The decade of the Forties was one that deeply wove the fortunes of the Blackfeet in those of the nation. This post is very long.
When WWII began, the number of volunteers from Montana and from the Blackfeet was proportionately higher than almost any other defined population. The generation born in the 1910’s was still in their twenties and, unless they had family, eager to fight. It would change their lives forever, partly because of trauma in combat and partly because of seeing the world. In May, 2005, I began this blog in part so I could post the research I did in the course of writing a biography of Bob Scriver. I made notes from the Glacier Reporter and will include some of them here. [Be warned that at that point I didn’t know how to block comments so they include a link to a penis enlargement product, unless I’ve managed to eliminate them later today.]
At home the people were united in the support effort. White and Indian women threw themselves into activities sponsored by the Blackfeet War Mothers who sent boxes and boxes of socks, cookies, and other supplies, often with a five dollar bill tucked in there someplace. Raffles and dances were held to raise money. Old-Time Indians came to the homes and businesses of white people to pray for the safety of their children.
In the second half of the Forties the work of managing the peace was almost as hard as the war. A wave of new babies had to be absorbed into families that were coming apart because of wartime marriage in haste or because the men had returned traumatized and often alcoholic, but the women had learned how to manage things by themselves. Blackfeet diasphora communities had formed when people went to do war work in the big cities: Seattle or LA or Minneapolis. It was hard for men who had been officers, who had been respected and treated as equals, to come back to an environment where they were stigmatized. At the same time white veterans came onto the rez to start businesses or maybe to marry tribal women and run ranches. These families were the spine of the town when I came.
What follows is a little taste of the notes on my blog in May, 2005. If locals want to read the actual newspapers, there is a set of the them at the library at Blackfeet Community College.
January 5, 1940
Law passed that women can serve on juries.
January 12, 1940
Nellie Gladstone, BHS honor student, is a nurse in Seattle, passed a Civil Service test. [The Gladstone family includes both Jack Gladstone, the musician, and Curly Bear Wagner, cultural spokesperson.]
January 19, 1940
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Gold Saturday January 13 at the Blackfeet Hospital: a baby girl weighing 7 lbs. 12 oz. Wed and Thurs Mrs. Gold was reported very ill but is much improved today. [This baby is today Mary Lee Wippert, married to Lloyd Wippert and living in Valier.]
February 29, 1940
Melinda Wren died February 29, Thursday AM at her Milk River home. [Check the William Farr photo book for her portrait -- she was VERY beautiful.] She was born March 4, 1849, near Fort Benton. Her father was Chas Chouquette, who worked for Pierre Choteau and the American Fur Co. At age 8 her father sent her to Peoria, IL, to stay with her aunt and go to school. At age 17 she returned. She met John Wren and married him the following year. This “daughter of the cordeliers” accompanied her husband trapping and prospecting from the Peace River to the Yellowstone. This is the family that gave Pincer Creek it’s name -- they moved camp and forgot the horseshoeing pincers. But they went back, found them successfully, and always afterwards called that place “Pincer Creek.” She was the interpreter for years at Old Agency. In 1896 she settled on Milk River. When Wren died, Melinda carried on with her eleven children: Mrs. Al Goss, Mrs. William Kipp, Mrs. Matt Lytle, Mrs. Dan Hamilton, Mrs. Dora Cummings, Mrs. Angus Monroe, Mrs. William O’Brien, John, Robert and Willliam Wren. She had twin daughters: Mrs. Louise Aubrey and Mrs. Josephine Grant. Funeral at Church of Little Flower with Father Halligan. [Recently I officiated at the funeral of Ramona Goss, her granddaughter, who was one of those women who married a white rancher and taught school in the classroom next to mine.]
March 22, 1940
J.L. Sherburne, T.E. Scriver and Bob Starr go to the State Highway Commission to secure the Two Medicine Bridge. [ This bridge is currently being rebuilt.]
St. Patrick’s Dance -- Scriver’s Swing Band.
The commodity meat issue is pigs for a change.
August 23, 1940
Nancy Russell’s will in probate -- left money to trust fund for promoting art. [This trust fund now funds the “C.M. Russell Center for the Study of Western Art” on the University of Oklahoma campus.]
June 20, 1941
Museum of the Plains Indian Museum to open June 29.
Among the distinguished visitors at the Plains Indian Museum this week was Walter McClintock of Pittsburg, PA, who arrived in this section for an annual outing in Glacier National Park and reunion with his old Blackfeet Indian friends who he has known for several decades. McClintock’s intimacies with the Blackfeet tribe are near-sacred, he being among the first of whites to be adopted into the tribe, his Indian friends having included in years past the most outstanding leaders. McClintock, a Yale University scholar, years ago began his trek of the Glacier National Park as a photographer, his work helping to bring about its creation as a national park. His history of the Blackfeet Indians is considered among the authoritative works by students. He is author of a book callee “Old North Trail,” which teems with historic gems.
August 29, 1941
Jack Holterman arrived last Friday evening from San Francisco where he had been attending school and received his Master’s Degree during the summer session. He will teach at Starr School this year. [Holterman became an important historian of the Blackfeet, but he is little known, even locally.]
1943: Makes Cold Weather gives Blood Medicine Pipe to John Ewers. The Council files suit against Superintendent McBride and Forester A.D. Stephenson, defending B. Connolly. A certain amount of double-leasing seems to be going on. Different authorities make different deals with different people. The drought cattle, which were supposed to have been relief, have now somehow become a debt.
1944: National Congress of American Indians formed as Indian lobbying group. 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 an 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 American and is employed by the tribe.
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 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 their money in a separate account of their own until he can work out 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 law requires.
Glacier Chief, February 6, 1942
Mountain Chief, 94, and last hereditary chief of the Blackfeet Indians, who died at his house on the reservation Monday, was buried Wednesday in the cemetery here following funeral service at the Church of the Little Flower. Mountain Chief, blind and confined to his home for some years, but otherwise in good health, died suddenly after complaining of having difficulty in breathing. He had been about his yard shortly before and succumbed quietly while lying on his bed. Mountain Chief was born on Old Man River in Canada in 1848 and remembered the Treaty of 1855 of which his father was a signer. he was present at the time it was signed. by this treaty all the land south of the Missouri River claimed by the Blackfeet in Montana was given to the United States. He was known as a great warrior and, according to Dick Sanderville, took part in a great many Indian fights during his lifetime. He met also many of the Presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley, Wilson, Taft, and Queen Marie of Rumania. He participated in the sale of land which is now Glacier Park to the government. Mountain Chief was friend of General Hugh L. Scott. In 1930 he had his last visit with the general at the International Peace Conference of the Indian tribes at Browning, when the universal sign language was recorded on movie film under the direction of Scott. He is survived by his son Walter; daughter Rosie Mad Wolf; and four grandsons: Peter Stabs by Mistake, Patrick Marceau and Joe Mountain Chief, all living near Heart Butte, and Aloysious Red Fox. who is in the army in Alaska. There are 14 great grandchildren.
February 20, 1942
A large group of men from here went to Great Falls last week where they took an examination for the army. Among the men who went were Harold Scriver, Les Aubert and Jim Whitecalf.
April 24, 1942
Funeral services for the late John Franklin Bird, 93, venerable Montana pioneer, who passed away at the home of his daughter, Mrs. L. J. Momberg on Thursday, April 16, were held at the Methodist Church Saturday afternoon with Rev. Allen O. Wilcox officiating. Browning Funeral Home had charge of arrangements. Interment was made in the Browning Catholic Cemetery beside the grave of his wife. The following obituary was prepared by Mary B. Salois: The death of Mr. Bird removes from the community one of the real pioneers. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, Dec. 11, 1848, where he lived until he attained manhood. At the age of 20 he came West and engaged in freighting in the eastern part of Montana Territory, following the route from Bozeman to the Canadian border. His real purpose in coming West was to engage in prospecting. He and Mr. Phemister spent a number of years prospecting for gold in the country that is now Yellowstone Park and adjacent territory. He was among the early freighters out of Ft. Benton, hauling freight to the old government Fort Logan. One one particular trip as he was returning north word reached him that General Custer’s Command had been wiped out by the Sioux on the Little Big Horn. He had been hauling supplies to the old 7th Cavalry. Mr. Bird was a close friend of the late Paris Gibson and well remembered the time when Mr. Gibson, being peeved at the people of Ft. Benton, told them, “I’ll leave this town and start a real town somewhere else.” His statement became true as he started Great Falls. Mr. Bird hauled the first freightload of furniture and supplies to the original Park Hotel in Great Falls. In the year of 1880 he was married to Mattie Mad Wolf Woman, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. They made their home in Choteau for a number of years and later moving to the reservation. Their first home here was at Old Agency, where he was in charge of the government herd of cattle. The family moved to a ranch on Willow Creek which later became the Methodist Mission. Their next house was about a mile down the creek which within a sort time became the Blackfeet Agency of today. Later the family moved to a ranch on Cut Bank Creek where they lived for many years. During his more than 93 years, Mr. Bird saw many changes in the ways of life. He watched and took part in the development of the community. He often remarked he never thought he would see the day when he would watch airplanes in the sky, automobiles on splendid highways which took the place of the old treacherous trails, electric lights that took the place of candles and all the wonders that always thrilled him. He said it was a long way from driving a bull team on a freight wagon to these days of everything modern. His later years were spent in ranching and he and Mrs. Bird lived for many years on what is still known at the old Bird ranch on Cut Bank River. On a trip about seventeen years ago to Yellowstone Park, he was shown many of the well-known sites. when the party came to Old Faithful geyser, he stood looking at it for some time and then remarked, “It looks just like it did 45 years ago. It spouts out just the same.” Survivors include 4 daughters and 6 sons, who are: Mrs. Dave Higgins, Mrs. L.J. Momberg, Mrs. Andrew Keller of Browning; Mrs. Martha Hans of Niobrara, Nebraska; Sampson, Charles, Johnson, Harry, George and Oscar of Browning; 40 living grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren; a sistser Mrs. Mary Odneal of Sprague, MO, and nephew, Charles Moreland of Lewiston, ID.
May 1, 1942
The Sherburne Mercantile burned.
Mary Salois begins to have a War Mother’s Column in the paper.
Bill Show donates a yearling steer to the War Mother’s auction. [This steer became famous because each person who won it donated it back to be auctioned again!]
June 5, 1942
War mothers: We hear from Harold Scriver PFC that he’s undergone basic training and finds army life is alright but no monkey business. He is glad the Browning War Mothers are doing their bit for the boys and says that the boys having no mothers of their own are indeed lucky to find they can call on several mothers to make life in the service happier for them.
June 26, 1942
Footprints of sign-talkers dedicated. Dedication of the footprints on the lawn of the Museum of the Plains Indian which commemorates the historic Conference of Northwest Indians at Browning in September, 1930, called for the intertribal demonstration of the sign languages, is scheduled for 2 o’clock on the afternoon of June 30 on the Museum lawn. A prominent part of the program will be taken by some of those who took part in the original conference. Most of the participants in that council are now dead. However, James Whitecalf, Richard Sanderville (Chief Bull) and Mr. F. C. Campbell of the original group, whose footprints appear in the circle of bronze tablets will participate. Plans are being made for the Indians from the encampment north of the museum to attend in a body.
July 17, 1942
Private Eddie Big Beaver, Jr. was in Australia.
October 9, 1942
Fred Campbell obituary. [He was the dynamic agent who pushed agriculture.]
Browning Chief, 1944
September 15, 1944
Pvt. John McKay seriously wounded in action in France with heavy artillery. Has been in European war zone for a year.
November 3, 1944
“The lambs of Tom Kipp of Blackfoot weighed approximately 87 lbs. each and were a close second [to Frank Conway’s]. Contrary to the usual situation, the prairie lambs outweighed the lambs that were grazed in the mountains.”
December 1, 1944
Pvt. Eddie J. Big Beaver, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. Big Beaver, Sr. of Browning, is due to arrive soon in the US on furlough from the Atlantic-Pacific war zone. Pvt. Big Beaver has served 36 months in the Army Field Artillery Corps.
June 15, 1945
Maj. Gen. Wm. H. Gill, commander of the 324 (Red Arrow) Division, announces that the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines has awarded the Philippines Liberation Medal to Private Calvin C. Augare of Browning, MT. Pvt. Augare entered the army in April, 1943, and came overseas in October of the same year, assigned to the 32nd Division, veterans of Buna, he saw his first combat action at Saidor, New Guinea. He participated in four succeeding operations and is fighting at present among the mile-high ridges of the Caraldallo Mountins in Northern Luzon. Pvt Augare is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Augare and the husband of Mrs. Theda LaBuff Augare of Browning, Mt.
Pfc. Jack Heavyrunner Escorts Correspondent
Pft. Jack HR, who is with the 32nd Infantry Division in the Pacific, was a member of a patrol that escorted two distinguished war correspondents over the bloody battlegrounds along the Villa Verde Trail in northern Luzon’s Caraballo Mountains. The correspondents, “Doig” Disbrow, nationally known feature writer, and Keo Amelian, owner and reporter for radio station KLEU, Erie, Penn., wanted first hand information on the 120 day battle fought by the 32nd (Red Arrow) Divison to secure the 22 miles of mountain trail through the heart of Japanese resistance to Santa Fe. The visitors also wanted to see action. The patrol spent the day in combing the brush and timber covered canyons and gullies tryiing to make isolated pockets of Japs stand and fight. Towards evening when the party was descending the dizzy curves of the Villa Verde road, a Jap sniper fired on the car carrying the correspondents. Bullets whipped through the air and over the vehicle but no one was injured.
Big headline: Japs Give Up!
August 31, 1945
When July 4th comes around in the future, Edward Big Beaver, Jr. will go through them with mixed emotions since his war wound was suffered last July 4 when he was shot through the hip by a “die hard” Jap in the Philippines. “Hell!” shouted Big Beaver the other day, “Getting shot on July 4th in a battle is more sensible than having it happen in peacetime!” Big Beaver put in approximately four years in the service of his country, most of which was in the hot spots of the Pacific. He received a medical discharge.
Harold Douglas, expert electric welder, worked at Hanford and welded the atomic bomb -- blindfolded! [Don’t ask me how he did it. The article didn’t explain -- just that it was the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.]
October 3, 1945
“It was good. It was the biggest thing to hit this valley since the Japs,” said Pfc. Jackie Heavyrunner Jr. of Browning, MT. in an attempt to describe the Carabao Rodeo staged by the 126th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion near Arctao in the Cagayan Valley, northern Luzon. Heavyrunner, who ended the war on his 538th day of conflict with the 3rd (Red Arrow) Division was one of more than a thousand Red Arrowmen, guerrillas and girls who cheered Carabao #9, “Demobilization,” as he sped across the finish line leading a field of 8, to establish an all-time 500 yards record of 5:25:3. Horse-races, relay races, and other events were climaxed by a battle between the lovely ladies of Deupex and Aritao for the Cayagan Valley Softball Crown while a guerilla band furnished music and ice-cold Coke flowed like water. “The rodeos back in Montana were tame compared to this riot,” said Heavyrunner. “It was the first one I’ve seen since I shipped over here in September, 1943.” He saw action at Sardor and Aitape, New Guinea; Morotai, in the Dutch Indies; and Leyte, Philippine Islands, before going to Luzon. There the Red Arrowmen hammered General Yamashita’s forces for six months, killing 12,000 Japs before the Tiger of Malaya surrendered to the 32nd at Baguio.
October 19, 1945
“The Daughters of the American Indian” [Parallel to the Daughters of the American Revolution]
Pres. Mae Williamson
VP: Mary B. Salois
2nd VP Pansy Cavanagh
Sec. Rita DuBray
Treas. Viola Upham
Kate W. Smith, Nellie Buffalo Chief, Lillie Monroe, Elizabeth A. Welch, Irene Salois, Nora Spanish, Jeanette Night, Lucy Sharp, Julia Wades in the Water, Emma Last Star, Maggie Croff, Mary Huntsberger, Sadie Kennerly, and Hildegarde Jessepe.
Jan. 24, 1947
John McKay, because he is a veteran amputee, is given his choice of any new car with the price limit of $1600 value with the government picking up the tab.
June 20, 1947
Schultz, Noted Writer, Passes; Local Pioneer
James Willard Schultz, 87, now Montana pioneer and nationally known author of stories dealing with the early Blackfeet Indians, died at his home in Ft. Washougie, Wyoming, on Wednesday of last week, the body being forwarded to Browning, funeral services being held Monday afternoon by members of the Blackfeet Tribe. Lying in state at the Beck Funeral Home Sunday and Monday mornings, it was viewed by sorrowing Blackfeet as well as the deceased’s many white friends of older generations. The life of Schultz was perhaps as colorful as any American in pioneer history. Born at Booneville, NY, August 26, 1859, he was educated at Peekskill Military Academy in preparation for West Point. However, he forsook opportunity for a military career to come west and be one of the actors in the drama of Montana pioneering. His trip was by boat from Missouri to Fort Benton. In 1877 he was inducted into the Blackfeet tribe and named Ap-i-kuni, in the Indian tongue meaning “Far Off White Robe.” From then on for many years he was virtually a full-fledged member of the tribe, sharing their joys and sorrows and maintaining his fealty to them to the very day of his death. Learning the Blackfeet language, he launched upon a literary career in the middle 1900’s, among books produced being “My Life As an Indian;” “Bird Woman,” the life of Sacajawea; “Blackfoot Tales of Glacier National Park;” “Signposts of Adventure; “ “Rising Wolf;” and “The White Beaver.” Schultz named many of the peaks in Glacier National Park, including Red Eagle, Going to the Sun, Grinnell Glacier, and Grinnell Mountain. His first wife was Multsi Ahwatan Ahki, a Blackfeet, who died in 1903. A member of the Catholic faith, she was buried in the Holy Family Mission cemetery. To them was born a son, Hart, of Greer, Arizona. In 1931 he married his present wife, Jessie Louise Donaldson, former member of the faculty of the Montana State College amd now engaged as a social worker in the Indian Service at Ft. Washougie. [There are other related articles.]
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 Cemetery, 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!
April 16, 1948
FFA delegates: Jack Wood, Steve Barcus, Bill McCurdy, Dennis Harris, Kenneth Juneau, Ed Conway, Eugene Kipp, Jerry Show, Lee Wilson, Fred Pambrun.
Jan. 14, 1949
William Marceau froze to death. 29 below.
Jan 27, 1950
No relief money for Crees -- Joe Hameline is chopping up his floor and burning it to keep from freezing.
Percy Bullchild dies. [Author of “The Sun Comes Down,” which was also his Indian name.]
Feb 3, 1950
30 inches of snow -- 20-30 foot drifts.
July 7, 1950
Mayor and entire council QUIT!! Frank Sherburne is the mayor. Jack Moyer, Henry Parsons, Wm. Wright, and Gus Hunsberger.
1674 people in town. More than half are Indians. There are 4,000 Indians on the reservation which is self-supporting with its income from resources. One quarter of a million dollars was spent on various levels of welfare. There is one policeman. When, over 4th of July, he arrested 20 drunks, they broke out of all sides of the flimsy jail -- pushed out or dug under the walls, broke out the ceiling, etc. Drunkenness and violence rampant.
August 25, 1950
Agent F.C. Campbell’s daughter married LeRoy DeRosier. [The DeRosier family has been remarkable in achievement and contribution to the reservation.]
Sept. 8, 1950
Eloise, 4, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Polite Pepion, suffered a fracture of the right forearm Tuesday when she fell from a riding pony. With other playmates, she was enjoying a ride at the Pepion ranch. The accident occurred when she fell from her position behind the saddle. She was taken to the local hospital for treatment. [Eloise married Turk Cobell. She is now a MAJOR part of history as the complainant in the just-now settled lawsuit against the US government for mismanaging the trust funds of Indians.]