Saturday, August 22, 2009


A conference exploring the history of Glacier National Park.

Student, U of Montana, where his Ph.D. will be in environmental history. His earlier degree was from Notre Dame and he and his sister, Shannon, who came along, are clearly Irish Catholic in origin.

Shawn is a west-sider where he likes to hike and all that. He pursues the approach of the “hermeneutics of suspicion” in a mild way by proposing that Glacier National Park was created by plutocrats for the benefit of the upper classes, both those who felt it was more patriotic to take vacations in American places instead of the usual Alps or Mediterranean and those who wanted to built a railroad empire. This pushed out the homesteaders and other ground level people who owned land up against the mountains that became Glacier National Park. Since the people on the land on the east side were the Blackfeet, this was largely a west side phenomenon. And it was disingenous since the Park employees continued to shoot game for their own use.

Bailey did a careful reconstruction of how the last of the wave of homesteaders had to be pushed back out. By using newspapers and letters, he was able to substantiate his claim that well-connected Easterners and Montana big shots were able to manipulate the processes to get what they wanted. Many productive small farms, partly supported by subsistence hunting in the mountains, were eliminated. There was little mining over there. A huge fire that swept the mountains in 1910 helped to push out settlers.

The Blackfeet were seen as tourist assets, something to reinforce the nobility and privilege of the white people who could afford to come and make contact.

He spoke about Mary Roberts Rinehart, a much-admired and wealthy writer of murder mysteries, who also loved the Park and wrote about it. His assumption was that she had little interaction with lower class helpers or Indians, but I’m not sure that’s validated and Ray Djuff, an attending Calgary expert on Glacier Park, said his reading of what happened was different. The only book of hers I have is “Through Glacier Park in 1915,” which is small enough to reread quickly. I’ll see. The pattern is much like the English colonialists in Kenya or India, but the actual on-the-ground experience may be different. In fact, commentors on early Blackfeet “royalty” who were paid to put up lodges on the lawn, to tell stories and to dance, see things rather differently from each other. Some emphasize that the Blackfeet received status and friendship as well as much-needed income. Others point out that their monetary intake was small, often in the form of tips, and that they were provided food that was left over in the cafeteria after guests and the help had eaten. What the Indians didn’t eat went to the bears, another spectacle -- out on the garbage heap.

In general, Bailey is very much in sympathy with the “Missoula” approach to Blackfeet politics with its strong post-colonial theory and contingent of activist Indian students.

Alice Kehoe, an anthropologist who began her training on the Blackfeet Rez and who, along with her former husband Tom, is one of the major experts on Blackfeet, recommended a book called “Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy" by Jonathan Peter Spiro - 2008. Spiro is a biographer of Madison Grant, an American aristocrat early environmentalist who has not become so famous as others of his kind. Alice points out that Spiro is a Manhattan immigrant-descended Jew, which is very much like Alice’s background, so this is a suspicious but conscientious account. What Spiro does in terms of Glacier Park is to link it to the Boone & Crockett Club, which is just to the south of the the Park and founded about the same time by approximately the same people. They had somehow linked the idea of the perfect species of humans with all their exceptionalism (Spiro remarks that there is probably not a teenager in the US who could have been admitted to Yale in 1884!) to the notion of “trophy” animals and the importance of collecting them as a marker of privilege. I’ll come back to this. The fourth speaker takes up hunting in the Park.

Later Ray Djuff remarked that though Bailey had worked out the cost of coming to Glacier on the train from Minneapolis and the cost of a stay in one of the big hotels ($3 - $5 per night), which amounted in total to about half the year’s wages of an ordinary working man of those times, he had not taken into account the many campers who arrived on foot, lovers of “tramping” as they called it, who were not packed in on horseback to the chalets for fine dining as the high-end tourists were.


is the husband of Rosalyn LaPier, who organizes this event. Beck is on the faculty in Missoula. LaPier is getting her Ph.D. in history there, but also has degrees in physics and management. Their daughters act as registrars, dog-ejectors, go-fers, and other necessities -- always with good grace and competence.

Beck’s talk was illustrated by some of the most beautiful images of the Park that I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a LOT, to say nothing of the real thing! He gave us an overview of just how one makes money in a place where it’s tough to survive.

Also, he gave us the important news that some Montana Native American students spent the summer in Washington,D.C. preparing original documents such as letters written by Blackfeet to federal officials plus answers, for access on the Internet. These will be easily accessed with no charge without having to go through a “gate”. His example was a four page letter hand-written, striking for its high quality. The Indian writes from his heart; the official answers in boilerplate. Beck had asked for an advance “migration” of the materials he wanted from the master hard drive over into a smaller computer. In a 24 hour period the material was only half transferred, so this will be a huge mass of material to digest. (Beck and LaPier are working on a history of Indians in Chicago -- not at all what you’d expect: MANY Indians doing very well.)

Also, he recommends the thesis of Shawn David Kline, “From the Other Side of the Lens: Intersections of Blackfeet economy, culture, and imagery, 1900 -1930.” I will recommend that paper bibliographies be handed out in future seminars as I’ve had to dig out some of these excellent and desirable recommends from Google. Some of us are not as sharp-eared or quick with our fingers as most grad students.

Because LaPier is an ethnobotanist, Beck is highly aware of the important of gathering herbal materials as well as hunting for meat and hides. Normally done by women, this “economy” totally escaped the white elite described by Bailey. At a previous Piegan Institute seminar, the group was bused up to the Park and guided to gather local edibles, which were then combined into a soup for lunch. The consensus was that it was pretty tasty.


is a Gros Ventre who grew up in Kalispell and has made many forays into Glacier Park. He is Assistant Professor of Psychology and American Culture at the University of Michigan. Though his subject was not directly related to Glacier Park, it was an important counter-balance to the sometimes obsessive preoccupation with a tragic past and also related to the interruption of the spiritual renewal sources in the Park.

Perhaps because so many scholars of Native America are Jewish, the work being done in “historical trauma” with the descendants of the Holocaust was soon transferred to the NA context. The idea is that PTSD, which so many of us have come to understand through the effect of war on soldiers or else through the feminist movement working with rape victims -- and which some apply to victims of environmental trauma through forced removal as refugees or captive, or destruction of the land which can rather more mystically be described as the earth’s rape -- is derived within the treatment context of human services. A great many counselors and medical workers are now Native Americans, often working in drug recovery. There are 400 NA clinical psychologists.

Specifically and historically, the NA people are seen as still suffering from the trauma of their treatment in the 19th century and other more contemporary events like relocation to cities or the severe poverty on reservations. This theory system is an attempt to find SOME way to interpret and heal the high rates of crime, disorder, mental afflictions,alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide on reservations. The original injury is seen as cumulative across the generations, like the breakup of families in order to send the children to boarding schools and the subsequent loss of parenting skills as well as the relational network of helpers.

If this approach works for you, is a useful place to start. I googled it up -- Gone didn't specifically mention it.

Gone points out ways this approach helps. One is that it locates some source and cause for a generalized distress that people tend to think is somehow “their fault” or their essential nature, that they are somehow substandard people or being punished for an offense. It gives a point of focus for action and relieves the paralysis of self-blame and self-hatred. Also, it offers a solidarity with other victims so that effective group support and political action can be organized.

Another group of advantages is that it heads off the medicalization of individuals, which leads towards separation and individual treatment as “cases,” instead of solidarity among people with a tribal heritage. It discourages the pharmaceutical approach which offers a pill for everything, thus undercutting any kind of reflection or action and relieving the community from forming an image of a constructive future. The pharmaceuticals that give short-term relief might not be legal. Alcohol works, as the veterans know well. Prescription pill abuse on reservations is currently a hot topic.

(It’s interesting that the “spiritual” recovery movement is more and more towards group retreats. Several of these sessions were operating not so far away right during the seminar.)

Then Gone moves to a critique. He points out that PTSD was only suggested and defined in 1980 and is still developing. It is based on the consequences of horrific experience, as in combat, and theory often focuses on physiological consequences: brain changes that can be described in a vague pop or junk science way. There are attempts to “recondition” or “re-experience” that are vulnerable to quack interpretations. The original theory of PTSD gets expanded into what might be called “complex PTSD” so that a person whose grandparents recounted their survival of the Baker Massacre might be more vulnerable to a back alley beating, one trauma fitting into the other.

Gone remarks that PTSD is interpreted as applying to ALL NA’s, in that way that Americans constantly lump all Indians into one big pan-tribe that looks like a scene from “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Some tribes suffered rather less than others. Or maybe in different ways. This suggests that the nature and dynamics of how their PTSD works might be quite different and might not be justified as a cascade effect down the generations in every case.

Gone asks what ARE the exact confirmed processes of “secondary PTSD?” Is it a matter of stories? Is it a spiritual loss or a genetic pre-disposition? One wants to be very careful about pathologizing an entire people on the basis of a smaller group, esp. when considering the formation of identity in the young. Think of self-fulfilling prophesy. Think of the cottage industries that have grown up around “healing.” Think of the constant use of victimhood to squeeze money out of the government and institutions. We’re still both blaming and capitalizing victims.

Anyway, it would be good to figure out exactly what it is that’s being escaped: is it PTSD or is it the economic dilemma on reservations and in ghettos? If it's economics THAT should be addressed. This approach entirely neglects the many, many NA’s who have gone on to be successes. (Many have reflected -- including me on even so small a scale as Browning -- that an Indian who is a success in a button-down shirt will not longer be seen as an Indian, because the victimhood and the association with colorful pow-wows is the public DEFINITION of an Indian. Even the Indians themselves begin to think of successful people as privileged whites, even when they know their origins.)

So what’s the answer? Gone suggests moving from “traumatized” to “bereaved,” which implies something lost and therefore legitimizes mourning and rebuilding rather than some kind of inner sickness. He suggests “aggrieved” as another useful word.

Gone gave three points of an agenda: 1) pursue justice 2) identify and dissect resilience rather than pathology 3) start to build positive things, maybe even literally, so as to feel success. (In my sermons I call this the lesson Jesus was after when he told the terminally ill man to pick up his bed and walk -- and the man did.)

At this point there was another one of those little synergies between speaker and audience Sally Thompson ( Do not fail to use this link!) reminded us that Abraham Maslow went to the Blackfoot Nation in Alberta specifically to study sexual “noncompliance” (assumed to be pathologies). The elders there called him on the carpet and asked why he couldn’t study positive things. Why couldn’t he ask about “clean sober people” and how they managed that? After thinking this over, Maslow totally revised his approach to psych, no longer concentrating on what goes wrong, but inquiring into the nature of success and happiness. Maslow’s turnaround was a genuine revolution with a major impact on society -- for a while -- as it was the theoretical justification for saying “why not?” (Not what the tribal elders expected, I’m sure!)


, W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western US History, University of California at Davis, is often a member of the never-ending seminar on Darrell Kipp’s porch in St. Mary. He looks enough like Stanley Tucci, my favorite actor from the “feel-good” movie “Shall We Dance?” that I kept expecting him to break into a tango, but he never did. Sigh.

He also appealed to me because of my love affair with the book by Daniel Justin Herman called “Hunting and the American Imagination” which suggests that America was founded by men who wore imported English hunting caps with their American fringed buckskin jackets. Half came to America with the intention of becoming landed gentry owning protected hunting grounds in the way Robin Hood so resented in Sherwood Forest, and half came to America with the intention of eliminating all landed gentry and letting all men hunt equally, esp. for subsistence instead of as a point of superiority and privilege. An awkward number wanted to achieve both. This meshes with the oxymoron: “noble savages” in which Indians are supposed to be privileged but free. And Bob Scriver was dead-center on this contradiction, wanting to be “better,” while at the same time yearning to be an Indian just like all the people around him. It is a want that cannot be satisfied.

To such people as Bob, Glacier Park was a constant affront. Half the time he thought he was an Indian who had been given a permanent entitlement to hunt there BY TREATY, and half the time he was angry because he thought that Indians should not be able to keep him from hunting on the reservation. His mother had deeply impressed him that he was related to a knighted MacFie, but neglected to mention that the relative (who was by marriage anyway) was knighted for being a captain of industry and that the original MacFie fortune had been made by oppressing and enslaving people in the Caribbean sugar industry.

Warren was careful to point out that his own grandfather’s background is among the “red” IWW laborers of Washington state who sympathized with Marx. He’s not an elitist, though he makes his living sitting on an Indian’s porch thinking about it and gazing over St. Mary’s Lake at the landscape that is the face of history. (Jokes.)

Mostly he was speaking about the 1895 Agreement about the “Ceded Strip” that was added to the Park when gold was detected there. The government decided to pursue the same tactics as in the Black Hills (Warren wryly noted that they had not learned much from the fiasco there.) which was to just take the land ownership from the Indians and give it to the miners (through very advantageous laws that are just now being considered for repeal). I have not noted much about George Bird Grinnell though his name comes up over and over in these matters. He’s another of those double people: on the one side he had deep family ties with the upper mercantile classes back east and on the other he had a romance with the Indians, which, of course, paid off for him when he told their stories in books.

Many confusions arose because of the usual clumsiness and wrong-headed thinking in managing these matters. The main approach is through the idea that land ownership is determined by its “use,” and since the Indians weren’t “using” the mountain valleys and so on in any way that whites could recognize, it could better be “used” by miners. (I’ve often been told in Valier that it was all right for homesteaders to come to this country because the Indians were not “using it.”) There were also some tricky insertions in the Agreement: the phrase “so long as the mining claims remaining on the public land of the U.S.” -- when, of course, mining claim specifically REMOVES the land from the public lands -- and “shall be regulated by the provisions of game and fish laws of the state of Montana.” These trapdoor provisions were cleverly set, but never used because the gold rush fizzled. However, they remain and are only prevented from going to court by strategic restraint from prosecution, even in the case of a provocateur like Bailey Peterson, who shot mountain sheep there almost publicly.

Warren said that though the literature claims that Indians were afraid of the mountains and didn’t live in them, this is not true. They considered the places majestic and holy, but entered all the time for meat, wood, and herbs -- to say nothing of spiritual renewal. In fact, no less a witness than Walter McClintock constantly described the plentiful and necessary hunting in 1896, right on up into Park lands. Warren didn’t think McClintock thought much about the women’s “gathering” but in fact, I recall, he was a botanist and “The Old North Trail” has much description of vegetation and its uses.

When Glacier Park was created, it was in the business model of the Northern Pacific, which successfully exploited Yellowstone as a destination, which justified the railroad which then enabled townships to form along the railroad, increasing its revenues. Yellowstone was rooted in the mystical idea that nature was something separate from humans that was too sacred to be inhabited or owned. Humans could visit only as designated supplicants. (Such as tourists.) The cities of the times were hellholes of pollution and oppression -- full of immigrants and opportunists. Somehow, being white visionaries who realized the transcendence of wilderness gave them the right to decide what to do with it, which generally included their own access. Hunting became a privilege on the Brit model again, and this is where Spiro and Herman become relevant.

(I note that despite this possibly being described as the Upper Class vs. the bottom of the totem pole, today it is the business Middle Class that owns the Park through both the government and the tourist concessionaires. The “sacredness” has migrated through patriotism and the displacement of religion from institutions to nature, from Creator authorized institutions to literary nature, to the idea that the National Parks are the cathedrals of Humanism and the Nation. So now there are at least two claimants to the sacredness of Glacier National park, an American Jerusalem.)

Indians were considered trespassers, pushed off, made into ornaments and laborers. This led into the idea that the Park could be made “more natural” by human intervention, and since the Boone & Crockett folks thought “more natural” included elk (think of the trophies!), some were brought up from Yellowstone. They were very happy in the Park and the Blackfeet were happy to eat them. Soon there was a disagreement over the unwild concept of ownership: the Park rangers considered the elk to be “theirs” and so did the Blackfeet. (A departure from the idea that usage confers ownership.)

Warren “took testimony” from such notorious local characters as Teddy Burns and Warren Cassidy, who are legends in Babb, and it’s clear that Warren identifies with them and their constant guerilla hunting in the Park. Bob Scriver, as JP, often had to deal with them. Again, he was dependably on both sides: law & order and -- at the same time -- another defiant hunter. I’ve heard many stories about such solid citizens as Merle Magee Sr. and Calvin Augare hunting in the Park, frustrating the rangers, including Francis X. Guardipee, the Boy Scout Blackfeet Ranger. Warren asked one hard-bitten ranger, a cross-country ski expert, how the poachers got away so easily. The ranger said, “Skis have to stay on the trail. Snow-shoes can go anywhere.” A basic guerilla concept.

To keep the elk in the Park where the Blackfeet couldn’t get at them, the rangers began to feed alfalfa in huge amounts. The result was the same as in Yellowstone: a burgeoning plague of elk eating everything. So now the rangers who had been trying to keep the elk IN the Park by shooting over their heads to haze them back, tried to haze them OUT where the Indians could legally shoot them. But frightened elk head for cover -- shooting over their heads sent them back into the timbered high country! The rangers used skyrockets left over from the 4th of July with about as much success. The formal report used the phrase “unimpressive reduction.”

But the elk did scatter to some degree and in 1963 a herd showed up in Sweetgrass Hills. (Bob and I saw them.) Warren feels sure they were descended from the Yellowstone elk transferred to Glacier and then “managed” out. So much for natural. The drive to survive can sometimes outwit all those managers.

At present there is a movement to create “cooperative agreements” but the extreme complexity of the Glacier ecosystem as well as the complexity of the Blackfeet Reservation sociology will make this a long effort. We can only hope for more success.

At this point the seminar ended in many conversations, hugs, distribution of leftover fry bread and other benefits.


Lance Michael Foster said...

In regards to PTSD and other forms of mental/spiritual affliction, there was an interesting post you might be interested in:

"So what has this to do with animism? I’m going to argue that a society, particularly a twenty-first century developed society, that can incorporate an animistic world-view into its thinking would allow those individuals currently diagnosed with core mental health problems (such as schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and others) a very different experience of the world, and that this in turn would allow such a society to recognise the value of their experiences in new and constructive ways.
...“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” -Kurt Vonnegut
...I’m NOT going to argue that all suffering would suddenly cease and that the world would be a rosy place. But it would be a very different one."


Lance Michael Foster said...

"the phrase “so long as the mining claims remaining on the public land of the U.S.” -- when, of course, mining claim specifically REMOVES the land from the public lands -- "

Actually a mining claim does not remove the land from public ownership. There are lots of claims on public lands, such as the National Forests. They have to do a minimum amount of work every year to keep the claims current. The lands are still public UNTIL they attain such proof of the value of the claim that it can be patented, and a PATENT then removes the claim from public ownership and the claim becomes private property.

Lance Michael Foster said...

PS. I believe the ritual process would assist in PREVENTION as well as TREATMENT of PTSD in soldiers. I have ideas on how this could be done based on traditional ways of some of the warrior cultures. I mean, you didn't hear much (any?) about Blackfeet warriors in traditional times coming home after a brutal war and flying into a depression or rage or suicidal state and attacking their loved ones. While FINALLY some folks are looking at TREATMENT after soldiers' return home through traditional sweats, ceremonies etc, the part of the equation that is missing is PREPARATION of soldier and soldier's family BEFORE sending them over. This is the part that is missing from current models.

prairie mary said...

From Louis Warren:

By the way, the book I wrote out of my research at Glacier and other places is called THE HUNTER'S GAME: POACHERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS IN
TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICA. It's about hunting and conservation battles across the U.S., with a focus on the West, especially New Mexico and Montana (in MT, esp. Glacier National Park v.Blackfeet). The last two chapters of the book focus on the story of the ceded strip and its consequences.