Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WALTER MCCLINTOCK travels "The Old North Trail"

"Brave Dogs Smoking Before an Eagle Tipi"
McClintock's title.

“The Blackfoot Papers” Volume One

Strangely enough, there is no entry for Walter McClintock on Wikipedia.  There’s your chance to write one.

McC.’s first buddy was William Jackson, mixed blood, who was guiding a government inventory expedition to Glacier Park, since the US had just acquired it.  McC's specialty was presumably botany.  He was in the era of “salvation anthropology” when it was believed that the “Indians” were disappearing and that their vanishing lives should be preserved.  But their youngsters were interested in becoming modern and their old ways were oral, so it was up to whites to save everything on paper.  

Then McC became close to Mad Wolf, who named him “White Weasel Moccasin” and sponsored him to the tribe, adopting him as his son.  This was formal enough to be registered by letters at the Blackfeet Agency.  What McClintock may not have realized was that those old chiefs knew the strategy of finding and flattering a white man to be their instrument in the white world.  “McClintock’s adopted father, Mad Wolf, was a close friend and ceremonial partner to White Calf, who adopted Grinnell.”  Chewing Black Bone adopted Keith Seele, an Egyptologist of note.  Adopted sons were supposed to take care of their fathers.  This was not always done.  Whites accepted the honor but not the responsibility.

McC was the same era as Schultz and Grinnell, but never mentioned them.  They probably formed their own rather guarded relationships.  But McClintock didn’t become “part of the tribe” as AHW claims Schultz and Grinnell did.  (As AHW and John Hellson did — they don’t mention each other, though they are sort of modern echoes of those earlier men.)

p 165  Louis (Plenty Treaty) Bear Child  said that he sometimes worked for McClintock as a guide and interpreter.  He said the people generally respected him, that he was a quiet and decent fellow.  But he was also seen as somewhat aloof.  He often liked to be alone to write.  No one was quite sure what to make of him.  Louis’ personal complaint was that McClintock ‘was too cheap.’”  That’s a pretty universal complaint about all white men.

AHW is a little disappointed that McC sometimes changes names and dates to suit his story.  Maybe the guy just didn’t take good enough notes, or maybe he was improving his narrative, Schultz-style.  AHW is an academic historian by training.

“Scholars periodically describe McClintock as one who ‘lived for years among the Blackfeet,’ which is not quite correct.  He came to the tribe for the first time in 1886, met Mad Wolf, was adopted and never saw Mad Wolf again after that.”   In 1903 he came back for a few weeks for the “Sun Dance Encampment” — dunno if that’s the same as today’s Indian Days.  According to AHW, he came back in 1906, but not later.  I'm not sure I trust that idea.  

In those early days of the century, people tried to wear their traditional clothes and put up lodges with traditional interiors.  To encourage that in the Sixties, there were competitions for “most authentic”, in the style of State Fairs.  This complicates photo evidence by mixing periods.

AHW quotes McC’s notes of 1903:

("Many rough pages, badly scribbled, with minimal details of names and dates."  McC's opinion.McC describes arriving, searching out James White Calf and riding with Wissler to the Sun Dance camp.  Then there are notes about observing things like making a parfleche, gossip about people (“The son of Many White Horses was sent to school at Fort Shaw around 1900, married his white teacher there and moved with her to a city, though the relationship didn’t last long.  At this time, in 1903, the son was living somewhere back east.  He was the first known Pikunni to marry a white woman, and among the first to go live far from the tribe.”) and many descriptions of how poor they were.

There’s an amusing argument about which star was “Scar Face,” whom missionaries are always trying to push into the template of JesusBlack Snake Woman said it was Morning Star.  Last Gun said it was North StarMiddle Calf said it was a small star near Morning Star.  Shorty called bogus, saying none of them really knew.  Only the old-timers knew.

Before leaving, he went by the place in Browning occupied by Joseph Sharp and his wife.  
Sharp gave him a painting of a “Cheyenne Indian Head.”  One could accuse these people of feeding off of the last heritage of an impoverished people, and Louis was correct in saying they didn’t pay what anything was worth — no one had much idea how valuable the photos and painting could become.  Some of these men really did try to “become” part of the community and others didn’t.  Anyway, at that point no indigenous person was prepared to preserve the past in English words on paper.


Mad Wolf DID write to McC.  McC evidently sent him photos.  Mad Wolf says dramatically, “When I get your letters I hold them to my breast and shut my eyes and then I can see my son who writes them.”   He speaks of matters of health and also how the people are getting along with each other and their Great Father.  He says “The old way of killing is now under and the white man’s way is on top, and there is no way they can get killed only by killing themselves.”  (Talk about SM!)  At least one letter is written by a proxy: Thomas Magee.  Mad Wolf says it is okay to share his letters with Grinnell.  He sends McC a BAT !! and wants it arranged “with wings folded like a bird on a nest”.  Evidently he intends for it to be preserved for ceremonial use, something like a “study skin” which is not quite mounted on a false body as in taxidermy, but still preserved enough to prevent rot..

There is a section of Clark Wissler letters to McC.  He wants to use photos for his own talks, and praises “The Old North Trail” which he considers “artistic” rather than scientific, but effective in getting the material into the hands of ordinary readers.  His praise is always slightly patronizing.

p 271  Wissler says, “Finally, the thing that you do well and at which you show evidence of genius, is to portray the concrete settings of this culture.  It is a bit of actual Indian life that one looks in upon.  It is this that serious minded folk with most appreciate.

“I sometimes wonder if some day you will not go back and give us in this delightful way a view of twenty-five years afterward.  What now would be the attitude of the best men?  What incidents in their lives would stand out?  And thus without seeming to do it, give one a picture of the wreck due to the smashing of a civilization.”

McC mentions camping on “upper Cut Bank” which I would guess is near Starr School.  Maybe where the Starr School road joins highway 89, which is close to where Old Jim White Calf’s allotment was.  Arthur Nevin was visiting, another claiming to write “Indian” music.  (It’s nice, but not Blackfeet.) 

At one point he attends a Catholic mass, evidently at Holy Family, though he says “Santa Maria” which doesn’t match any church.  But also he says “Two Medicine” which is the location of the mission at Holy Family.  He says:  “Father a tough looking specimen.  Strange service.”

Another incident that actually involves a photo:  “A hot ride over prairies . . . down the Cut Bank cool.  Riding up to lodge, saw a few feet away and on river bank a young Indian woman gathering strawberries.  Picturesque.  Long hair in braids over shoulders . . . Picketed horse on hill, then asked for picture.  Refused.  Told her she ought to have it for her lover to show him how fine she looks.  That seemed to decide the question so she came, kneeling in the grass as directed.  That was Strikes in Night. . . . Sad story of big family, deserted by worthless father who turned them out of house . . .  They live along in a small lodge a short distance up the river.  They return upriver, crossing, mother and eldest girl with children on their backs. Took photos.”

Wild strawberries do grow around here (at least there are a lot of them near Dupuyer) but usually what people pick along the streams are chokecherries (after a frost) and sarvisberries.  AHW claims that McClintock spent time learning a lot of botanical information from a tribal woman, claiming to plan a separate book which he never wrote.  The info was added at the end of “The Old North Trail.”

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