Friday, December 13, 2013


Hello Ma'am,

Mike Bailey here at the Brazoria County Historical Museum in Angleton, Texas.  I found this card in a box of postcards recently  donated, the back of the card says Mr. and Mrs. Wades-in-the-Water... Browning, Montana 1953.  I saw where you had put some materials on a blog and saw the name mentioned above. I was hoping that you would be able to identify the people pictured and give us a bit more information.

Thanks and regards,

M. Bailey 

This is the photo on the post card.

The material I’m quoting below draws on The Blackfoot Papers, a four-volume archive containing all the materials collected in the career of Adolf Hungry Wolf (which continues).   These books are owned and managed for sale by the Browning Public Schools.  They are invaluable -- a “museum in a box” with images and information collected from hundreds of sources.  [The original name of these People is Siksika or, on the Montana side they are Amskapi PikunniSiksika is translated either plural on the US side or singular on the Canadian side.]

White people get all excited by Indian names, so -- not to disappoint -- “Wades in the Water” or “Soyaw” (1871-1947) was the son of Running Crane and Blazing in Sight, also translated as Light-over-the-Hill.  He had a terrific face that was also what whites thought an Indian should look like, so he was photographed by T. J. Hileman, who is probably the producer of this postcard, as well as portrayed in the famous Winold Reiss portraits on the Great Northern calendars.  (He was on the 1945 one.)  His wife was also portrayed.  She didn’t die until Jan. 4, 1954.  Julia (Stacht-sepist-aki, Under Owl Woman) was a noted craftworker and probably made both their outfits.  Both of them belonged to the Crazy Dogs, order-keepers or Indian police, which meant Julia would have been considered a warrior.  He was Chief of Police and jailer for many years in Browning and was respected as a chief, which his father and grandfather had been before him -- not out of inheritance, but out of personal quality.  He was old enough to have participated in buffalo hunting and horse raiding as a teenager, with all that implies in terms of killing and taking scalps. These people are transitional, beginning their lives in the last of the buffalo days and ending them after WWII.

Other names include his maternal grandfather, No Coat, who was a Thunder Pipe Bundle Keeper.  The Bundle was acquired by the Museum of the Plains Indian.  His maternal aunts and uncles include:  Rattler, Mad Plume, Morning Gun.  His brother is Little Petrified Rock (buffalo stone or iniskum).  Other relatives are Comes In By Herself, Crane Old Woman, Good Success (married to Charley Rose -- not THAT Charlie Rose), and Deathly Woman, wife of Cree Medicine.

Locals and others “up” on the history of the rez will know that Julia was the mother of Nora Spanish from a first marriage.  Nora and Bill Spanish were strong figures in terms of representing the tribe when I first came in 1961, esp. through the Museum of the Plains Indian.  Adolf includes many photos plus the Reiss paintings.  I’ll repeat a story told by Adam White Man to Claude Schaeffer on Dec. 12, 1952.  (Schaeffer was the resident anthropologist at the Museum of the Plains Indian.)

Museum of the Plains Indian

“Wades in the Water” had an older brother who died.  He felt sorrowful and went up into the mountains to fast.  A vision came to him.  In his first dream a bear appeared and transformed into a person.  This person told him to return home.  He was wearing a special shirt with circle designs and had his face specially painted.  He carried a white goose-wing fan, a small wooden human effigy, and a short bone whistle.  The spirit person said,  “I’m the Thunder.  If you are near a person struck with lightning, you can treat them with the whistle and effigy.”

Towards morning Wades in the Water awakened.  He looked from his fasting place and saw a multi-dotted bird sitting nearby.  All at once a thunder storm arose.  The lightning flashed nearby.  Then the storm ceased.  After that we went back home.  Adam knew him at the time of this storm.

Adam confirmed the story of Nora (Spanish, telling about her father’s version).  She said Wades painted a cross of white paint on the left side, below his eye, as a sign of power from Jesus.  Wades informed Adam that ‘Our Lord gave him power.’  (It was said) that the circles represented sacred medals.  There were two separate dreams, one with Thunder and the other with Jesus.  Adam said it’s very unusual for an Indian to receive power from Jesus.

Wades in the Water doctored Rides at the Door when the latter was struck by lightning (at the Sun Dance camp) in back of the Museum.  He doctored by blowing the whistle which caused him to regain consciousness.  When doctoring, Wades in the Water threw the effigy at Rides at the Door.  The effigy stood up.  Wades had told Rides, ‘If I throw the effigy and it stands up, you will recover.’  Rides told Adam,  ‘After I regained consciousness, Wades gave me his effigy to sleep- with that night.  (He was told,) if effigy appeared to him in his sleep, it was a sign of recovery.  So Rides slept with it and it appeared in his dream as a little boy.”

Don’t imagine that these people went around in full ceremonial regalia.  This clothing is worth thousands of dollars today and is sold in fine arts auctions.  There is much technical writing in various places about the kinds of beads used, the sort of stitch with which they were attached, the evolution of patterns from abstract to floral, the degree to which the buckskin is left with the shape of the animal or squared off and tailored.  Early “suits” are in more pieces: detachable sleeves and leggings that do not necessarily match each other in terms of pattern and color.  The familiar Sioux fanned style of headdress was preceded among the Blackfeet by a sort of stovepipe stand-up style, which has now returned because people began to respond to anthropological research instead of popular media images. Blackfeet put a high value on creative individual ideas within the preceding traditions.

These portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Wades in the Water are by Winold Reiss.

No comments: