Monday, May 01, 2006


Clara Jane Found A Gun, obit from Great Falls Tribune.

EAST GLACIER. Clara Jane (Daniels) Found A Gun, 84, of East Glacier, a retired cook, died of natural causes Saturday at Peace Hospice in Great Falls.

Rosary is 7 tonight (April 25, Tuesday) at East Glacier Community Center. Her funeral is 3 PM Wednesday at Little Flower Parish in Browning, with burial in Willow Creek Cemetary.

Survivors include daughters Sharron Olson of East Glacier and Donna Found a Gun of Browning; sons Mick Johnson and John Johnson of Bigfork and Gary Addington of Helena; sisters Karen Witsey of East Glacier, Patty Daniels of Rocky Boy and Lorraine Spotted Bear of Browning; brothers Donald McCurtain of Missouri and Charles Daniels of Great Falls; 16 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Aside from visiting on the street with Clara and Tom Foundagun when I was lucky enough to pass them in my East Glacier years, I was always pleased when they came to parent-teacher conferences -- and why wouldn’t both sides be pleased with such stellar kids? They maxed the IQ tests that everyone said Indians were too culturally handicapped to understand. They really listened in class and understood the lessons. They behaved but were full of life and laughter. Quite an accomplishment for any parents.

Clara was a school cook -- a beloved figure, no doubt about it, but not one you’d want to rile. (NEVER tease the cook!) Not an intellectual, except that she loved to read. As it happens, East Glacier Women’s Club has a rather exemplary library, mostly stocked with books from Betsey Jennings, the postmaster there for many years and a Hollywood screen writer before that. (Talbot Jennings, her husband, wrote the screenplay for “The Good Earth.”) In the summer East Glacier can be quite cosmopolitan, partly because the Big Hotel draws in high grade tourists and partly because from the earliest days Horace Clarke’s ranch behind the Big Hotel was being managed by his sisters, formidably educated women who collected famous artists and writers. These sibs were the half-Blackfeet children of the Malcolm Clarke whose ranch eventually became the Baucus ranch in Sieben. One of the women, Helen, was the first school superintendent in Montana and brought in the first piano.

Clara’s mother, who was Indian (Sioux? Cree?) or possibly Metis, died when she was ten years old. Her father was English. Her brothers Charles Daniels (now of Great Falls) and Donald McCurtain (now of Missouri) were sent to Haskell while she was sent to Fort Hall in Idaho. Rather than lamenting, Clara found this a rescue and said she was always grateful for the sound high school education she got as well as being protected from the hardships of the Depression.

Clara’s first marriage fell apart, leaving her with two children, I think the two that I taught. She remarried Thomas Found A Gun, a long tall thoughtful man, and for the next 57 years they lived happily in East Glacier in a little cabin. As you see above, she and Tom had a daughter together as well as accepting other children who needed a home.

An ideal Blackfeet woman is one who is rock solid and cheerful in her daily routines, who is a dependable launching pad and refuge for her family, a constant source of nourishment and discipline of every kind. The mother is the heart of the family.

Gary Addington, Clara's son, has been working for the State of Montana in Helena for decades. They tell me that he got fed up with politics and is driving truck now, which shows he is intelligent as well as smart. He was a handsome boy who always reminded me of Richard Burton, but as time goes on, he begins to look more Indian. He wears a big hat and boots now. I couldn’t recognize his sister.

Clara’s eulogy was read by a female relative. I assume she wrote it but didn’t catch her name and am sorry, because it was very well done. She spoke of Clara’s happy memories of fishing for catfish at Fort Peck when she was a child. The most appealing image of all was Clara at Fort Hall in Idaho at boarding school, where she was in the habit of getting up very early in the morning, before most other people. She would go to the kitchen to pick up a chunk of bread right out of the oven and a bowl, which she carried to the dairy for milk right out of the cow. Carefully holding her breakfast in front of her, she went to a high place above the buildings to watch the sun come up.

It’s a very Indian thing to do, but also the habit of a person who can say, “this is the day of the Lord -- rejoice and be glad in it.” The eulogist’s theme was that Clara was a woman of spirit, and she certainly was. I would add to that the quality of “moral courage,” the strength to do what needs to be done because you know that it is right.

That morning in the same church there was a funeral mass for Patrick J. Carlson, a man of many skills including machining, carpentry, welding, world champion level pow wow singing and fancy dancing, horse racing, and playing cribbage. He died young (61) of cancer and even so was preceded by three children: Carl Ray, Patrick Junior, and Velvet. Pat was another naturally religious person of moral courage. He was a “syncretist” who could combine sweat lodges with charismatic Catholic liturgies.

Eight recent reservation deaths remind us that in spring they often happen in clusters, partly because when the green grass comes, old people feel they can let go; partly because when it warms up, the young people mix beer and cars.

Pat Carlson was Darrell Kipp’s cousin and the same age. When they were very small, racing around getting into trouble, they were tended by the old grandmother who only spoke Blackfeet. “How did that work?” Darrell asked Pat. “How did she make us behave?” They laughed, four-year-old cousins again for a minute. Those old ladies had moral courage. They knew what was right. The sheer strength of their conviction was power enough to manage little boys and a lot more besides.

This is what it is like to live in a reservation community -- time passing, taking away beloved people but leaving behind the memories of their strength and spirit so that the survivors can find the moral courage to go ahead into an unknown future. It’s not anything you can do all by yourself.

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