Saturday, July 25, 2009


100 Winters -- Kiipippo (100) stoyi (winter) -- as in 100 years ago.

Friday, August 21, 2009
10am to 4pm
Cuts Wood School, Browning, MT
Free and open to the public.


Shawn Bailey, Ph.D. student, Department of History, University of Montana. Mr. Bailey will discuss how the effort to create Glacier National Park included a class struggle between a small group of wealthy, upper-class, East-coast conservationists and lower-class, local Montana citizens who relied on the natural resources of the western lands of Glacier for subsistence.

David R.M. Beck, Professor of Native American Studies, at the University of Montana, will discuss how the Great Northern Railroad utilized the newly created Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet it employed to both market for the creation of new towns and settlements along its railroad and to promote tourism in the Park at the United States Land Shows of 1912 and 1913 in Chicago.

Joe Gone (GrosVentre), Assistant Professor of Psychology and American Culture, University of Michigan, will discuss how Native Americans suffer disproportionately from higher degrees of psychological distress. Many professionals associate this distress with historical trauma which originates from depredations of past colonial subjugation and historical experiences of colonization.

Louis S. Warren, W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U.S. History, University of California at Davis, and the author of “The Hunter’s Game: Poacher’s and Conservationists in 20th Century America” will discuss the part of the history of the contentious relationship between Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet.

For much more information and background, go to

“Saokio is a Blackfeet term that describes the prairies as a space that is large, open and flat. At one time the Blackfeet called themselves the Saokio-tapi or the prairie people. On the prairies they used their creativity to change this wide open space into a unique place.

“Saokio Heritage was created to enhance the appreciation of the wealth of prairie peoples creativity. Our goal is to stimulate and preserve the history, language and traditional knowledge of prairie peoples.

“Saokio Heritage acknowledges the U.N. definition of traditional knowledge which encompasses cultural, technological, scientific, and artistic knowledge that originated from a connection to a specific territory or place which is transmitted from generation to generation within a group of people. “

When addressing Native American history, there are many splits that separate useful information across disciplines, across consumers, and across styles.

Disciplines, determined mostly by assumptions about method (researching old documents, analysing material culture, investigating the inner life of humans, belonging to professional groups, re-enacting and re-creating the life) are opaque to most ordinary persons.

The biggest split among consumers -- those who take a lively interest -- is probably between general history and specialized identity-defined history. Some historians are trained university products and others are amateurs, often investigating their own communities or maybe becoming collectors in a straightforward or naive way. The Western History Association rarely addresses Indian issues from an Indian point of view. The Western Literature Association rarely addresses Native American literature. Western art in the context of Charlie Russell and Frederick Remington rarely look at Native Americans except as action subject matter or portraits, always from the 19th century. Western “Indian” art tends to be about pots, jewelry and abstract paintings, often startlingly contemporary.

A large contingent of populations across the planet relate to Native Americans on a spiritual basis, trying to understand their point of view and ceremonial practices. Some of these can become a little unmoored from reality. But others keep their connection to the land that birthed the cultures.

Ironically, perhaps some of the most unaware Americans are some of the Native Americans themselves, whose grandparents and great-grandparents were forced into assimilation so harshly and thoroughly that they’ve felt that even learning the old languages was dangerous or “backward.” In contrast, the young ‘uns have become enthusiasts, hungry for information.

And then there are the bureaucrats, passing and enforcing legislation, trying to sort out claims and indignations and compensations against a great tide of re-assessments and realizations. Much of what seems highly theoretical turns out to have real-world consequences, sometimes unintended and unexpected. The tension between the abstract and concrete can be intense.

For instance, the definition and separation of Glacier Park had the immediate effect of feeding a starving people and satisfying the ambitions of the railroad magnates. Today the Park is a source of income in the border communities and employment by the Park Service itself. A contingent of park rangers, in uniform, showed up last week at Curly Bear Wagner’s funeral. One of Curly Bear’s most pressing issues was returning what is sometimes called the “Ceded Strip” just south of Glacier Park to the reservation in order to prevent spiritual grounds from being developed for gas and oil. That bit of land, sometimes called the “Badger/Two Medicine,” ended up so badly defined in documents that no one is sure what its legal status might be.

Thus the importance of conferences that include people across the full spectrum of thought and feeling from local to national and international. They will learn about themselves as much as others.

No comments: