need to Live in Harmony With Nature (something which so many seem to have lost) for if we lose touch with the natural world we lose touch with life, Thanks again for this blog.

yamo said...

thanks for this blog. when axel dietrich as a peronal friend published in germany (werkstatt edition) adolf hungry wolfs good medicine books and i got the "secrets of the hidden valley" book as my personal inner dream book i followed for many years the story of this good man.
in this spirit we started the europ. rainbow gatherings and communities and became tipimakers and outdoor culture realizers.

Don Shriner said...

We met Adolph and Beverly at the Old Country Store in Yakima almost 40 years ago. We were truly honored. I'd love to re connect with them and their work but I don't know how nor what is appropriate. We still live in the same area. The Hungry Wolf's and friends are welcome by our fire anytime. E mail us at
So...good thoughts and good medicine.

Anonymous said...

An enigma, this Hungry Wolf. I stayed at his land for a while during a very strange time. I noticed that many in Brocket and south were not overly fond of the man. So sincere, yet such a...wannabe. I would not want to be on the receiving end of all the bad medicine that is no doubt sent his way. Separating the man from the work-what a great and dedicated ethnographer.