Saturday, September 05, 2020


Since printing technology has progressed to cheap, fast production of small books, usually with soft covers, books about Blackfeet rez matters have proliferated.  It’s almost impossible to list all of them, but I can note the ones I have on my shelves.  Some are produced for a political cause, some are written by locals prosperous enough to get the local newspaper to print their stories, and one whole set was created by School District #9 in Browning.  These are well-worth reprinting and widely distributing when there is money.  The senior authors are often deceased, a major loss of oral culture.

Rod Paisley was a teacher and rancher up in St. Mary’s Valley, formed by the body of water in the valley that reaches from the east side of Glacier Park up into Canada.  For many it has been a refuge that the Blackfeet called “The Inside Place.”  I have three books of Rod's.  “The Tale Goes with the Hide: Memoirs of a Bullshooter” (1980), “Chief Mountain Tales: Stories of the Chief Mountain Area” (1993), and “Big Sky Tales: True Stories of Western History, Special People, Memories of Experiences, Special Places and Humor” (Undated, before 2000)  These tales are presented as absolute truth and are best read that way.  Paisley was the man who got Ernest Gray started on boxing.  Ruth Fisher, Rod's co-teacher in the small Babb school, explains why Jim and Emerson Fisher were so smart.

At the other extreme are two booklets intended for schools and produced by people from other places and tribes who are free-lancing series, composing info from library sources and other research.  They are introductions with lots of photos in layouts, meant for kids.

“The Blackfeet”(1995) by Theresa Jensen Lacey is from a series at Chelsea House.
“The Blackfeet, People of the Dark Moccasins” (2003) by Karen Bush Gibson is from “American Indian Nations series” by Capstone Press.

M.L McCluskey, Ed. D. is an authentic contemporary enrolled Blackfeet who has spent a lifetime in education and has written several books.  “The McCluskey Boys: Adventures in an Indian Boarding School” (2012)  This one is accessible, good-natured, and not an attack on boarding schools — just an honest account.

Bob Yetter wrote “Badger Two Medicine: The Last Stronghold, Sacred Land of the Grizzly, Wolf, and Blackfeet Indian” (1992) to attract support for the defense of the Badger/Two Medicine between Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, which is considered sacred land by the Blackfeet.  It is also an homage to Matthew Hansen who died aged 23.  He was a poet and early defender.

Sometimes the authors are as interesting as the subjects:  “Bob Yetter worked as the Assistant Director of the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute, from 1989 – 1999, overseeing their interdisciplinary outdoor program, “Wilderness and Civilization.”  He moved to the north Kootenay Lake area in 1999, and now teaches “Holistic Hunting”:  A 16 hour course exploring the practical and philosophical aspects of hunting, with an emphasis on the spiritual responsibilities of taking life to sustain life.”

Margery Pease wrote “A Worthy Work in a Needy Time: The Montana Industrial School for Indians (Bond’s Mission) 1886-1897” (1986)  Margery is a Butte native who married Ben Pease, Jr. a full-blood Crew in 1948 and taught school with him for many years.  She is an active Unitarian who recovered this history of the only Unitarian boarding school during that time of indigenous education.  Ben died in 2004.  Margery still lives in Billings.  The booklet has been reprinted repeatedly.

Dorothy M. Hamaker wrote “Napi’s Lookout: the Story of Willow Rounds,” (1967) about the ranch where she spent her adult life.  Historically, it had been a favored campspot for Blackfeet and has many tipi rings of stones used to hold down the edges of lodgeskins, but the actual “willow rounds” were growth patterns of the meadows between trees that made the place so pleasant.  Dorothy never ventured far away, got this booklet printed by the Shelby Promoter, and spent her last frail years in the Marias Care Center in a room furnished with her beloved paintings and books, quietly continuing her work.


“Grass Woman Stories” by Mary Ground (1978)
“Roaming Days, Warrior Stories" by George Comes at Night.” (1978)
“Pinto Horse Rider” by Tom Many Guns (1979)
“Napi Stories” by Darnell Davis Rides at the Door (1979)
“Sta-ai-tsi-nix-sin Ghost Stories” introduced by Conrad LaFromboise (1979)
“The Educational Movement of the Blackfeet Indians, 1840-1979) by Jackie Parsons (1980)


Famine Winter” by James Willard Schultz with permission from the Museum of the Rockies.
“Running Eagle: Woman Warrior of the Blackfeet” by James Willard Schultz (1984)  Originally copyrighted in 1916.  This pamphlet and the one above were edited by Jon Rehner.

“The Time Up in the Sky, Poems by Students of Heart Butte School” edited by Mick Fedullo (1984)

These three pamphlets from Heart Butte are much smaller than the examples in Browning.

Ripley Schemm, known as the wife of Richard Hugo as well as her own work as a poet, sponsored poetry in the Heart Butte Schools one year, but I have no dates nor any copy of the Heart Butte kids’ poems.  

John Tatsey’s Glacier Reporter newspaper tales about Heart Butte were compiled and edited into a book called “The Black Moccasin: Life on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation”.  Tatsey was “the law” in Heart Butte for many years and accumulated many stories in a genre that could be described as “picaresque” like “Stay Away, Joe,” or “Billy Jack,” or some Sherman Alexie stories.  They’re highly popular with ordinary people, but rather shunned by academic literary types.  Dan Cushman's "Stay Away, Joe" became a Broadway show called "Whoop Up" and an Elvis Presley movie.

Many well-designed books have been produced as essays accompanying art shows, explaining the artist as well as picturing some of the art.  The one I have that’s particularly useful is “Contemporary Indian Artists: Montana/
Wyoming/Idaho” which was produced under the auspices of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the U.S. Department of the Interior.  It includes an essay by Ramon Gonyea, then curator at the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning.

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