Saturday, March 31, 2007


Since there is a constant muted but perceptible buzz about the contemporary shortage of Westerns, a statement in a TV review caught my eye. “He’s a 21st century Marshal Dillon,” says the executive producer of “The Unit,” which is written by David Mamet and former Delta-Force member Eric L. Haney. The producer means that Dennis Haysbert is big (6’4 1/2”) and has one of those deep Black Velvet voices. “He carries himself in a way that demands you...look at him.” He’s a “compassionate warrior.” If he were given an order to do something wrong, “He’d find some way around it.” Yeah, that sounds familiar.

When I was in seminary, we used to talk a lot about the “wilderness” meaning the space where one didn’t understand what to do, couldn’t interpret what was happening, but knew that danger was involved -- a test, an ordeal. In the Bible the wilderness is often the desert. Then we would talk about how in modern times the wilderness has moved to the inner city. Sophisticates would suggest that the true wilderness was the human heart and mind. Now it looks as though we’re back to the Biblical desert, but in modern times.

What we’ve considered the “Western” genre has had some strange and sometimes unacknowledged rules. For instance, if an Indian writes about the West, it’s not a Western -- it’s a Native American novel. If a white writes about an Indian, that’s a Western. A white cannot write a Native American novel or movie. Everyone understands that “Smoke Signals” and “Skins” are NA movies, but “The Missing” and “Dances with Wolves” are Westerns. Dennis Haysbert is black, Mamet is white, and I don’t know about Haney but his name sounds maybe Irish. So this is a Western, maybe sorta.

I wonder if there will be female Delta force soldiers. Probably not. Women can be side-kicks or evil adversaries, but rarely six-foot-tall and so on. But Westerns can morph into other genres and when they do, sometimes there can be the equivalent of the massive male, like Sigourney Weaver in her robot loader in "Aliens." Westerns really make good sci-fi (like Star Wars) because if outer space or a strange planet aren’t wilderness, nothing is. The moral dimension is there in Aliens: the scary creature is only trying to have babies and protect them. The heroine knows it, sees the justice of it, but sacrifices herself to save her own kind. It’s a very severe version of killing people who are different (usually darker) for the sake of one’s own kind.

The most recent Western I’ve read is Wheeler’s “The Final Tally,” a reissue of an early Eighties book. It’s interesting because the writer is just learning the rules at that point so the skeleton shows. The gimmick is that “Santiago Toole” is both a doctor (“above all do no harm”) and the sheriff (“enforce the laws”), which means his moral dilemmas are persistent and unresolvable. For instance, in this story there is a teenaged daughter whose father has made her into even more of a monster than the usual fifteen-year-old girl you’d like to slap silly. She’s about to shoot Santiago, but he has one of those female sidekicks, in this case a half-Shoshone wife named Mimi. Mimi shoots the girl in her gun hand.

The most successful Westerns always have an element of macabre humor (like ghetto Westerns, e.g. NYPD Blue), so when the girl’s finger is shot off, a magpie swoops down and steals it out of the grass. Santiago the Doctor heals the girl, there is a trial, she is convicted and Santiago the Sheriff hangs her. The author has some fun with the size issue. Santiago is not particularly big, but the good-guy cook is really big and the biggest one of all (collossal) is a pesky federal marshall who keeps trying to take over. So Santiago uses his wits -- well, the author’s wits, which sometimes appear in the story as good luck. There is also a judge who is the obligatory eccentric geezer (Gabby Hayes, Chill Wills) -- he makes little ammunitions loaded with sand and shoots flying insects.

How is this different from Deadwood, the sophisticate’s Western? A Western is supposed to be rural. Deadwood is Manhattan in the Black Hills. The forces and descriptions in a Western are about terrain, geology, weather, and large animals. I got this far in my thinking and went to the blogosphere for ideas. I found this: It’s a guide to Western movies meant to be for teachers in English schools. It has some good bits.

“The Western has never been about that sliver of time between the American Civil War and the onset of modernity. It is, to use Jay Fred MacDonald's words, a "memory and vision of the deepest meaning of America." ... the genre itself is visionary, paring the past down to essence. Civilization is reduced to its bare particulars on the frontier, the edge of all things, so that each object that rises in the empty country acquires a weight in isolation verging on the symbolic.

“The Western is a man standing framed in a doorway, alone looking out at a desolate expanse; the line that separates the wilderness and the garden; the cost of violence; the moment at which society's foundations are laid over blood and sand.”

All of a sudden, I have an insight. Westerns are about the terrible price we are willing to pay in order to create a new country. Though it is often bloody and cynical, in the end the product is optimistic, an orderly human community in what was a wilderness. It is about looking forward to the vision and believing it. This is what makes it unique to the American West (and to outer space). Even people who are getting very frustrated with the wrong moves and the selfishness of some developments, still believe in this dream. (Which is why the “buffalo commons” idea -- giving up and bringing back the buffalo -- won’t work for a Western.)

Europeans don’t really have Westerns because their “orderly human community” vision dwells in the past, a lost Golden Age. Their stories are about the collapse of Empire and the heroism of those who tried to sustain it. They are about decadence, corruption, implosion. They are built on ruins. This is also why Native Americans don’t write Westerns -- their world was destroyed and must dwell in memory. Southerners don’t write Westerns -- not because of their climate, but because their plantation vision was destroyed and because it was founded on the moral evil of slaves who were not even allowed to have a vision of an idyllic past in Africa -- at least not until Roots.

If you accept this, then it is obvious that few are writing or reading Westerns because few are optimistic about the orderly human community vision in our future. The urban wilderness and the terrorist “other” are winning. Most attractive visions of the future are technology-dependent, which destroys the religious dimension that nature has become and even destroys nature itself. The movies that come closest to Westerns are the apocalyptic ones where the former civilization is wiped out, leaving a strong man and a few other survivors to begin again on the new frontier, trying to understand how to clear the wilderness which is often depicted as the debris of ruined cities.

Maybe most deadly of all the recent Western-killers has ironically been the actions of the true believers, who thought they could go into Iraq and create a new order friendly to our aims, brushing aside the local Iraqis in the same way as America has brushed aside the Native Americans. This has been a “cowboy” war in which victories are assumed to be easy for the righteous and the moral dilemmas of the frontier are simply ignored. We are driven by mercantile greed. “Deadwood” is a cynical anti-Western both because the goal of order is profit and because nature (the dependable religious dimension of Westerns) is excluded. The fat banker, the corrupt saloon keeper, and the homesteader-hating rancher were always the villains in the past, because they are community destroyers.

Are we healing the world (the doctor) or are we punishing the world (the sheriff)? And to what end? This is the moral dimension that needs to be explored and lately appears so unresolvable that no one can plot a true Western based on optimism. Lately we have so abused nature in the West that it would be fair to use the word “demonic.” Think of the hellish images created when the Italians (whose ideal world was ancient Rome) got their hands on the romantic American West.

Only if the writers are able to define a human community of the future that is more than International Corporate Oil interests will “The Unit,” be a Western. Perhaps the preservation of the beloved community back home can do the job (displaced from the future to a different continent) but only for Americans. Think Mamet is up to it? If not, we aren’t looking at Marshal Dillon. Instead we’ve got Colin Powell, unmanned by his own morality.

Friday, March 30, 2007


The invention of movable type, a technological advance over monk-operated quill pens dipped in ink, made books so much less precious that Bibles were no longer chained to the pulpit for the exclusive use of the priests. Ordinary people read the Bible and inevitably said, “Wait a minute! It says here... but the priest never told us that!” The new knowledge led to the Protestant Reformation (and that prompted a Catholic Reformation) and the Euro world tilted on its axis. A monopoly and a corruption had been broken by movable type.

So now comes our new technology, digital internet supported by satellite. It changes the book, the radio, the television, the movies. It changes the bookstore, the record store, the local movies. It changes the writers, the financiers, the delivery systems. (My movies didn’t come today and I’m peeved!) The computer itself changes, so it’s no bigger than “a paperback book.”

In fact, paperback books were a technological innovation that changed readers, making books even cheaper than before, sold in grocery stores and gas stations, so that the stories interested a different level of people. They coincided with WWII and Korea, with the military “hurry-up-and-wait” habit that gave the ordinary guy a lot of time to read.

At my local library, there is a stack of paperback Westerns and mysteries, all well-worn, that come and go all the time without the librarian even bothering to check them in and out. They sell on the Internet for pennies, and stacks of them are in the back of used bookstores. A friend of mine here in East Glacier acquired a “short stack” of them and in the midst was one with my father’s name written into it, originally bought in the Fifties in Portland, Oregon, not sold until his death at the end of the Sixties. But today you can hardly give away a Western manuscript to a publisher. (Anyway, PETA will soon ask us to stop riding on horses as something that imposes on their dignity and anyway the writers seem hardly able figure out which end a bridle goes on.)

So now we come to the Internet, where the print flies all over the place. Arguably, blogs deposed a president and the Republican power-grab -- or you could say it did if those jokers hadn’t provided so much of the content themselves with mere email.

I blog a thousand words a day, which I’ve done for years, but no one read it because there was no Internet. In the Sixties I used to hear people say, “Mary Clearman Blew is the only female writer in Montana,” and I gnashed my teeth because I wrote all the time -- I just couldn’t get published. (Yesterday I bought an anthology of female writers in Montana. It’s a fat book.) Now I PUBLISH daily plus creating Print On Demand books. People worry about the world drowning in self-produced books and blogs, but I think the danger is not great. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time and you have to have something to say. (I heard a woman say, “I’d love to have a blog, but I just can’t think of anything to blog about.”) Now the bloggers are all making videos. (Some day they may say, "Prairie Mary is the only female still blogging in Montana.")

The technology alone is not enough to make change. It’s when there’s a suppressed need or purpose that the techie stuff grabs the imagination and the opportunity. And those needs and purposes are not always available to the predictors. Would they have predicted Tech-sophisticated guys from India talking genome issues? Or who knew EMT’s can write the belt buckles off most of today’s mystery writers?

The effect on publishers and bookstores has been devastating. Rooms of authors have been thrown on their economic keisters. Foreign investors have been disgusted by the small return on their investment. Book advertising has shrunk to the point that major newspapers are closing down their book review sections. But libraries, at least those with tech-literate librarians, have been a little quicker on their feet. Strangely, it’s coffee roasters who have seen possibilities.

As I type, I’m streaming my public radio station, which is in Billings, a good long day’s drive away. The airwave transmitter has broken -- blown down again, probably, though it always seems to happen when they try to raise money so I sometimes think George Bush is jamming. Streaming works, though it requires an expensive machine, but if I’m streaming why not go to an all classical station to escape all this chatter? Say, a nice government-supported Brit radio station?

Consider US "public" radio, mostly supported by the educated and high income people (and I begin to see that the relationship between the two categories is reciprocal: that is, one must be high income to get educated which will earn you a high income) with their voluntary donations. Most of the rednecks and squareheads around here (snob alert!) are happy with their wailing country, Golden Fifties, and obscene hip hop, so long as the ag market and the weather are included. (Missing from NPR. I don’t care if it’s snowing in Billings anyway.) But the machinery of relaying the signal breaks down (high winds will do that, since the transmitters are up on ridges), so maybe all the highbrows should just go to streaming. Many of the listeners are cheapskates (like me) who never feed the kitty anyway. And public radio has been going more and more to chatter, less and less to solid music. YPRadio even took opera off of Saturdays. Since the Fifties I’ve listened to opera on Saturday afternoon. Every time I moved to a new place, I’d find the local public radio station so I could listen to Saturday opera while I pushed furniture around.

Public access airwaves television (which is not the same thing as highbrow public television) has been more of a local community (the paradigm from churches is “parish” -- everyone within certain boundaries -- rather than “gathered” like NPR) with taxes going to pay for the transmitter up on the hill. But the change from analogue to digital transmission and the availability of “pizza pan” satellite television or movies and TV series on DVD’s, has meant that the high-ridge transmitters around here have aged into uselessness. There isn’t really enough public pressure to get a new digital installation up there. Many people are still using their old analogue TV’s anyway. We’ll have to wait for the government-mandated switchover to see what really happens.

This is of great benefit to the economy of China, since we all have to keep retooling and buying new equipment. Good for Walmart.

But it changes the way we read and write. And some of the population has switched over to an aural culture: talk and music. Some of the best writers have gone to satellite TV. (Interesting article in the last Vanity Fair about the guy who wrote “The Sopranos.”) IPods accompany people to work -- you can listen as you drive but must take mass transit to read. For the REALLY techie among us, one can fold videos into written blogs. Even I can slip in a photo now and then. I’m told the Great Falls Tribune is anxious to become an eNewspaper-only so as to get out from under the burden of printing and distributed a daily paper. But there are people here making their living from that “burden.”

Consider this, both content and format:
The Chronicle of Higher Education
From the issue dated March 30, 2007
Helping Small Publishers Distribute Their Works Quickly, Cheaply, and in Multiple Formats
HAVE IT YOUR WAY: During the next few weeks, someone might wander into the Tattered Cover, the large independent bookstore in Denver, and ask for the latest book by Fatemeh Keshavarz, a professor of Persian and comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis. The new book, Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than "Lolita" in Tehran (University of North Carolina Press), explores several aspects of contemporary Iranian culture and was designed in part as a corrective to Azar Nafisi's best-selling Reading "Lolita" in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (Random House), which Ms. Keshavarz views as simplistic.

If things go according to script, the clerk at the Tattered Cover will suavely tell our hypothetical customer, "Yes, we have Jasmine and Stars. Would you like that in hardcover, audio, e-book, or large print?"

Interesting to contemplate, but I have no conclusion yet. Yet it struck me that at least one of the NPR fund-raisers seemed to have NO consciousness of this kind of thing, still laboring along under assumptions that relate back to the Fifties when the term “high brow” was invented. Maybe “low brow” techies are the new “high brow.” They probably won’t be shocked by Lolita and they probably have a brother fighting in Iraq.

But if I wanted to peeve a nation, I'd simply blast their satellite feed. There goes TV, banking, ATM's, family communications, travel arrangements, etc. That's why I print out all my blogs and fill them.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I’m bouncing off of horror and mayhem in the media, esp. the news, and Venter’s new DNA quest which discovered an ocean of alphabet soup. The frame I’m working with is the idea that existence is a flow, a process, and even what seem to be stable, concrete entities are not at all. Since I’m watching epics about India through my Netflix connection, I’m thinking about Alec Guinness impersonating a droll and resigned Hindoo holy man. And then there are those EMT blogs with their riveting accounts of saving -- or not -- lives by knowing how flesh operates to stay alive.

I don’t think I’d have much trouble convincing anyone that a person is flesh, so vulnerable to trauma and aging that it cannot be maintained much beyond a hundred years. If we know this, why are we so horrified by abuses of flesh -- is it the pain? Why do we so love to read things like those EMT blogs? And if we really believe in “souls” -- our own identity without flesh -- why are we so unresigned to death which only removed our flesh?

It takes so little to kill someone. I remember a story about a murderer who killed people by inserting a steel hatpin into the crack where the top vertabra attaches to the skull. It was a pre-MRI tale and took the coroner a while to figure out. (I’m always impressed that the coroner on shows like “Wire in the Blood” can come to such definite conclusions. And yet it is so difficult to confirm something obvious like what killed Anna Nicole Smith. Which is not to say that fixing the blame is any easier.)

I’m thinking about the article in the Smithsonian about the sculptor who produced masks to preserve the semblance of men mutilated in war. If it were only flesh, why does a change in shape change our attitude towards the people whom we love? And why do we have such different attitudes towards such different configurations of flesh? (Whiskey Prajer has posted a joke mudflap with a paunchy, gimme-cap-wearing old guy where the busty sweet young female usually is. Actually I think that guy is kinda cute...)

Anyway, what’s the difference between a cup of ocean brine and a human being except organization, community, a balance between differentiation and connection. Why should we want to separate and preserve one human or one species out of all this unrelenting torrent of beings? The difference is just a stem cell, right? The difference between the cysts that doctors sometimes cut out of people (a cyst is an encapsulated blob of cells that might have hair and teeth or other person-bits in it that have somehow lost the game-plan and didn’t know how to make a whole person) and a person or creature with the uniquely shaped and configured cells of muscle, bone, brain and gut -- all nicely arranged the way they’re supposed to be, so that they function.

I read the blog called almost daily though I have to struggle to understand it. I see there that the scientists have managed to implant the single gene that allows mammals to see the color red into a mouse, which normally doesn’t have that gene. Sure enough, tests showed that the mouse recognized red. So will we find a gene for infrared and implant it into humans who will then be able to see in the dark? Can ultraviolet be far behind? Will this stand the art world on its ear? What will it “feel” like to see these extra-spectrum colors? What does it feel like now to people who are color-blind, tone-deaf? Are they lesser? Can we implant some colors and sounds for them? The GNXP guys (85 to 90% male -- quite a few from India) are always searching for “G” which is what they call intelligence instead of the battered old concept of IQ. They are not very secretly hoping there is a gene for G and they have it, even though the evidence so far is that it takes a lot of genes working together in a favorable environment (nutritionally at least) to create a high G. (Better ocean, better fish.)

I read about memory and the theories about how those sensations are encoded in the brain. (Muscle memory as well?) Will there come a day when they can stick a head in one of those things that looks like a clothesdryer and say, “Look, here is the smell of the bakery in the little hamlet of Cannon Beach, Oregon, in September, 1977. This part here is fresh Haystack Bread, and this code is for iodine and kelp.” Heck, I don’t need code. I can summon it up any time I want. But how does it work?

I don’t believe in souls. I believe in identity. But I believe that it is a process, a trajectory as much as its container, my body, is. A dance on a dancing stage. So how do I know who I am? How do others recognize me? Pheromones? Do pheromones remain unchanged while we grow fatter and thinner, older (always older -- never younger.)

If we were both in Cannon Beach in September, 1977, would we have the same memory molecules in our different brains? Or does Haystack Bread smell different to you? How do we know that when a mouse sees red, it sees the same color we do? How do we know we’re different people but in the same world at the same time? And how did we get so attached to each other? OR... so angry with each other.

Alec Guinness’s Hindoo character says that everything is pre-ordained and happens as it was meant to all along, no matter what we do. So if I try to make this world one way and you try to make it another, it doesn’t really matter because it will be the way it will be, as it was already ordained all along. (He says God but I don’t believe in God.) So is there any use in trying to save each other? If you were meant to do that, you will. Otherwise, you won’t, and no blame attached. I don’t think I like this. Let’s go back.

Molecular coding, DNA, controls the way your egg/sperm combo unfolds in the world, within the limits of that world. One of the codes, which we never see, determines how much energy any entity will have to spend in the world and evolution has taught each species in its particular world how to spend its energy. We’re told that each species has a quota to spend. So David Quammen has explained to us why salmon die after they spawn: it’s because they’ve spent their whole lives growing in the challenging world of that seething ocean and then struggling up a tumbling mountain stream to get to the very place they hatched, guiding themselves always by pheromones in the water. No more energy is left after that. Does this mean that if I write books with all my strength and ability, I will die after the last one? Well, obviously, or it wouldn’t be the last one, would it? Have I spent my energy on too much trivia when I ought to have saved it for now? Or am I holding back?

If I come to someone who is dying, should I do my best to be like an EMT and try to save them? But what if the whole world is dying? Of course it is. All along the edges where the global warming is changing the ecology, the trees are dying, the bees are dying. Because we’ve made this planet into one big ecology where the whole meshing of DNA bits must be recalculated and reintegrated, because the barriers of sea and mountain that created small protected islands are all breached, the flowers are blooming without bees and the cranes are flying without frogs. But we are so ATTACHED! How can we keep from grieving?

And how can we be sure we won’t be extinguished pretty soon ourselves, souls or no souls -- God or no God. Alec’s Hindoo would say, “Doesn’t matter. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.” After all, the planet will go on without us. Without us messing everything up, the DNA can go back to unfolding without any Petri dishes. Then will there be a place somewhere on the planet that “remembers” Cannon Beach in September? Has to be -- that moment has unfolded on and on and on and on...

Some scientists are saying that every possible unfolding is happening in parallel. Somewhere there is a galaxy with no earth, in another there is an earth that evolved humans who protected their planet. And another that performed a “save” at the last moment. We can only hope we’re on the right unfolding string.

I consider these religious questions and they do have a moral content. To me, a lot of the pattern is intensity. But does that mean I’ll be used up sooner or persist longer? Alec? “It is already decided.” I know two things for sure: I’m not alone and I won’t be “lost,” just transformed.

The Bible has two big paradigms in it. The Old Testament one says all the world is tribes, oases and kings/patriarchs. The New Testament one is the family: mother, father and child. The line between the two is blurred. But this new scientific worldview based on alphabet soup, all astir and recombinant, is a major break. It comforts me, but will it take hold on a planet? Alec?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This is what you want to look for. That's Richard S. Wheeler, not Cary Grant. And he says he did NOT hob-nob with Olivia Havilland. Sure, Richard. Define "hob-nob."


Richard S. Wheeler, who succeeds at the impossible task of making a living by writing Westerns, has written “A Literary Memoir” which describes how he “climbed the mast of a sinking ship.” It is well-worth reading, but there is a caveat. Asking Wheeler about personal information is a little like asking Cary Grant whom he slept with last night and whether that person was any good in the sack. The reaction is first stunned silence, and then a change of subject. You’ll get roughly the same reaction if you try to dish dirt about the evil devils known to be out there in the book world. Wheeler is a gentleman.

You can tell by looking at him. No dung-caked boots, no broad-brimmed hat, no worn-out jeans. Rather, the garb of a midwestern editor or newspaperman, both of which he has been: navy blue blazer, gray flannel slacks, stingy brim hat. Not that he couldn’t ride a horse if he had to, and not that he hasn’t had long patches of Scott Fitzgerald life in the early days, but his intention now is to stay warm, keep the house paid up, listen to others spin the yarns, and keep on writing. As he notes, sixty books are a plenty good enough scope into his innards. If you can’t figure it out, check your own innards. (That’s my advice. He would never say anything so rude.)

It appears from the outside as though he (as my uncle said about my cousin) “started at the top and worked his way down.” That is, at university he set out to be a pundit (“One who is or assumes the part of an expert in making pronouncements, criticisms, predictions, etc.”) and made a pretty good stab at it, writing editorials. Of course, it’s much easier to be a pundit if you’re in your twenties, but gradually, his age and inexperience betrayed him. There were a couple of flings with Hollywood, where he hobnobbed with Olivia deHaviland and the like while he tried to sell screenplays or at least ghost a few star memoirs. (That’s the stuff we want to know about, Richard!) But all the pretensions and aspirations were smashed when his first marriage hit the wall and he was found weeping and incoherent at his desk.

After that, the world kept reconfiguring around him except that he held on to the idea that he loved the West, esp. around Santa Fe and Billings. When he hit the very lowest point, he began to write Westerns because he knew the territory. But because during his editing years he was working on major intellectual books and during his years as an acquiring editor he read tons of Westerns, he managed to produce a kind of crossbreed: thoughtful and atypical Westerns.

“Westerns” are not considered to be highclass and the la-di-dah do not read them. Books about the West are piled in two heaps, one rather pretentiously called “literature” where the most popular writers are people like Cormac McCarthy who go out of their way to depict degraded gruesomeness or Ed Abbey who arguably advocates terrorism. The other is called “genre” and over there people just shoot each other all the time. Both use a lot of history.

So here’s Richard, writing “sweaty” genre stuff, as though it were literature. And here he is as a person, no longer pretentious and never prepared to scoff at those struggling to survive, since he’s been there, done that. His own development as a person was on an ascending gradient as his pundit quotient sharply declined. Only his wardrobe didn’t change.

And again he’s done a crossover into historical biography, generally considered literature. But he has such loyalty to the Western Writers of America, genre people in general, that he doesn’t make a fuss about it. In another of those unaccountable reconfigurations, Western genre literature has been invaded by all sorts of even lower-prestige self-publishers and dabblers in porn and etc. How far up the mast can a guy go?

The crow’s nest, right? The point on the ship where one can see far and maybe sight land. So when he writes a book about it -- even though it might better be called “The Reluctant Memoirist” -- we should pay attention.

A couple of summers ago, broke and a little confused myself, I set out to read as many genre Westerns as I could -- hadn’t done that since Zane Grey -- since I already had read shelves of trendy Western Literature. After I read the first Wheeler Western, I wrote him a fan letter. Back came a box of 17 Wheeler books. I read ‘em all. They confirmed what I already suspected: some genre Westerns are a heckuva lot better than some fancy WL and some admired WL is below the usual genre standard. I wrote 17 reviews, posted them on Amazon, and the rest is a friendship.

There are two ways Wheeler shines. One comes, I think, from his years in Method acting classes in Hollywood, which I also have in my background. (Neither one of us acts or intends to.) Method acting is not about mumbling, as is popularly supposed, but rather is about trying to recapture a moment of the past by recalling the sensory record of that time: smell, taste, color, temperature, and whatever else can be brought back. For some physiological reason, this triggers in the actor the emotion of that moment in a way so vivid that an onlooker is convinced of its authenticity. “Method” works in writing as well as acting, and gives Wheeler access to the interior of his characters, besides making his settings real.

The other way is that his general educational background is so broad and his own experience is so deep, he’s able to find the atypical that is often overlooked. In the art world the example might be Mian Situ’s evocation of the Chinese in the West. Indeed, in print we’ve had scholarly inquiries into women, children, blacks, Jews and Hispanics in the West, all respected WL categories, but Wheeler put them into genre tales.

The next step along these two lines was historical biography: the recovery of the conjectured interior life of Meriwether Lewis, Buffalo Bill, Bat Masterson, Thomas Francis Meagherm and Doctor John McLoughlin, the “White-Headed Eagle.” This enterprise rather challenged those history buffs who feel they have custody of the myths and do not want them changed.

How did he make it? What was his final secret? Friendship. Generosity. The Cary Grant factor. In many ways this book is an homage to all the writers and editors and agents who stick together, preserve their ideals, form a community of the solitary because they are all in the same boat. Pundits don’t always think of that.

But I'll try my hand at being a pundit. In Wheeler's real life he has married his genre approach to high-class Western Literature in the most literal way: marrying Sue Hart, who is a professor of Western Literature at the Eastern University of Montana. I predict that the two categories of writing about the West will find some kind of marriage as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Some years ago a televison producer did a survey of a “real life” show that sent camera crews along with emergency responders on various 911 calls and then followed through the first aid and transport to the hospital or whatever. They did car crashes, fires, violent quarrels, persons unconscious and so on. When the producers got the results of their survey to see who was watching the shows, they were startled to find that their most faithful watchers were pre-schoolers! (Don’t ask me how they did their survey, since most of these little folks could neither read nor write.)

These little guys were carefully noting what to do, remembering all the safety tips about handling dynamite or storing gasoline or preventing choking, though they were too small to ever perform a Heimlich Maneuver on any being bigger than a cat and not heavy enough to do chest compressions. Sometimes they COULD dial a phone and even knew their address. They CAN push OnStar in one of those communicating cars. Or sometimes a neighbor will sense trouble and request a welfare check, whereupon the ambulance crew might find a tiny mite next to his unconscious or even dead mother, a glass of water next to her head and a blanket unevenly pulled over her.

I can barely remember being the age when I was confident of my ability to cope with any emergency (when I wasn’t having ghastly nightmares) and officiously instructed others what to do. There was a right way for everything and people ought to do it, I thought. A comforting idea. Maybe this was exaggerated in part because I was born in 1939 and grew up hearing about the patriotic derring-do of soldiers, all failures and most tragedies being muted by newsreels and on the radio for the sake of an illusion of Churchillian omnipotence. As an adult it took me some effort to get over the grandiosity of thinking I could fix things and immediately plunging in to set the situation right. It was a handicap to a ministry, where humility and caution are far more helpful. But the same qualities were very helpful when I was an animal control officer and obligated to intervene.

So when someone sent me a blog entry about the results of an ostrich attack (death by disembowelment), I was eager to see what the emergency responder did and whether it worked. (They transported the bodies and the police shot the bird in self-defense, which resolved the danger.) This has turned out to be the doorway to a whole array of blogs written by emergency responders in the most vivid prose. As it turns out, they are more likely to be dealing with poor, old, addicted people than ostriches, so a social element enters into it. Some of these bloggers are very right-wing, law-and-order people -- just as I was as a little child -- but I probably have too much exposure to bleeding-heart liberals already, so it's a good corrective. If I saw what they see, dealt with what they must handle, and was as frustrated by stupid regulations as they are, I’d be a lot more like them.

In addition to blogging and partly due to POD technology, many of these people are selling books either composed of their blogs or along similar lines. If I had the money, I'd create me a library -- or at least a shelf -- of these books even though my days as an emergency responder are over. They're great story material and some are better written than most best sellers.

One of my shortcomings as a blogger is not linking enough, so I’ll link with some of my regular check-ins below. But it’s quite possible, once a person has found the first one, to blog-hop across a dozen of them, all various in tone and content. Some read like the most hard-nosed noir novels, especially the ones in the South where the tropical creepy-crawlies abound and people stay up through the relatively cool dark nights, getting into trouble. Or the ones in the city ghettoes where the dispatcher tries to urge caution and waiting for backup as two guys venture into collapsing buildings without enough information. On the other hand, there are episodes of enormous built-in comedy when dealing with naked people, over-amorous people, and the inevitable people who get their big toes stuck in the bathtub faucet for lack of anything better to do.

But there are also serious entries about procedures, equipment, and workshops that mean some people are taking their role professionally and striving to become ever more competent. Most moving to me are the stories about teamwork in which medics, cops, and bystanders collaborate to save an impossible situation. Painful to read are the ones that try to express the exhaustion, sordid working conditions, mocking, and contempt that come their way, especially in down times when they’ve tried to find some quiet corner to catch a few winks or eat a sandwich in a smelly, worn vehicle.

Perhaps the National Animal Control Association will trigger some of these kinds of blogsites for animal control officers, or maybe they’re out there and I just haven’t found the right links. The public rarely knows what really goes on in their “nabe” unless they hang by the scanner listening to dispatchers (and even then they don’t really see and smell the scene) or live in a place like a village or a reservation where nothing happens unobserved and one's neighbors might be the interveners.

This is probably the reason why so many of our laws and regulations are inhumane (like closing down the feeding of street people or evading emergency services in ritzy hospitals or denying various services to illegal immigrants or children) or simply unrealistic (like trying to legislate obsessive/compulsive old alcoholics out of keeping too many animals). The newspapers like happy-talk about sexy singles or athletic retirees. The television wants something really exceptional with a visual dimension they can play over and over, like a plane crash.

Our picture of the world has developed a serious distance from the reality of the world. Hopefully bloggers who “tell it like it is” can bring us back to our senses as well as teaching us what to do in situations we hope we’ll never face. After all, only a small number of us have OnStar and all they do is call 911. A three-year old could do that.

(I couldn't make these link, but maybe the URL is better anyway.)
Paramedic Blog (

Sunday, March 25, 2007


When I was recently in Great Falls, I strolled through the bookstore as usual (mostly on my way to the magazines) and stopped idly when I saw a copy of “Diabetes for Dummies” at 40% off, probably because it was published in 2004 (2nd edition) and diabetes research travels so fast that there must be another edition out by now. It was EXACTLY the book I needed! The author was Alan L. Rubin, MD, who is not afraid to tell it like it is. I have to keep saying to doctors, “I am NOT STUPID!” but ironically, Dr. Rubin doesn’t think I am.

The biggest problem I seem to have when talking to doctors about my diabetes is that they try to manage me, partly by not telling me complexifications and if/then exceptions (assuming that I won't be able to handle them), and partly by trying to scare me into compliance with their standards. (Their standards do not necessarily agree with each other, which is a major part of the problem.) The second biggest problem is that they were educated some years ago and since then their biggest source of information has been some pharm salesman. They can hardly keep from resenting a patient who gets on the Internet and raises questions or studies they’ve never heard of. And they stubbornly cling to the idea that it’s all about sugar. I suppose they’ve developed this nasty practice because many people’s response to diabetes is denial.

Apart from the doctor, my problem has been trying to understand what my blood glucose readings should be and WHY? WHY, WHY, WHY everything! (Doctors hate that. Nurses aren’t real tolerant of questions either.) Everything in diabetes depends upon the patient to consistently take readings, record them, and adjust accordingly. (Unless you live with your mom or have a particularly protective housemate.) The very essence of the problem is that normal mammal bodies do that automatically, but diabetes means the monitor is broken and the conscious mind must take over.

Establishing a new routine (blood stabs, pills, exercise, etc.) takes energy and memory. If one is confused, angry, depressed, or inclined to just check-out -- things don’t go well. I don’t know how drunks, or ancient or demented people can survive -- maybe they can’t. I joked that if the cats cared as much about my blood sugar as much as they did about their cat food level, I’d have it made. They DO wake me up, keep me on a schedule, etc. If they were dogs, they might even force some exercise on me. The doctor was not amused. She did not suggest what I am considering: an alarm wrist watch. If you’ve ever been around people with HIV or AIDS, which I have, you’ll be aware of their alarm pill boxes. Good for people like me who sit down at the computer with a book and look up hours later.

The strategy of not telling me things, whether I need to know them or not -- and who are THEY to decide whether I need to know? -- and then -- going in the opposite direction, threatening me with ghastly fates like blindness or amputation, makes me shriekingly angry and breaks trust, so that I go back to the Internet with renewed determination to just rely on myself.

Diabetes for Dummies” does not make me angry. Dr. Rubin explains that the idea is to stay as close to 100 blood glucose as possible, with a little wiggle up to 120 and down to 80. One of the myths he addresses is the idea that if one is in perfect control, one's readings will always be perfect. BUT he is the first to say that going below 80 is not a good idea and that if one tends to go that low or lower, there is some risk of slipping into incoherence without realizing it. In my case, I found the prospect so scary that I kept my blood sugar a little higher than I probably ought to have.

When I was first given a prescription the doctor was reacting to my blood sugar, which was over 300 but she didn’t TELL me that. She just said, “Take this pill and this pill, etc.” When I got home and started the regime, my blood sugar plunged and the little meter got all excited. I called the doctor’s office, but of course she was busy. The nurse said, “What do you want US to do?”

“How do I know?” I asked. “I’ve only just been diagnosed.” She came back with a complicated set of directions about cutting pills in half. I didn’t even know the names of the pills or the routine, so I asked questions. Nurse left, nurse returned, said (exasperated), “Oh, just don’t take ANY meds except for high blood pressure.” So that’s what I did for the next six months. Reading and pamphlets told me to lose weight, eat no sugar and few carbs, go to low-glycemic foods. That worked. At least I thought it worked.

Then suddenly I got a call summoning me for a doctor’s appointment. It was just before Christmas and the roads were bad. “What is it FOR?” “I don’t know. I just do what I’m told.” It must have been a six-month checkup. I had my usual cheese and toast breakfast. Maybe two slices instead of one, since I didn't know when I could get lunch.

When the doctor saw me she was visibly upset and rather angry. Later it developed that my urine test showed sugar in my urine, which is bad, because if one’s kidneys must deal with much sugar, it damages them. (I read it in "D for D"!) Thus began a complicated cat-and-mouse game of questions and guarded answers, her trying to figure out what I was REALLY doing (sugar buns, jam on my toast?) and me trying to find out what she was REALLY asking. It turned out that I WAS doing things wrong, to some degree, even though my A1c test showed I was within the recommended boundaries. But there were exchanges that still ring in my ears: “How can I be throwing sugar in my urine when my blood glucose tests are all where they ought to be?” “Because you’re deliberately taking readings only when you know they’ll be good.” It wasn’t true.

What “D for D” has done is put me in position to know when I’m being manipulated. Now to find a doctor who won’t manipulate, particularly when their strategy is “everyone else is doing it,” and “most people” and “all the other gals like you...” These quotes are from more than one doctor. In this part of the world, one resists authority figures but does what similar people around one are doing. If everyone is mowing their lawn, you should get out there, too. So the doc says, “Everyone is taking this pill!” Conformity equals morality.

In the City of Portland I worked as a clerical specialist. My desk was pushed up against another desk belonging to another clerical specialist so I could cover for her. She was a middle-aged black single mother dying of diabetes. She’d already had rejected one kidney transplant, couldn’t find another match and was automatically at the bottom of the list because of the rejection, and was now dependent on peritoneal self-dialysis which she did in the lunch room while she ate her sandwich. The City would not give her a disability pension and her fellow clerks had already donated weeks of extra vacation to preserve her salary. Many days she would simply put her head on her desk and moan. This to me is diabetes. I don’t need to be threatened. Many of my Blackfeet friends have died of diabetes. I know it can be deadly.

I need reassurance and so does my diabetic buddy here in town. But neither of us can find a doctor who is straightforward and informed on the subject. Great Falls has plastic surgeons and bariatric doctors, but no diabetes specialist or dermatologist (in spite of high skin cancer rates). If our readings go up to 140 or 150, we wonder if we’ve just knocked a month off our life-spans or endangered our toes. If they went up to 200 we’d head to the emergency room! But how low can we go before we pass out? “D for D” says, “Oh, most people would agree that 60 is about the lowest you should go.” I’ve only gone that low twice in a year. Here’s a comparison: The rules for pilots are:
1. No more than one hypoglycemic loss of consciousness in the previous five years and one year of stability after that one incident.
2. Evaluation by a specialist every three months and multiple readings every day.
3. Carrying a meter in flight along with quick treatment stuff for hypoglycemia. A test showing a reading between 100 and 300 (What? I thought your head would blow off at 300!!) a half hour before takeoff, every hour of the flight, and a half-hour before landing!

Well, that puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? That’s got to be TIGHT and state of the art. (Don’t bother to do this if you’re an ex-governor of South Dakota and might need an excuse for a fatal traffic accident.) Incidentally, if you’re injecting insulin, there are special regs for even being a PASSENGER and carrying the equipment. (You’d better ask before you fly!) And if you’re diabetic, you can’t be in the military in the US, but you can in other countries. Don’t let THAT get around! And Doc Rubin is gutsy enough to give the levels that are probably “maintaining” for someone who will die in a few months as opposed to levels for someone who will most likely recover from whatever extra problem is weighing on them.

“D for D” has a section about kids, a section about the elderly, factoids like urine showing “spilled sugar” when the sugar reading is over 180, which is a level that could cause damage. (It didn’t in me, according to the kidney function test.) 180 is supposed to be the top limit after a meal, according to the ADA info.

Dr. Rubin is not afraid to say that information is so slippery and controversial that one can’t really trust even the fancy organizations, even ADA. (And I’ve read some interesting things about their vulnerability to high-powered pharm forces and their supposed scientific tests.) He’s loose enough to say that if someone presses food on you that you are socially obliged to eat (birthday cake just for you), you can probably get away with little damage by nibbling a corner, mushing the rest of it up and hiding it under the napkin. (Don’t slip it to the dog! Do you want the dog to develop diabetes!!) If you’re going to a fancy business meeting or a hot date in a high class restaurant, go to that place the day before and study the menu -- maybe confer with the staff. If it’s really high class, they’ll probably have a diabetic option anyway. Waiters can coach you.

These are the kinds of things a person really wants to know. Like, can I take aspirin? Yes, but it may push you towards lower readings than usual. Is cinnamon really helpful? Looks good, and what can it hurt? Will repeatedly getting woozy from hypoglycemia give you Alzheimers or kill brain cells? No. And he insists again and again that every doctor exam should include feet. In fact, there’s a little fiber one can buy that you can use to test the bottom of your feet for sensitivity, a good monitoring step. And he’ll GIVE you lots of good websites to visit.

His best advice to exercise your sense of humor as much as possible. I sure hear THAT!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Brashly (which may or may not be a character flaw, but is certainly characteristic of me), I declared in the matter of Ed Butcher that he simply has an old-fashioned notion of Indian issues and that thought about Indians has been totally revolutionized in the past few decades. So now I’d better back that claim up with some specifics.

Obviously, the post-modern and post-colonial thought of certain French philosophers (French-speaking anyway, though some of them seem to have come from French-oppressed colonies like Algeria) have stood everything on its head and made the victims into the prevailers . Moral force has been brought to bear as a way of breaking up the sentimentalization, Disneyfication, victimization, stereotyping, exploitation, and other ways of pushing around the “little people.” Indians have demanded the right to speak for themselves, to profit from the ideas that emerge from their cultures, and to “gate-keep” against all the officials who have come to take advantage of a captive population, whether in order to write books, to exercise their own ideas of eugenics (sterilizing women, adopting out Indian children to whites), to missionize (whether Catholics operating boarding schools or Pentacostals exploiting desperate people or Bahai expanding their franchise), to establish privilege for themselves and to generally handle real people as though they had no feelings and as though it were a moral entitlement over lesser follks.

In 1990 this was all unknown to me, though I’d lived on the Blackfeet Reservation for more than a decade, when I signed on to a listserv (Reznet -- dunno whether it’s still in existence) that was Indians only. Wow, did I get my consciousness raised in a hurry! The parallel movement was feminism or Black empowerment and included emotional intensity much in excess of anything I knew about Indians except in a context of violence. The people I knew on the rez were more inclined to withdraw than to confront. On this list there was so much political flaming, it was hard to tell from the usual level of indignation. I wasn’t supposed to be on the list (because it was just for Indians) and part of the importance of it was that it WAS a closed and safe community of self-identified Native Americans.

A big component of this ongoing stream was the “plastic shaman hunting.” The idea was to find and identify any white person who illegimately claimed to be or to have privileged knowledge of Indians. This search and destroy operation was meant to certify the plastic-shaman-hunter as a genuine Indian, rather like killing someone in order to be admitted to a gang. It was relentless, sometimes unfair, often deserved, and echoed in the academic community where people struggled to define and legitimate the identity of a Native American -- indeed, even what to call them. This embroiled people like Brooke Medicine Shield (whose books sell like hotcakes), Ward Churchill (honorary Indian), and even much-loved people like Louise Erdrich or James Welch. (Interestingly, the most war-like let Carter Revard -- raised Osage but genetically white and always a gentle healer -- completely off the hook and certainly no one ever even THOUGHT of implying that Adrian Louis was not Indian, for opposite reasons. I mean, if he’s NOT Indian, there’s no such thing!)

Another offshoot of this school of thought was Lisa Mittens, an NA librarian, trying to evaluate books about Indians in terms of a raised consciousness. (Oyate) Too many people tried to make Indians into a proper subject for children, or equated Indians with animals (interesting, but unaccountable and Other), or reduced them to sentimental morality tales. (“The Education of Little Tree.”) This is very parallel with rethinking about books about women. The work goes on, notably with the challenging of Indians as sports mascots for schools.

Quite apart from that is the revolution of thought about life in plants, animals and humans that has resulted from the deciphering of DNA. Creatures turned out to be from entirely different categories than one would think from looking at them. It became clear that the genome was “cumulative” and that even the genome of humans included genes for basic processes of life that developed in fungus. American Indians had earlier been grouped by blood type as “Asian,” which many of them understood as a slander that said they were “Japs” (esp. those who fought in WWII) or “Gooks” (a later generation). Now genome analysis can say much more about relationships, patterns of migration, and so on. But Indians, who were early labeled by genetic descent and “blood quantum,” are deeply wary about such investigations. Too often their physical being is treated as “artifacts,” put on shelves and in drawers, or displayed. Repatriation has been shocking because it revealed how much of Indians’ physical substance was in museums -- not their belongings, but the bones of their grandmothers. Still, what DNA evidence suggests is -- in some cases -- not what anyone expected. A good example is the Kennewick Man, whose skull shape was not “typical” of Indians, causing everyone to jump to the conclusion that a white man was wandering around Indian country thousands of years ago. Now everyone is trying to figure out what a “tribe” or a “race” really is and what it means and whether one is “better” than another.

The evidence of “paleoIndians” is still slowly mounting up. The conventional assumption was that people walked to the Americas over the Bering Straits at a time when the ocean was lower. When VERY ancient meat as well as knotted ropes were found preserved in peat on the South American coast, the assumption of dates and means were challenged. It suddenly became clear that “boat-hoppers” could have followed the ENTIRE Pacific coast line in pursuit of seals or whales. There was no reason why people couldn’t have crossed east-to-west through Greenland. If one looks at the planet with the north pole in the middle -- which we tend to assume is “up” -- it’s clear that whether the Arctic Sea is open (navigable by small boats) or frozen (navigable by dog teams) it is not an impenetrable barrier. In fact, there is a distinct circumpolar culture: certain artifacts, ideas about shamans, the use of sweetgrass, bear cults, and so on. Now the whole idea of the human populating of the Americas is that it was plural, repeated, had its roots in various populations, and was “hydraulic” and “dynamic” once it got here -- different groups pushing people around or reacting to the changing climate. The books on these subjects are many and powerful.

One of the most amazing studies I’ve seen is about the DNA of disease, which mutates and forms its own “tribes.” The routes it takes across the continents and through populations tells a story. The amount of information one can draw from this is a revelation and does not depend on human DNA at all. (Sometimes it’s rather entertaining, as on the riveting blog of John Hawkes when he posts studies about such things as how humans first caught body lice by sleeping in gorilla nests -- without the gorilla.)

Another source of change in regards to Indians is what is sometimes called “queer studies” and other times, more subtly, called “gender studies.” Another consciousness-raising enterprise, this seeks to explore our assumptions about how physical sex, emotional desire, economic conditions (often driven by environment or history) define men and women and those who awkwardly fall in between. People have long been fascinated by Native American arrangements that allow men to identify with women and assume their role, though it’s been hard for them to find a proper name or to understand what was really going on. (They assume it must be about fucking, which is not such a preoccupation in cultures less Puritanical.) “Two-spirited” contemporary Indian people have mixed this research with their own modern situation and produced a point of view that is both tolerant and demanding.

Satellite imaging has opened another source of information that is a window into the past. The Northern Piegan have spent several summers using GIS instruments and their own common sense to trace out habitual paths across the northern prairie. They figure out how far a band with only dogs could travel in a day, what would be the motivation (Berries ripe? Animal migration?), what sort of route a dog pulling a travois and a woman wearing a pack might take (not through heavy brush, not down or up a steep incline), in order to find campsites and prove them with evidence of fires, bones, vegetation and so on. Once found, the camp is noted via GIS and computers can reel out huge maps of the locations which, joined, reveal trails. Two main routes for dogs were found, then a third that had much longer spaces between camps but also stopped where there was water and grazing for horses. This provides new insight about people who have been using the “Head-Smashed-In” piskun since before the Pyramids were built.

As all this scientific re-framing has been proceeding, contemporary reservation dwellers have been quietly doing what more privileged and educated urban whites have not done: had children. And they have been joined by hispanics (whom everyone forgets are Indians, too) and -- to a muted extent -- blacks. They are now a major political force and they know it. This is where any Montana politician can make a major blunder. Someone like Butcher can no longer put down or exclude Indians on grounds that they are “vanished,” “irrelevant,” “ignorant,” or not involved. Even a Republican can expect walking papers at the next election.

Because now Indians have blogs, Google, websites, links, podcasts, list servs, and all the new cyber-machinery of connecting, talking, proposing, listing and monitoring. One can’t go carelessly shooting off one’s mouth in a bar or sending attack mail to individuals without the whole world knowing about it in a matter of hours.

Being brash myself, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ed Butcher. But I’m dubious about his political skills.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Date: March 20, 2007
From: Gary H. Dunham
Subject: CFP: Evolving Relationships Between Indigenous Communities and Publishers

Dear colleagues,

I am putting together an anthology that explores the complex and rapidly evolving relationship between indigenous communities and publishers; please see the summary below. I am particularly interested in contributions from members of those indigenous communities who have dealt directly with publishers without a scholar as mediator or go-between. Your experiences and assessments are welcome.


Indigenous Communities and Publishers

Increasingly in recent years, organizations and individuals within a growing number of indigenous communities have set aside working with outside scholars and sought instead to publish themselves the results of ongoing historical, cultural, and linguistic research and preservation efforts. A few indigenous communities have self-published but often this initiative involves an unmediated partnership between publishers and indigenous communities, one that is uniquely collaborative and represents the latest—and perhaps final—stage of a research and representative process long connecting scholars and publishers. This final collaboration, this latest expression of sovereignty by indigenous communities, complicates, enriches, and potentially undermines the traditional publisher-scholar relationship.

The proposed anthology draws upon the perspectives and experiences of indigenous individuals, publishers and scholars and a myriad of case studies to illuminate the complexity, challenges, and opportunities that arise when individuals and organizations from indigenous communities attempt to get a work published themselves.

Send questions and abstracts to Gary Dunham, Director, University of Nebraska Press, at


The above came to me through H-Amerindian, an academic listserv for people who work with Indian materials. Veeeerrryyy interesting! Of course, I can’t send anything for this because I’m not a genetic nor an enrolled indigenous individual. Actually, I’m not even an academically approved scholar of indigenous peoples. It’s just that I’m in this community full of Blackfeet and so on, hanging around for half-a-century, and lately I’ve been doing my best to get them to see that they can bypass publishers and go straight to In truth, many of them have simply defined the public school or tribal college as a publisher (meaning they footed the bill) or have taken a check to a local printer and come back with a box of books.

Adolf Hungry Wolf, who has a long history of using one specific Manitoba printer, has produced a massive set of books he calls “The Blackfoot Papers,” all on credit. The Blackfeet Heritage Center is acting as promoter and distributor in the USA while Adolf’s own “Good Medicine Foundation” does the same on the Canadian side. He is not indigenous but his wife and children are. But Adolf, as everyone knows, lives more like an Indian than most Indians do. (Log cabin, creek water, a solar-powered MAC iBook.)

My own books, some about Blackfeet and some not, amount to about a dozen so far -- about half already on with the other half still being formatted (by myself). Why mess with publishers? Esp. publishers who don’t edit, don’t promote, barely distribute, print small numbers, and remainder before the end of the first year?

I’m also interested in going a different way entirely: buy a used book (either fiction or not) in good condition, take the cover off, and rebind it in a custom way -- maybe Indian-tanned (smoked) leather, maybe beaded or burned, maybe quilled or feathered, maybe sold in a special pouch or parfleche-- converted into a “Bundle.” Maybe write or draw in the margins or throw in some pressed plants. Pretty nineteenth century thing to do, but a beguiling idea.

One lady (not a scholar) back east sat through one of Darrell Kipp’s speeches about how to start an immersion school. (“Above all, don’t ask permission!”) She made a transcript, got it converted into a printed pamphlet at the local Kinko’s or Office Depot, and sent Darrell a couple of boxes of them. A donation. VERY helpful.

The “scholars” (harrumph) come out on summer break, full of preconceptions, and take back a lot of notes that have to conform to some institution. The “adventurers” (yee-haw!) come out in the spring, find some fascinating character in the local bar who claims to know “all the myths” and publish their adventure as truth. No one ever comes around in the winter, not even the engineers and geologists who are a little more hardy types.

The exception I know of has been in Canada where the University of Calgary Press (disclosure: they’re publishing my bio of Bob Scriver) has published several books where the indigenous people were pretty clearly in control -- though, I guess, they’ve had helpers and editing, especially for layout. The North Piegan have not been writing books so much as generating computer/GIS maps of ancient trails.

So am I making fun of this anthology idea, scuffing dust on it? Absolutely not! It’s about time these post-modern folks took a look at their own practices, their own oppressions, their own foregone conclusions and guarding of the gate. I have a feeling that the dip-net will bring up the same old fish as usual, but there’s always a chance that something new -- maybe even one of those Kuhnian paradigm shifts -- will rise to the top.

Podcasts? (Podfish?) Tribal publishing houses? Or just good old Print-On-Demand Great project for a high school senior or a tribal college “mom” returning to school. The problem is keeping track -- who will count the beans??

Sunday, March 18, 2007



CHAPTER ONE: Inauspicious Beginnings, 1855-1879

(These are notes, not the original text. This chapter is 31 pages long and has 95 footnotes.)

Knowing that the Gros Ventre were a separate entity, the US lumped them in with Blackfeet. For the next fifteen years the US was not able to protect any of these native people from whiskey traders or regular assaults of early white Montanans, even when they came to Fort Benton to receive their annuity goods.

Negotiations for this treaty were initiated by Isaac Stevens, Governor of Washington Territory (which included Montana at that time). He wanted to extend railroads and telegraph systems across the high prairie. Alfred Cumming of the Office of Indian Affairs was assigned to Stevens as part of an official Treaty Commission. The two men didn’t agree on anything. Stevens was the more generous in terms of allocations for agriculture. Cummings said the Indians didn’t care about farming and the money would go into the hands of sharks. He turned out to be right.

But the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre tribes were added to the “Peace of the Plains” treaty at Fort Laramie in 1851, which they had previously snubbed. They were supposed to get $15,000 per year for ten years, but this was attached to their annuities.

Annuity goods could not be dependably transported to the Blackfeet, even as far as Fort Benton which shallow-draft steam boats could reach. Private trading companies contracted to deliver. Contracts were not awarded to the best bidders on various rationalized grounds. The goods sent were of little use or interest to the Blackfeet. (Esp. the smallpox that came along with them.)

Agent Vaughn was specific: “The gintiuella or sky blue Blanket is high-priced, inferior & not desired; fancy list cloths are too fine and too flimsy; worsted yarn supplied no want in the lodge or field; calicoes of all kinds & descriptions are badly adapted for use or comfort on the prairie; Calico shirts are far inferior in durability to the common hickory; the N.W. guns are literally worthless... the powder horns and fine and unsubstantial, easily cracked and injured; butcher knives and half axes inferior in material and unreliable in temper... the fire steels furnished are worse than useless, being no more than common iron.”

Vaughn was a good agent, married to an Indian. (At least he got a little town named for him.) He put most of his energy and resources into the farm at Sun River and begged for the government to regulate the buffalo robe trade. His farm lost its crops to drought one year and spring flooding the next, illustrating the gambling dimension to Montana farming that persists today. He was terminated in 1861 and replaced by Henry Reed, the first in a series of “weak, inept men.”

In 1861 the annuities supposedly burned with the steamboat Chippewa. Chouteau and Malcolm Clark, both opportunists, offered their “help” and a pile of bills for “expenses.” No one knows whether any annuities ever reached the Blackfeet. In 1863 Sioux attacked the steamboard carrying Reed and the annuity goods, so they turned around. Reed stayed in Iowa, leaving the goods in a fort, where they mysteriously disappeared. James Vail, the Agency “farmer;” Malcolm Clark; and a Fort Benton attorney named Robert Lemon who claimed to have authority from Agent Reed, dispersed the goods as favors, payment for buffalo robes, and salary equivalents for Vail and his wife (also on the payroll, as was customary). No Indians received instruction and only 34 acres of crops were planted.

In 1884-85 the new agent was Gad E. Upson who was interested in private mining and had two quartz ore mills sent to him. He also wanted full control of all moneys without having to get authorization or give an accounting, on grounds that it would be more efficient. He noted that the whiskey trade was walking off with the annuity goods which the people traded for booze. He said the Sun River farm was in terrible condition, falling apart, animals and equipment missing, but rehired James Vail -- the very man who put it in this state. Again annuities failed to arrive.

In January 1865, when the Montana Territory was created, Upson recommended a new Blackfeet treaty that would snuff all Indian title to the land, on grounds that it would end bloodshed. Upson died on his way to Washington, D.C. The deputy, Hiram Upham, served as the Agency clerk until 1871, then went to work for Indian Trader T.C. Power.

1865 was the year Lincoln was assassinated. The situation in Montana descended into total chaos when the tribe sank into alcoholism and despair on realizing how much they had been cheated and how little recourse they had. Enmity erupted between Blackfeet and Gros Ventre to the point that the Gros Ventre were completely shut out of annuities. White ruffians, some of them war veterans, picked fights with Blackfeet (there are many small incidents), and then claimed there was a “war.” In 1867 Acting Governor Thomas Francis Meagher issued a “proclamation for volunteers to join the war against the Blackfeet.” Probably due to his own drinking problem, he evidently fell overboard from a boat anchored at Fort Benton and drowned. His body was not found.

The actual governor, Green Clay Smith, was in Washington, D.C., where he was trying to get all Indian payments made in cash to his name so he could manage them more efficiently. Special Agency Nathaniel Pope made an honest report about all this tragedy and recommended that the Blackfeet Agency be removed from Fort Benton with its webwork of conspiring merchants and whiskey traders.

In 1868 another earnest Special Agent, William J. Cullen, advised that Upson’s treaty negotiations were nonexistent, recommended moving the southern boundary to the Teton River, and said Agent Wright was not even fit to live with Indians, much less have charge. On his side, Wright accused Governor Smith of using Blackfeet money to pay a loan and speculate in mining as well as gambling in Virginia City.

I. G. Baker’s whiskey wagons were intercepted, which made him very angry, since everyone else was doing it and the laws were not enforced. Interior Secretary Browning said they were, too. Baker’s riposte was “Oh, yeah? Then why are there thirty thousand white settlers on Indian lands?”

Lt. Col. Alfred Sully was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He could not stop the whiskey trade nor intercept the growing violence on the part of some Indians. He couldn’t get food to the people. He couldn’t close the border to Canada. His reaction, sustained by his superiors, was military. The result was the notorious Baker Massacre. Smallpox was striking at the same time. The Blackfeet went flat.

Sully’s replacement, Jasper A.Viall, was far more effective. He planted a spy among the whiskey traders, confronted I.C. Baker and T.C. Power in their corruption, and attacked the many other contracting and corrupted entities. McCauley, the Blackfeet agent, seemed to be honest but was being assailed by the local Republicans because he was a Democrat.

No one expected the Blackfeet to persist in the face of all this. In full expectation that they would simply disappear, whites illegally moved onto Indian lands believing that they would become legal. Since their presence was unacknowledged, they didn’t have to take notice of restrictions, requirements, fees or titles.

CHAPTER TWO: Disintegration & Survival 1870 - 1886

(This chapter of the Foley Report is 51 pages long and has 157 footnotes.)

Part One: Whiskey Traders and Methodists, 1870-1876

In 1869 the Blackfeet Agency is removed to just north of the town of Choteau, where the tribe was once again swept by smallpox. (The depressions over the many graves remain today.) The whiskey traders came along with them. President Grant (like George W. Bush) decided the way to address corruption was “faith-based” management and assigned the Blackfeet to the Methodists, though they’d always been affiliated with the Jesuits. Cattlemen and merchant princes used the reservation lands as though they were unowned, a “commons.”

The best known whiskey posts were Forts Whoop-Up, Standoff, and Slideout. Individuals were John J. Healy and Alfred B. Hamilton. (For more detail see Hugh Dempsey’s book, “Firewater,” which surprised local Blackfeet scholars when they found familiar names -- their own. Joe Kipp was prominent among them.) Shielding themselves with secrecy, backers of this trade included I. G. Baker and his partners Charles and William Conrad and rival T.C. Power. Finally the chaos and violence became so bad that the Benton merchants helped the newly organized Canadian Royal Mounted Police shut down the whiskey trade. They were coming to value order partly because they were after supply deals for the Mounties and transportation routes for settler supplies. Benton was “the Chicago of the Prairies.”

The earliest Methodist nominees fell short of ideal. The first lasted less than three months, just long enough to disperse all the annuities among 825 Indians, leaving several thousand others with nothing. Joshua Armitage was dismissed for drunkenness in 1872. William Ensign was indicted by a Montana grand jury for embezzlement and selling the annuities to whites.

Cattleman R.S. Ford (inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame) brought several thousand cattle into the Sun River Valley part of the reservation. Cattlemen felt justified since the 1860’s agreements were never ratified by Congress. Finally in 1874 the politicians had the boundary of the reservation moved north by administrative order. “Inform Dan Floweree,” they directed, so he would know he was finally legal, despite agent Richard F. May trying to resist. The cows had already jumped the gun by filling the Teton River valley.

May insisted that the Bentonites fulfill their transportation contracts and blocked payment to get their attention, whereupon they got him removed. Maginnis was the main link with Washington and his buddy Rainsford, non-Methodist, became the chief clerk of the agency. The new agent was John S. Wood, who moved the agency to Badger Creek (now called “Old Agency.”) Wood, who also balked at the shortcomings of the transporters, was removed, leaving Rainsford to run everything.

By now the Bentonites were tiring of crime and chaos, and began to impose reforms on themselves, since their income was now coming from supplying such needs as the postal deliveries into Canada and supply routes to the remaining forts. On the way back, they brought coal for Benton stoves. Nationally, Indian affairs were in a state of scandal. The most effective Methodist missionary was Brother Van Orsdel who took one look at the Indians and decided he wanted nothing to do with them. He was very successful among the whites.

Part Two: Tributary to the Bentonites, 1876 - 1884

John Young, sixty years old and the best among the Methodist agents, came from Brooklyn, NY, in 1876. He replaced Rainsford with his son, John, Jr. and built the first latrines. (Until then, everyone went out into the “brush.”) His daughters were hired to teach and he instituted the practice of telling the Christmas story and handing out candy afterwards, a ceremony which immediately caught on and continued for the next hundred years. He tried to run off the Jesuits of St. Peter’s Mission.

Finally he ran afoul of the end of the buffalo and was blamed for the Starvation Winbter of 1883-84. As customary for agents, he was depositing reservation money into his private account in Helena. He had a friend and ally in T.C. Power. When reporting to the US Government, he was over-optimistic, which encouraged the government to underfund and fail to provide enough food. Canada was having similar problems, so the Canadian Blackfeet were coming south in hopes of finding food. There were rumors that the Indians would storm the agency stockade on Badger Creek.

Just off the reservation, the little renegade town of Robare had formed. Joe Kipp’s headquarters, whiskey traders, and the banned Jesuits all lived side-by-side, but even there among rustlers people were starving. Pretty soon even Young had to admit the Blackfeet were starving while white cattle trespassed. By now the military was taking the side of the Blackfeet, saying there were no signs of an uprising, that the people were starving, and that when they inspected some of the food Power sent, it was inedible and they sent it back. The Indians began to eat their own cattle.

The old “Indian ring” of Benton merchants were now a “cattle ring” and preparing for the railroad. (Foley never mentions the Masonic connection.) Charles and William Conrad had bought out Isaac Baker’s business, but they created a corporation which the three ran together. Baker stayed in St. Louis, Charles Conrad supervised the Canadian branch, and William Conrad managed the freighting business out of Benton. They put their money into the Conrad Circle Company, headquartered in Benton. A complex of enterprises drew together Conrad Kohrs, Granville Stuart, Power, Broadwater, and Ford, whose interests were protected by Hauser and Maginnis. This was the “Gilded Age” when the government protected the wealthy. (No comment.)

Finally Young began to make a real ruckus about starvation among the Blackfeet with predictable results. William Conrad headed the grand jury that indicted him, claiming that he was allowing Indians to kill white men’s cattle and that, at age 72, he kept “a harem of young Indian girls.” Special Agent Cyrus Beede cleared him of charges. Children were dying, the local cattlemen refused to sell beef to the reservation, and large herds of cattle grazed their way from Texas to Alberta.

Inspector C.H. Howard came in 1883, was horrified by people starving in the midst of plenty (He remarked that he’d never seen actual starving people before.), and recommended that Young get out before he was attacked. All the reports were written out and sent east for processing but nothing happened. By now the transporters weren’t getting paid, in an effort to force reform, and therefore threw up all sorts of problems and claims, like sending inedible food. They had a monopoly so there was no recourse.

Reuben Allan replaced Young, spending a month in Helena lobbying for reform. He went through Territorial Governor Crosby to advise the Interior Department of the starvation conditions. Young became a scapegoat and whites began to worry about attacks, but Captain Moale from Fort Shaw said “the idea of those poor starved and unarmed wretches going on the warpath” was laughable. No food was sent that summer. The people were eating the bark off the cottonwoods.

Part Three: The Open Range, 1884-86

The Canadian Pacific Railroad had extended its line to the Pacific Coast and the whole of the American northwest had become accustomed to driving their livestock up there for shipment. They paid no fees, bothered with no permits, and didn’t even note the boundaries of the reservation on maps.

Allen hired his daughter to teach, contracted with T.C. Power and Asel Kyes for provisions which were -- as usual -- substandard, and required the Blackfeet to work to earn the rations they were already entitled to receive. Inspector Barr said much of the work was for the benefit of Allen’s family. The newest woe came from mining, esp. in the Sweetgrass Hills. (One of the three buttes is called “Gold Butte” after the mine there and mining interests still want to do heap leach mining, eventually grinding up the whole butte.) Allen was supposed to evict all the miners but either couldn’t or wouldn’t.

In 1885 several companies began to cut Blackfeet timber without permission. When Allen was asked whether the cattlemen could be evicted, his reply amounted to “it’s too scary!” He had developed a drinking problem and the schools were nonfunctional.

The next agent was Mark Baldwin, a product of the Ohio “machine” that produced Warren Harding. Baldwin immediately recarpeted his office and billed the government for his travel to the rez. Drought had driven even more cattle onto Blackfeet land. The miners were hauling off ore daily. The cattlemen demanded access because “the Indians aren’t using the grazing.”

James Hill was becoming interested in stopping the traffic to Canada because of building his own railroad on the American side. There began to be talk of just closing the Blackfeet Reservation and moving the Indians to the Dakotas. In 1886-87 an exceptionally devastating winter killed the majority of cattle and ended the open range. This is the source of the famous “Last of the 500” Charlie Russell drew.

CHAPTER III, “In the Clutches of the Agency Ring” -- 1887 - 1893
(This chapter is 63 pages long and has 184 footnotes.)

George Bird Grinnell is meddling in Blackfeet affairs by now with consequences both good and bad. Mark Baldwin’s corruption was described by Grinnell in the New York Times and a scathing series of letters to the Indian Office. Yet Baldwin kept his fingers in the pie through his relationship with James J. Hill and actually offered to work for the tribe in 1907 as their claims attorney.

John B. Catlin (not a relation to the artist, I THINK, but might be) served only fifteen months from the summer of 1889 to the fall of the next year. He’s famous for helping to sell the Indians some cheap “pinchbeck” jewelry.

(Wikipedia: Pinchbeck is a form of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc mixed in proportions so that it closely resembles gold in appearance. Invented in the 1700's by Christopher Pinchbeck, a London clockmaker, it was intended as a cheaper substitute for gold used in ornamentation. However in time it came to mean a cheap and tawdry imitation of gold. )

The notorious George Steell served between 1890 - 1893. A mountain up behind Heart Butte is named for him, at least part of him: Major Steell’s Back Mountain. His daughter married a Heart Butte woman. The agency physician certified Steell as a morphine addict. His other idiosyncracy was that he wouldn’t talk to the Indians under his care except through a little door in the top of his office door. Somehow he had the sympathies of Grinnell, who had access to the high-status idealistic “Friends of the Indian” back east. When Steell’s time for firing came, Grinnell prevented the candidate of Marcus Daly and James J. Hill from being hired. He was a 24 year old, so much of their argument addressed his youth.

The next agent, Captain Lorenzo Cooke, an army man, disliked Indians. The same corruptions continued: conspiracy to end the reservation, trespassing livestock, illegal mining, and so on.

Part One: “He Ought to Be Removed” Baldwin, 1886 - 1889

1886-1887 was the year that ended the open range. The NW Treaty Commissioners arrived at the Agency from Sun River after a sixteen day struggle through two feet of snow and sub-zero weather. The tribe offered to sell the Sweetgrass Hills for three million dollars, but were told $150,000 per year for ten years -- take it or leave it. Today’s boundaries were set at that time.

Baldwin’s records are a mess, but others also seemed confused. Thirty wagons of supplies, one of the few provisioning loads that got through, arrived at the agency without any record at T.C. Power’s about who sent them. In the summer of 1887 many employees left the Agency at the same time a wave of Blood and Cree Canadians arrived. By now the cattle herds were not just drifting over the reservation boundaries but “accidentally” crossing into Canada.

The Blackfeet themselves were building log cabins, wearing “citizen’s dress” (poor versions of suits), and trying to salvage hides from the prairie heaped with bodies of winterkilled cattle. Baldwin’s eleven-year-old daughter died in spite of the efforts of the Agency physician, who had no reference books. Baldwin begged for a “few standard medical works.” The first stage of an abiding and ferocious war between superintendent of the reservation and superintendent of the schools opened up and continued over the years even after personnel changed. While the white cows wandered onto the reservation, the Agency cows mysteriously wandered off.

Benton, based on river transportation, now began to collapse as the railroads moved in. Ford, the Conrads, Floweree, Power, Hauser, and Kohrs regrouped in Great Falls and Helena. Their maps continued to identify the reservation as “stock range.” In 1888 Joe Kipp became the licensed Trader at the Agency. As before, provisions failed to arrive as soon as the weather turned harsh. All the accusations are repetitious, but each is documented by research into original records.

Grinnell, aided by Gould and J.W. Schultz, went after Baldwin in his “Field and Stream” magazine as well as in lectures and letters. Eagle Flag, White Calf, and others protested to the government in vivid rhetoric, to no avail. Bannister and Armstrong were sent to inspect but merely skimmed the surface. Armstrong said the school was a disgrace, but it wasn’t Baldwin’s fault. Washington Dems/Repubs tug-o-wars were affecting all this.

Part Two: John B. Catlin, 1889-1890

Catlin, heaping blame on Baldwin, didn’t do much better, immediately replacing the Agency farmer with his own brother, Pope Catlin. In August of 1889, Inspector William Junkin found the buildings decrepit, the people polygamous and the Indian court “unjust and ridiculous.” The rez was overrun by Canadian Indians and the system of making people earn their own commodities was in place. Junkin said no farm machinery could be issued until there was shelter for it, but Catlin had just fired the Agency carpenter, so he could hire his brother-in-law. School superintendent Coe reported the school continued to be a disaster, but didn’t note his own drunkenness.

In 1889 George Magee, a local Justice of the Peace (and later a familiar name on the reservation), and then C. L. Bristol (a former Agency trader) notified the Indian office that conditions were intolerable. By now even Joe Kipp was complaining and Bud Allison, Dan Floweree’s foreman, was confidentially testifying to abuses. Whiskey trading was again rampant.

Inspector James H. Cisney arrived in response. He noted that the Indians despaired, the cattle were mismanaged and (THIS IS THE FIRST MENTION by Foley) farming here could not succeed without irrigation.

This seems also to be the beginning of corruption over federal construction. Kipp was dinged for using the agency sawmill to cut lumber for the Holy Family Mission School on Two Medicine and then crowded out of the contract for the Agency boarding school on Cut Bank Creek. (It went to a friend of T.C. Power.) Somehow Catlin “forgot” to tell the Indian office that the Great Northern Railroad was on the reservation plotting out the proposed track. Bear Chief complained that white men were cutting Indian hay and selling it to the railroad men for their teams. The railroad spokesperson expressed regret at giving offense, offered some payment, and went right on with the work.

Part Three: The Morphine Eater: Agent George Steell, 1890-1893

Steell came to Montana in 1857 as a freighter associated with Broadwater, Power, and so on. He requested that the sub-contracting crews of white men who took hay and timber from the reservation and sold it to the railroad ought to pay the tribe. He was told that the railroad and all its needs were covered by executive order. Also, he went after fees for the cattle on the reservation, but was ignored.

The sawmill was last seen in the possession of Joe Kipp and couldn’t be located. Steell continued the feud with education, now represented by School Superintendent Bartlett, who said Steell was soft on Catholics and Democrats. The railroad was not only storing dynamite on the rez (against the regs) but was taking a 200-foot right-of-way rather than the official 150-feet limit.

Lt. Farnsworth was sent by the Army to see if the Wounded-Knee-type craze had developed among the Blackfeet. Farnsworth said “they will never cause any trouble as long as they have anything to eat.” He listened to all the complaints of the chiefs, but no one listened to him. However, Steell began war on the whiskey traders, except for the whiskey wagons that supplied the railroad workers. This effort to make the rez sober was part of Grinnell’s fondness for Steell. Earlier efforts at irrigation had been neglected and had collapsed, which Steell admitted. Inspector Cisney and he seemed to agree that farming was a bust -- that cattle were the way to go. In fact, Steell ran his own herd on the reservation with an Agency employee watching out for them. 323 acres were supposed to be farmed, but the crops failed again this year. There were not enough mowers and rakes to harvest the amount of hay available.

Alex Johnson, who crowded out Joe Kipp’s bid to build the boarding school, completed the building but it was so shoddy (according to the judgment of Lt. John Beacon) that it would probably not withstand Montana weather and had to be repaired with Agency funds and labor. By now Johnson also had the beef contract.

Dr. John E. Jenkins charged that Steell’s addiction made him no longer fit to run the Agency, so Benjamin Miller came to inspect. John Beacon assisted. Jenkins was not shaken in his conviction, but no one else backed him up. Steell sat in on interviews.

In 1891 Steell allowed the Blackfeet to travel to Washington, D.C., with their complaints. Joe Kipp went as interpreter and White Calf was spokesman. He asked to “lock up” the reservation to keep the cattle trespassers out and the tribal herd in. Bear Chief sent a letter listing complaints. Little Plume confirmed the abuses. Acting Commissioner R.V. Belt said the trespassing cattle were wrong and should be kept off, but nothing happened. The railroad said, “Oops,” and paid some money.

In April of 1892 Steell began a bridge over the Two Medicine River in order to move the Agency to Browning. He solved the ethical problem of paying the Indians with the rations they were entitled to by simply not paying them. This was not popular. A letter of complaint was sent by White Calf, Bear Chief, Tail Feathers-Over-the-Hill, Mountain Chief and others, including George Magee. They asked for the removal of Steell, the Chief Clerk, School Superintendent Robinson, and Aubrey (the agency farmer, an ancestor of Mae Williamson, first woman on the Tribal Council).

Inspectors Parker and Gardner confirmed the complaints. Gardner was an old buddy of Steell’s, so he went a little easier. He said that the reason for Steell’s little speakeasy-type door was that the Indians smoked something noxious and offensive. (??!! Schultz was evidently a marijuana user, but would that be grown locally? Does he mean kinnikinnick?) By now there were flocks of sheep trespassing. One sheep owner offered to pay grazing fees, but Steell ignored his letter. Beef didn’t arrive, a June frost killed the crops, and the school was already falling apart.

Behind the scenes, Baldwin was talking to James Hill about major coal deposits on the reservation but, alas, not on the railroad right-of-way. E.C. Garrett, Steel’s Chief Clerk, had also been doing a little prospecting. The idea was to abolish the reservation, but Garrett felt they would not willingly go to the Dakotas as “they are much attached to their country and homes.” Plots formed to remove just the part with the minerals on the east strip.

But Steell’s biggest problem was political. Grinnell and his allies defended him to the feds including Dem Grover Cleveland. Paris Gibson came into the argument on the Dem side. Schultz and the Piegan themselves argued for the retention of Steell, a known evil rather than an unknown one. Finally, Steell was forced out and wrote a letter recommending a lot of things he ought to have done himself, including issuing more wagons as “a great factor in the civilization of the Indians.”

Part Four: Captain Cooke, 1893

It was Cooke who finally moved the agency to Browning (which proved many decades later to be a poor choice: a flood plain that had to be drained, it had insufficient high-quality water to support the 21st century population). He declared his intention to visit every Indian family and requested funding for military-type camps on the way, since he doubted he would be offered hospitality or that he would enjoy it anyway. He cancelled Steell’s order for wagons. He also condemned the Willow Creek Irrigation survey as wasted money.

Inspector Province McCormick arrived in September, 1893, and noted the trespassing cattle herds. He also recommended the firing of people he identified as members of an “Agency ring.” Cooke didn’t take his advice. People were still being paid with their own commodities and the school continued to fall apart.

Cooke took out newspaper ads warning of penalties for cattle trespass and whiskey peddling. He described the very nice two-story house he wanted built for himself at the new Agency Square in Browning, which was laid out as though for cavalry horse drill. It was Cooke who notoriously threatened to jail any Indian women who did bead work. (White female clothing of the time, notably the mourning black of Queen Victoria, was laden with jet beads.)

Nothing much changed.

CHAPTER IV Rise and Decline of the Blackfeet Cattle Industry 1894-1899

As the century ended, there was a scramble for the profitable job of Blackfeet Reservation Agent. The tribe itself did not profit. Strangely it was Steell who managed to return.

Quote: “Irrigation proved to be an expensive failure. The thousands of dollars expended by Cooke on the Willow Creek system were declared a waste by Agent Steell, and Steell’s expenditures of thousands of dollar more to repair the system and add others were declared an equal waste of funds by 1899. According to one inspector, the only successful irrigation done on the reservation were the short ditches built by the Indians off the natural creeks which flowed through the reservation.” Married couples sometimes dug these by hand.

Everyone was hypnotised by minerals, esp. gold. Grinnell, having finally soured on Steell, was advocating cattle reform (the tribal herd had declined from 20,000 to fewer than 9,000), but helped in the removal of the “mineral strip” from the reservation. (If you look at a map that shows oil wells and check the east boundary, you’ll see that area just off the reservation.)

Part One: Lorenzo Cooke, acting agent, 1893-1895.

The last chapter already noted that Cooke was warned about the “agency ring,” and responded by replacing those persons with his own family and friends (His son, Ervin, and Chief Clerk Garrett) and continuing the same practices. In fact, his “guestimate” of the cattle numbers is 6,000 head while over 2,800 additional cattle belonged to white men married to Blackfeet women, which he refers to as “squaw men.” The sawmill, weathered and unusable, was still down at the Holy Family mission. Smallpox was back. Cooke asked for 10,000 rounds of small ammunition for exterminating the packs of dogs.

Birch Creek changed its course and some off-rez persons decided this changed the rez boundaries and moved onto the new 600 acres of hay land. One of the border ranchers was George Steell.

Cooke’s reports and his requests didn’t match. While he constantly reported lack of success and the inappropriateness of farming, he asked for more farmers to teach the Indians how to grow crops and more money for irrigation systems. He complained of the shoddiness of all construction done by Johnson, and yet asked for more money to more buildiings with Johnson as contractor. He complained of trespassing herds of thousands of cattle belonging to whites and also of the constant rustling of the Indian herds. All the time he was secretly prospecting in the mountains.

Inspector Thomas Smith, nephew of the Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith, was sent and recommended more money for both farming and cattle but increased authority over half-breeds and “Squaw men.” He noted that the people hated Cooke. The Indian Office fired Cooke’s son and Garrett, so Cooke fired Richard Sanderville, Assistant Clerk, and gave that job to his son. On his way out, he threw many “half-breeds and Squaw men” off the reservation, including J.W. Schultz.

Cooke “successfully pressed for funds to begin a major irrigation canal on Two Medicine Creek in November of 1894. After he received the funds, he reported that the work had to be suspended because of inclement weather.” (This project would probably have benefitted the Holy Family Mission farm.) The annuity winter clothing didn’t arrive.

Mineral rights became a war of “pots and kettles” involving Cooke who filed 27 claims in Flathead County to avoid saying they were on the rez, Joe Kipp who filed his in Teton County, Henry Kennerly, Henry Norris, Grinnell, Schultz.

Still recommending cattle expansion, Cooke claimed that if irrigation (which he had been pursuing with the old practice of Indian labor paid with their own commodities) would mean that Indians would be self-supporting in five years if “made to farm.”

PART TWO: Ceding the Mineral Strip, 1894-1895

In 1894 Schultz, now partnering with E.C. Garrett (Chief Clerk at the Agency), Joe Kipp (Agency trader), and W.H. Morrell, asked Indian Commissioner Browning to arrange the opening of the reservation where the assays looked good. J.J. Hill was also involved. They hinted that a military presence would be required to keep prospectors out otherwise. Grinnell was opposed. He also criticized the loss of timber that would be involved.

Cooke asked the Canadian RCMP to help keep prospectors out, but one of the parties they stopped included J.J. Holbrook and Charles Aubrey, rez personalities. They claimed they were just on their way through to the Flathead. Cooke requisitioned a lot of miner’s shovels and picks, claiming thaqt they were for digging irrigation canals.

The Piegan began to consider selling “the mineral strip” and enlisted as their advisors Joe Kipp, George Steell, Charles Conrad, and A. B. Hamilton (a nephew of I. G. Baker and co-founder of Fort Whoop-up) -- all people of compromised backgrounds. The government’s commissioners were William Pollock, George B. Grinnell, and Walter Clements. Little Dog was spokesman. There was not just a difference in money offered, but also in the amount of land involved. There was a split among the Indians, with the full-bloods more willing to sell. The names mentioned in the report are White Calf, Little Bear Chief, Three Suns, Four Horns, Tearing Lodge, and Horace Clarke -- son of Malcolm Clarke whose death triggered the Baker Massacre. The men were very eloquent and the report quotes them at some length. It was Horace Clarke who asked why the government didn’t just help the Indians develop the minerals themselves. After two days the price was reduced, but they were haggling over a payment in lieu of compound interest. Little Bear Chief said, “A snake has crawled into our councils.” Foley thinks that was probably Conrad, who had a lot of side deals that were secret from the Indians.

Commissioner Pollock reported afterwards that the land was suitable only for grazing and that the Dawes Act Allotment should be postponed, leaving the land as a “communal grazing tract.”

Part Three: George Steell, Cattle Baron. 1895-1897

As soon as Steell was installed, he was attacked. By now he had cast off his Indian wife and half-breed children. His explanation was that his wife was adulterous and he said he had spent $10,000 on the education of his children. His ranch was now in Dupuyer, close to Heart Butte.

Quote: “Steell was openly critical of Cooke’s irrigation systems, considering the Willow Creek project a failure. Steell’s own irrigation engineer, Ross Cartee, insisted that additional funds were required to make repairs at Willow Creek and to complete the canal at Two Medicine Creek initiated by Cooke and McIntyre. Inspector Province McCormick supported Steele and Cartee’s assessment of Cooke’s failure at irrigation. He repeated his warning that Cooke’s reports describing the Reservation irrigation systems were false: they existed ‘only on paper.’" McCormick agreed that small irrigation ditches would help the Indians develop their hay crops for cattle, but estimated that the total irrigation of the Reservation would cost no more than $30,000 to $40,000. He specifically opposed continuation of an irrigation engineer on an annual salary, and added that the bridge Cooke had constructed over Two Medicine Creek “would wash away in the first storm.” He added that Blackfeet were an “intelligent, well-behaved, easily controlled” people who never wanted any army officers in charge again.

Browning’s location in a swamp would neither accept sewage nor yield wells, but had wind “about 9 days in the week” reported one inspector. The buildings were disintegrating as their foundations settled unevenly into the muck. Only 23 individuals were benefiting from irrigation, 13 of them whites married to Indians and including J. W. Schultz. Frost wiped out the crops. Steell arrested and jailed Tom Dawson for branding a “slick” calf and for holding a private “dance” without permission. Since he was married to Malcolm Clarke’s well-connected daughter, he was able to bring Helena political wrath on Steell.

During Cooke’s reign, the traders were Kipp, Henry Kennerly and James McKnight, all of whom had violated regulations. Kennerly and McKnight left with Cooke. R. L. McGonical, one of Kipp’s employees, then opened a new post. (This was the third, counting the one at Blackfoot, I guess.) But Inspector McCormick caught on and exposed the ruse. He also said the Blackfeet were “active, intelligent, progressive people, anxious to learn and follow the ways of the whites. They are an unusually polite and sociable people.” More cattle were being sent but they were in poor shape. There wasn’t enough hay due to the shortage of cutting machinery, though Steell’s expenditures were twice what Cooke had spent. Many of the critics, finaglers, politicians and meddlers seemed to be based in Kalispell where Conrad had built his mansion.

Hamilton set up as a trader but was revealed as another Kipp front when Hamilton’s creditors tried to attach the goods in payment for Hamilton’s debts -- then Kipp revealed himself as the true owner. It turned out that the required army monitoring of beef issuance had not been observed for eight years. Many other operations were deceitfully described, for instance, Steell said the Indians were “not permitted to handle the cattle,” but in fact they were required to do all the work -- just not permitted to do the branding, which was done by agency people to suit themselves. (There were over 500 Blackfeet brands.)

A major party shift in Washington, D.C., put Senator Thomas Carter into power. He proposed George B. McLaughlin, former editor of the “Benton River Press” and then sheriff of Chouteau County, be the new agent -- though McLaughlin had requested the position of consul in Hawaii. (He was aging and frail.) The issue of fencing the rez now came up. A new scandal erupted over cattle: instead of butchering the usual 25 head a week, Steell butchered 130 head (evidently because they were in danger of dying anyway) and tried to store the meat. But the weather warmed and the meat rotted. Instead of discarding it and slaughtering more beef, Steell issued the spoiled meat.

By the time Steell left, J. H. Sherburne and Joe Kipp were the two traders on the rez. Steell arranged for all unbranded cattle and four or five hundred cords of wood to be taken to a point on the rez just across Birch Creek from his Dupuyer ranch.

PART FOUR: Senator Carter’s Friends and the Blackfeet, 1897-1899

George McLaughlin had a lot on his desk. The Agency physician was out of drugs. Steell had the new beef commodity contract. The buildings were still falling down and the rustlers were at work. Special Agent Hawley insisted that McLaughlin fire employees, substituting friends of Hawley. McLaughlin brought in as issue clerk “Malcolm” Clarke (probably Horace) who had just graduated from Carlisle. Hawley had some other sneaky deals going with Steell, who was living with the agency butcher’s family in his own room. There are implications that this had to do with his relationship with Mrs. Cook, Cook being the slightly disconcerting name of the butcher. At some point Hawley went too far and was fired.

The same problems persisted: bad lumber, cattle swindles, and so on. Now a new problem was that there were 20,000 cows but competing with them for grass were 10,000 horses. The inspector complained that the Indians thought “a $15 horse is of greater intrinsic worth than a $35 steer.” Grinnell weighed in with the Indians’ request to operate the rez as a communal grazing ground and pointed out that he had known the people since they were living off the buffalo. He suggested a full-time “outfit” with a good range foreman and a rotating Indian crew, thus educating them about proper practises. He thought they should brand their own herds.

Thomas Fuller, former mayor of Helena, “staunch Republican, Civil War hero and failed businessman” (destroyed by a labor boycott, they say), replaced the easily discouraged McLaughlin. Probably the last straw was NOT the burning down of the boys’ dorm at the boarding school since it was a worthless building anyway. Steell left for Alaska without being able to explain what happened to thirty yards of red carpeting.

It was Fuller who denied funds for a building to house a “Red Man’s Literary Society” for grads of Carlisle and other schools, on grounds that they would be up to no good and were unreliable and untrustworthy.

Bear Chief and other leaders requested again that the rez be fenced to keep the cattle separated in their proper places. Fuller called Bear Chief “a dissipated minor chief” and sighed that last time he asked for a brass band. Fuller complained that the cattle trespassers were not as much trouble as the whiskey traders and said cowboys would just cut any fence anyway. Fuller’s statistics showed 2,022 Piegans on 1,500,000 acres of land with 10,000 cows and 20,000 horses.

Grinnell was called to testify to the Indian Commissioner and gave his opinion, now being persuaded to the usefulness of a fence. He advocated Indian preference hiring for as many jobs as possible. He had an idea for a “bull yard” where they could be managed for maximizing calves. Nothing he recommended was done, except the bull yard, which was put in a place which was snowed under and inaccessible all winter. Thomas Fuller had the ultimate response: he died. At about the same time fifty of the bulls died, starved and buried under snowdrifts.

Special Agent Elisha B. Reynolds was pulled in as interim superintendent. He documented the usual atrocities, plus criticizing the Great Northern Railroad which was abusing the right-of-way by changing their route without permission. Reynolds urged a fence with range riders’ stations and stables at intervals to manage gates.

The next agent was Logan, a Texas cattleman. He recommended irrigation -- not for farming but for grazing. Inspector Graves reported in September of 1899: “During the past two yars there have been given to the Agents... nearly five thousand dollars to expend for irrigation; but, I regret to say, that so far as accomplishing anything of real benefit to the Blackfeet Indians in the way of giving better irrigation facilities, this money has been practically wasted.” Graves added he found “a manifest lack of judgment and proper consideration of the subject” of irrigation. “He described one fourteen-mile canal which provided no water to any farms.” He thought it would be possible to develop irrigation, but that should be done in a systematic manner and warned that money was simply being wasted.

Logan said, “The Indian is a natural beggar and bummer, and if they were in possession of the earth and all things on it, they would still beg for more.” He resigned early in 1900, but he hadn’t been around much anyway.

Chapter V: 1900 - 1910 “A White Man’s Pasture”: The Blackfeet Get Fenced, 1900-1910
(There are 111 pages in Foley’s chapter, with 232 supporting footnotes.)

Old White Calf, the last traditional chief, died in 1903. James H. Monteath, former managing editor of the “Butte Inter-Mountain” newspaper, was the new agent and he lasted five years. The cattle fence was erected as the old Indians had asked, but a permit system was inaugurated that let thousands of cattle inside the fence anyway. Monteath, once again, tried to make the people into farmers, saying, “With proper management [this tribe] can be made self-supporting in a very few years.”

PART ONE: The “New Policy” and the Old Problems”, 1900-1905

Commissioner Jones and Monteath abandoned cattle as the road to prosperity (after all, whites with permits were eating all the grass) and turned back to agricultural irrigation. The headline in the Great Falls Tribune on September, 1902, was “PIEGAN INDIANS IN OPEN REVOLT.” Monteath threatened to jail the aged White Calf. Little Dog, never a pacifist, threatened in return to “bind [Monteath] with ropes and throw him ahead of the next passing train.” Grinnell wrote his usual outraged letters with no effect. The railroad claimed it had no duty to obey the law that required railroads to be fenced, since it was on the reservation, so the trains continued to kill cattle. Even Monteath was upset over that. (Today the struggle is to fence the highways since the cattle wander onto the road where people smash into them.)

By now water rights were an issue. The Blackfeet, with reason, were afraid the government would settle them by abolishing the reservation. The Indian cattle were down to 6,000 head, with six whites married to Indians owning two-thirds of them. Monteath was wary of the powerful white ranchers around the rez. When the Indian Service asked why he was not prosecuting trespassers, Monteath pointed out that the cases would go before juries of white cattlemen.

In regard to irrigation, Monteath said: “A considerable amount of time and money has been spent upon irrigating ditches in different parts of the reservation. I find but few of them in a state of repair, while many are simply monuments of mis-directed energy, being utterly impracticable. There is much need of intelligent, scientific help on this subject... The failure of some of these ditches has wrought incalcuable injury, and... we are sadly in need of professional assistance and direction.

“I find the hay meadows (native grasses) growing less and less productive each year, and while the range is the best in this part of the country and abundantly ample for all present needs, it would seem the part of wisdom to start now a system of irrigation which would assure us crops of hay and feed for the future.”

Monteath’s revised statistics listed 10,000 cattle, 22,000 horses, a human population of 2,085, with a total of 50 births and “only” 33 deaths. For a long time earlier the deaths had outnumbered the births. Mike Connelly, one of the trespassing cattlemen, asked to put 200 cows on the rez and got his permit. The higher authorities wanted to move the Agency Farmer, a man named Peter, but Monteath objected because “two or three train loads of cattle have just been unloaded east of the reservation and are headed this way.”

Willow Creek School was physically collapsing and action was begun to build a replacement on Cut Bank Creek. Rations were being reduced before the people could get gardens planted or cattle to the point of having extra. In 1901 smallpox showed up on the Flathead reservation and leaked over to the Blackfeet. The jail and school were unsanitary messes, but Dr. Martin, the Agency physician since 1891, said they just didn’t have the money for improvements, or even proper disinfectants. It was in this time period that the scandal broke of confining defiant students in a meat locker with holes for air or the often-flooded cellar of Willow Creek School where drowned rodents floated around among decayed vegetables. Inspector McConnell’s reports noted this but nothing happened. Steell picked up on all the complaints and suggested that he be rehired.

Commissioner Jones wanted the Indians to cut their hair and wanted to eliminate both rations and the reservation which he thought encouraged prejudice. Monteath counted on his ration rolls 63 white men with 295 Indian women and children dependent; 21 “part bloods” with 481 dependents; and 885 full blood family members. He said he would be happy to eliminate rations, except that there was no work available to replace them. He suggested irrigation.

“But before this is done it will be necessary that some competent, responsible person formulate a system. Too much money and labor have already been wasted on impracticable and expensive irrigation work... However, ways to accomplish the desired end will naturally suggest themselves to the man who wants to accomplish the end, and, I doubt not, that I will find a way. If it is deemed best to reward work for merely personal improvement. There is a great need, however, that some extensive irrigation work be inaugurated here. The native grass bottoms are commencing to run out as the result of annual cutting.”

The tribe at this point had no body of representation. Nevertheless, some of the leaders requested the abandonment of Willow Creek School, money for irrigation ditches, and a quarterly cash payment so each could “improve his home and live.” They asked to go to Washington, D.C., to make their case.

Monteath blatantly curried favor with Jones, his boss. They stone-walled the school problem, though Inspector Jenkins said if they didn’t close it down and send the students home they were likely to get typhoid. Then Monteath did an about-face on irrigation, saying that Ross Cartee, the same civil engineer he had reviled, had converted him to the idea of major development which would “be paid in cash from Treaty funds.” Anyone who wouldn’t work would be branded an “idler” and Monteath suggested “it might be necessary to start a chain gang.” “Let stock-raising be a side issue.” He wanted the cattle removed from the Indians in spring and returned to them only after they had been good farmers all summer. He wanted them living close together where they could be supervised daily. Any who disagreed could get off the reservation. But he exempted “progressive half-breeds” from all this.

Monteath disliked Inspector McConnell, a former Governor of Idaho, and tried to get rid of him by claiming that he had extorted the Agency traders for money so their licenses wouldn’t be revoked. Nevertheless, McConnell’s accusations about the schools and the prevalence of tuberculosis appeared in the Great Falls Tribune on February 26, 1902. Monteath was called to Washington, D.C., for consultation and while there a Washington Post interview with him reported everything was fine except that the Indians were “vanishing,” down from 7,000 to 2,100. He claimed that so many had “intermarried” that they were “weaklings.” His formal report to Jones was quite opposite.

Another scandal broke on the Crow Agency over bribes and the Blackfeet managers were peripherally involved.

Monteath wanted to devote all money, even that needed by the schools, to the irrigation project. In May, 1902, he pointed out that “even if major irrigation work was initiated during the summer, it would be over a year before the Indians had harvested their first crop. “ He requested $33,000 for irrigation, which the Indian Office reduced to $5,000.

Now he began to think about water rights, “as there were an increasing number of requests, proposals and attempts by neighboring settlers and white men to use the reservation water resources for off-reservation irrigation projects." Ironically, this was a flood year and the irrigation engineer was kept busy rebuilding the many washed-out bridges.

Grinnell’s second-guess was that Monteath was trying to get the Blackfeet herded up closer to the mountains so the flats could be leased to ranchers. At another point Monteath suggested that all the half-breeds be put off onto one section of the reservation and denied all benefits and supports. (He included as enemies Joe Kipp, Mrs. Maggie Wetzel (now married to Joe Kipp) and Horace Clarke. Also his sister, Helen Clarke. In the end everything went on as before. Floweree grazed his cattle on the rez, Monteath put out large sums for irrigation, and the rez fence was started.

In 1904 the crops, except hay, failed again. The irrigation system wasn’t finished. Monteath opposed the new council (which included Joe Kipp and Horace Clarke), which begged the government for a cattle issue. He hired T.E. Price, who had already been fired for incompetence twice before, to be his irrigation expert.

“Inspector W.H. Code conducted his examination of the irrigation project during July of 1903. Monteath provided him with an explanation of his reason for selecting the Cut Bank Creek project and admitted that once rations were cut off, ‘Irrigation work seemed the only work available.’ Cut Bank was selected because of cheaper cost estimates ($35,000, Monteath claimed, as opposed to the $100,000 project estimate for the Carlow Bench ditch.) Monteath also admitted that he had tried, but failed, to get Mr. Fortier of the Bozeman Experimental Station to examine the project. His correspondence indicates that the provision of employment, not the value or quality of the irrigation project, was his primary concern.”

Inspector Code was sceptical. Inspector Levi Chubbuck said that diversified farming was “too precarious” a venture. He advocated cattle. “Chubbuck argued for extensive irrigation, but for the purpose of developing grass for winter forage. He noted that with 20,000 head on the Reservation, there was difficulty in providing enough feed. He believed that the various creeks on the reservation would be capable of irrigating enough grass and hay land to feed 50,000 head if a ‘comprehensive’ irrigation plan was developed.”

“Both Inspector Code and Inspector Chubbuck had urged the Indian office to develop Blackfeet water resources more systematically before the Indians lost their water rights to the settlers on the border of the reservation. Instead, the Indian Office leased the Blackfeet land and inadvertently surrendered more than they intended in the process. In 1903, William Conrad, the brother of Charles Conrad and president of the Conrad Investment Company of Great Falls, sought a lease for some 2,400 acres of land along Birch Creek to permit his cattle herds access to the water without trespassing on the reservation. Monteath claimed that no Indians lived near the area. The Blackfeet were to be permitted to fence a small area on Conrad’s side of Birch Creek to water their catte. In December of 1903, the Interior Department approved the five year lease which required Conrad to pay ten cents per acre per year; the fence he constructed was to become the property of the Tribe upon the termination of his lease. Once the lease was granted, Conrad constructed a dam on Birch Creek as part of a private canal project. Although the lease granted Conrad no such privilege, the Conrad Investment Company diverted thousands of inches of water from Birch Creek beginning in 1904.”

Samuel Slater thought the money wasn’t coming out even. “An engineer, I see, was employed to survey with a view to irrigation, but what fund is contemplated for that, and how much I am not advised.”

“Congressman Dixon appealed to Secretary Hitchcock in April on behalf of William Henry and others who wished to use the waters of Cut Bank Creek to irrigate non-reservation lands. This is only one of several parties who sought permits for the use of Reservation water resources in 1904. By the end of the year, the Conrad Investment Company had completed its dam... Despite requests from the Interior Department that the dam be taken down, Monteath reported that it was still diverting water from Birch Creek in October. The Blackfeet asked that some of the water to be diverted by the Bureau of Reclamation for the St. Mary’s Canal project be reserved for the future needs of the Reservation. However, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey informed the Indian Office that the projected canal, which could have provided ‘considerable areas’ of irrigated land for the Blackfeet, was abandoned because of the expense.”

In the summer of 1904 there was mange and, again, drought. W.H. Matson, who had struggled through ten years as Methodist missionary and Superintendent of the Agency School died before he could see the construction of the Cut Bank School well along. His replacement was Price, the screw-up engineer.

By now even the president, Teddy Roosevelt, was being advised about the corruption on the reservations. But switching from leases to permits for cattle grazing introduced enough confusion for Monteath to keep favoring Floweree while clamping down on those unimportant. Then Jones went out of office, replaced by Francis E. Leupp who brought in auditors who found many dubious deals and advances. W.C. Broadwater and his partner Simon Pepin as well as J.H. Sherburne, were closely questioned since they were accumulating cattle.

Now James Perrine comes on the scene as the conveyor of a formal petition from the Blackfeet. They protest that they thought the end of the leasing was the end of the outside cattle, which were eating their hay in the fields before it could be cut.

PART TWO: Standing Still, Going Backwards: 1905-1910

Leupp replaced Monteath with James Jensen as Acting Agent, but he was not sympathetic to Perrine’s appeal. Though he had a permit, Floweree had nearly double the number of cows he was permitted plus 650 horses. Then Charles Conrad’s estate (Chas himself having expired) claimed $30,000 in legal fees from past negotiations. A rider for this amount was attached to the Indian Appropriations bill. The Piegans objected that it was unwarranted.

Grinnell again intervened to try to render justice. The new Agent, Captain J. Z. Dare, was directed to consider it. Dare was sympathetic. “He pointed out that William Conrad’s appropriation of Birch Creek water was being contested in the courts. He admitted that the irrigation ditches needed repair, but did not believe they were entirely useless.”

Dare couldn’t figure out the permit system and was even more puzzled by the grazing tax imposed on the Blackfeet cattlemen themselves who owned the land. Inspector Arthur Tinker came in May, 1905, and thought they would do better to raise horses rather than cattle!

“Irrigation continued to be the major source of labor and income for the Blackfeet. The Indian Office provided Dare with another $15,000 to continue the Cut Bank Creek canal intiated by Monteath, but the Indians were required to fight a major forest fire in August.” Dare let Horace Clarke come back, but didn’t succeed in excluding Dan Floweree’s cows. Permits were back-dated and overlapping, producing confusion.

Inspector David Cannon came specifically to look at the ag prospects. His report was that the native grasses were so depleted by overgrazing that soon there would be nothing but “white sage” suitable only for sheep.

William Conrad pressed to open the whole reservation to white settlement. Charles Conrad’s posthumous claim was defeated by Congress but they passed another bill that would remove all water rights from the Blackfeet. It was vetoed by President Roosevelt. “The struggle between William Conrad and the Blackfeet for the waters of Birch Creek continued in the courts.” T.C. Power’s Sun River Stock and Land Company applied for grazing permits for 1,000 head.

“Although the Indian office had expended thousands of dollars upon the Cut Bank Creek Canal, few of the Indians moved to the irrigated areas as the project neared completion.” Dare said, “There is an disinclination, amounting almost to a prejudice, among the Indians in regard to taking up land upon the line of this canal. Inducements were made to Indians this spring to take up claims of 25 acres each and cultivate the land.” Few takers.

The winter of 1906-07 was another disastrous one for stock, which now had scabies. Floweree asked for a rebate on his permit.

M.D. Baldwin, former Agent fermenting in Kalispell, approached the Blackfeet to hired him to prosecute the government for old claims for land taken. This puzzled Dare, who knew of no claim. He was told there were no more claims and the Blackfeet should stop obsessing about them.

“In August of 1907, Judge Wolverton rendered a judgment in US vs. Conrad Investment Company in favor of the Blackfeet. Citing the recent ‘Winters Case’ (concerning Fort Belknap’s claims to the Milk River), Judge Wolverton enjoined Conrad from diverting the water of Birch Creek ‘... so as to impinge upon the right of the government to have flowing at all times in the stream the amount of 1,666 2/3 inches...’ The decision also permitted the United States to demand more water if its needs required it, and confirmed the power of the US to prevent trespassers from using the water recourses of the Reservation.”

In 1907 Montana passed an act requiring allotment of Blackfeet lands to individuals and the sale of unallotted “surplus” lands. The Montana whites thought this would mean a prompt release of vastly profitable lands. But it took more than a decade to untangle the water rights and mineral rights. (The more powerful and alert were angling to be alloted oil land.)

Dare left the next spring in the midst of a quarrel about whether money should have been allotted to the tribal treasury or to the federal Treasury department. Misallocation had clearly happened but couldn’t be traced or even confirmed. This was partly because of reorganization of the Department of the Interior. Slater said, “The Indian Service is disintegrating slowly to its final extinction.” (Who would argue? But it took so long!)

The next agent, James Sanders, lasted only a matter of months. By the end of 1908 the new agent was C.A. Churchill, former supervisor of Education at Fort Shaw. (We knew his daughter as Eula Sherburne, wife of J.L. Sherburne son of J.H. Sherburne.) Churchill revived (or continued) the practice of putting tribal money in his personal account, including permit fees from the Sherburne Mercantile Company.

The internal area of the reservation was supposed to have been divided into districts, but there were no fences. Churchill instituted the districts by using the watercourses as boundaries. He failed to force Floweree to not brand slicks or to have agency personnel monitor shipping. But neither could he give good answers to inquiries from the Indian Office about the acreage of his districts or why his fees were so low. His idea was to put ALL the outside cattle off for a year to let the land recover. The famous fence was falling down.

Inspector O’Fallon gave Churchill a pass, but Grinnell was critical. He said Churchill was lazy, didn’t do anything about the whisky trade, was much too easy on the agency traders who charged very high prices, and was allowing the development of a gang of juvenile delinquents.

A thorough investigation by Special Agent Edgar A. Allen revealed that Broadwater and Pepin and Sherburne, were “coding” their goods so that certain people were charged more than others. He said Churchill pressured people on behalf of the traders, acting as a collection agent. The same coding applied to the cattle used to pay bills: some people’s were worth more than others.

The constant demand for lumber had prompted Mr. Labreche to sell all his cattle in order to invest in a modern sawmill, with encouragement from Captain Dare and the Indian Office, but then the government reversed itself and forbade him to go into action. He was ruined.

Allen noted that the government dumped 150 Rocky Boy Chippewa Indians on the rez in November of 1909 with only three hours notice to the agent. They were set up in tents along Cut Bank Creek waiting for food and clothes they believed they’d been promised. No one wanted to tell them anything different.

But Allen did not have a high opinion of Churchill, whom he thought was overimpressed with his status and underaware of his obligations.

CHAPTER VI: The Office of Indian Affairs vs. The Blackfeet Tribe 1910-1930

(This chapter of the Foley Report has 108 pages and 259 footnotes.)

Some say that the 19th century didn’t end on the reservation until after WWI. The 20th century came in two parts: technological progress and modern methods at one end and drought-fueled poverty at the other. For the Blackfeet there were also civil service scandals: mismanagement and embezzlement. For instance (and this was not identified as wrong) “the monumental cost and failure of the Reclamation Bureau’s irrigation projects were shifted to the Blackfeet and attached as a lien to their land patents.” Trepasses and exploitations by the Great Northern Railroad, the Conrad Investment Company (which became the Conrad-Valier Company, and the unjustified patenting of lands belonging to vulnerable Indians so they could be seized as private property, were all waved on by. Many of the old people starved to death in spite of outraged objections on the part of whites both local and national. The new structures of tribal self-government were often restricted and interfered with by the Indian Office, which was used to running everything.

PART ONE: Superintendent McFatridge, 1910-1915

McFatridge walked into the familiar troubles: failed crops, trespassing cattle, 100 to 150 Rocky Boy’s Cree who were actually being given Blackfeet allotments. Two Agency physicians resigned in the face of tuberculosis, trachoma and VD. The Methodist missionary, the Rev. R.A. Riggin, was using the Methodist lands for his private herd and owed, according to McFatridge, $1,700. The tribe and the Indian Office agreed that the Montana white ranchers should remove their cattle, but had no power to make them actually go. His additional burden was his family. Locally they were known as the father, son and Holy Terror.

The following is worth quoting entire:

“...The adverse rulings of the courts against the Conrad Investment Company’s claims to the waters of Birch Creek had threatened the company’s stockholders along with the settlers south of the Reservation. However, when the stockholders asked the government to permit them to continue to divert water from Birch Creek for the canal system constructed earlier, the Indian Office ignored the recommendations of the Reclamation Engineer and granted the request. Commissioner Valentine recognized tht the government had an obligation to protect the water rights of the Blackfeet, but he suggested that the Indians might also learn to live in harmony with their neighbors:

“ ‘ is a cardinal, perhaps the cardinal principle of the Indian Office that Indians in the future will have to live and should live as neighbors among the white men and any proposition which considers merely the benefit of the Indians alone from a wholly selfish Indian point of view may, in the end, have the very worst effect on the interests of the Indians, psychologically and sociologically speaking, if not legally and economically speaking.

“ ‘And from that point of view... even if its cost we will suppose $3 more an acre to construct [irrigation projects] from the Badger than it would ... from the Birch Creek... it might be good business for the Government to spend more money in irrigating the reservation land than to put itself in the position of hogging Birch Creek... although at a greater cost per acre.’

“As Valentine’s memorandum suggested, this decision connected with an inquiry by Senator Dixon; it seems the Indian Office wanted to live in harmony with Congress. Unfortunately, the Conrad-Valier Water Company persistently failed to allow enough water for the irrigation of 7,000 acres of Reservation land, and the added costs of developing Badger Creek were indirectly thrust upon the Blackfeet -- not the government. The Interior Department ignored these possibilities, and reduced Engineer Savage’s filings for water rights as requested by the Company. The only time the Birch Creek water reached the Reservation was when the Company dam was broken or being repaired, but for the most part, as McFatridge warned, the Company diverted “practically all the water” from Birch Creek in violation of its agreement.

“The issues of water rights and irrigation projects illustrate the gap between the goals of the Indian Office and the reality of Blackfeet life. Clearly, the Indian Office intended that irrigation would by used by the Blackfeet for farming, thus justifying the government’s decision to affix the extensive costs of the Reclamation Service projects as a lien upon the allotted lands of the Indians. The vast sums spent on irrigation provided employment for some Blackfeet but conferred no long-term benefits on the Indians. Most members of the Tribe selected grazing lands as their allotments, and except for their small gardens, very few of the Blackfeet were interested in farming because it was always a dismal failure at the Reservation. They were stockmen, in their estimate, and their Reservation was grazing country, not farm land. The Indians’ only sustained effort at cultivation was in developing their hay lands. Despite this, the Indian Office persisted in its irrigation projects, and McFatridge renewed the Agency “demonstration” farm,” even while reporting that the Blackfeet studiously ignored such “models” of civilization. It was to be long after they received their allotments before the majority of Blackfeet realized that hundreds of thousands of dollars expended on the irrigation projects was not a government relief program or even a generous gratuity, but a monumental boondoggle.”

The Great Northern Railway Company had all charges for feeder roads, timber and gravel waived. There was nominal payment for a telephone line. Land for the hotels and their grounds were sold for a reduced price.

“The complexity of leasing permits and the distribution of revenues to individual Indians” were insoluble by McFatridge and remain to be resolved in court by the Cobell lawsuit.

Supervisor Fred Baker, who had thought McFatridge was doing all right in 1911, became concerned at the mess in 1912, including the fact that McFatridge assigned his wife and son to whatever jobs were open. Everyone hated Clara, the “Holy Terror,” who interfered with her husband’s official mail, adding her own semi-literate remarks! In fact, Baker thought the Rocky Boys’ people should be given Ft. Assiniboine’s military reservation, as much to save them as to relieve the resentment of the Blackfeet.

Robert J. Hamilton, “a half-breed Piegan who took the name of A.B. Hamilton, the old Fort Whoop Up whiskey trader who adopted him,” now became a strong voice on behalf of the old starving full-bloods. He said, “It is our belief that the Lord never intended this man for an Indian Agent.” McFatridge denied that any more old-timers were dying than usual.

Another McFatridge opponent was S.A. Selecman, principal of what was now the Browning Public School, under the authority of the state rather than the Indian Agent. He gave the son, Leslie, a whipping, and could not be fired by McFatridge, who did what he could to make Selecman’s life miserable. The latter retaliated with letters accusing the former of being a “Republican blood-sucker.”

Hamilton finally went to Washington, D.C., with his complaints. Commissioner Sells sent Supervisor Lipps with instructions not to let anyone know he was coming and not to stay with the agent. Lipps reported that McFatridge wasn’t the best, but Hamilton was a local horse thief, unrespected. Baker was brushed off as over-idealistic. A later Chief Inspector recommended that McFatridge be demoted to a job within his abilities.

McFatridge’s delegation at a tribal meeting included James Perrine, Levi Burd, Malcolm Clarke, and Charles Buck -- the most prosperous of the mixed bloods. They informed the Commissioner that the Blackfeet only wanted to sell part of their unallotted land. McFatridge arranged a meeting between these men and the Commercial Club of Cut Bank, Montana, who wanted to buy the Browning townsite. This same group approved the first of the oil leases for exploration in the NE part of the reservation.

“In January of 1914, Charles Davis, Supervisor of Farming At Large for the Indian Office, charged that after all of the irrigation work at the Blackfeet Reservation there was not a single irrigated acre under cultivation.” McFatridge’s defense was that the farm machinery didn’t arrive until too late to plant. He also pointed out that their irrigated allotments were twenty to forty miles from their grazing allotments. (It was thought fair to give each family some of each kind of land, though they were necessarily separated since the whole reservation is a long incline from mountain to prairie.)

The Secretary of Interior took the unprecedented step of asking the Indians what they needed. James Perrine, Secretary of the Tribal council responded: “...put a stop to the useless expenditure of thousands upon thousands of dollars of our money on the construction by the Reclamation Service of irrigating canals, etc. in the endeavor to make farmers out of a people who have no desire or inclination to become such, who are not fitted for it by nature and who were never consulted about their wishes in the matter, but have always been treated by the government as children, who had no well-defined ideas as to what they wanted or what was good for them.”

“.. Assistant Commissioner E. B. Meritt ... recommended that if the Blackfeet were to receive “some return” on their irrigable land allotment selections, they would have to lease them to white farmers. But this hardly satisfied the Blackfeet, who finally seemed to understand, as Perrine already did, that all of the irrigation expenses were to be charged to the individual allotment.”

On the surplus lands all the previously glamorous mineral deposits were now reclassified as being “non-coal, non-oil” and of little value. Thomas Sloan, investigator, said the poverty was as severe as any he had seen and that McFatridge had little use for full-bloods.

S.M. Brosius, a Washington Agent for the Indian Rights Association, “pointed out that the Commissioner must be aware that the Reservation is utterly unfit for agriculture, and claimed that it should have been equally evident ‘...that the construction of an irrigation project was not primarily in the interest of the Indians, since their lands are suitable chiefly for grazing and th Indians themselves untrained in tilling the soil.’” He was very critical of the Walsh Bill, which was supposed to have provided money from the sale of unallotted lands, but was never implemented. He underlined the dire straits of full-bloods around Heart Butte.

Chief Inspector Linnen made a new investigation. Two other reports were sent to the Indian Office. The Report of Commission to Investigate Irrigation Projects on Indian Lands “...described the several projects on Blackfeet land and reported that in each project the amount of land irrigated was very small and the per acre expense was very high. The Commission noted that the Blackfeet were mainly stockraisers and predicted that diversified farming would never be successful, but ‘in any ordinary season a good crop of hay may be grown on the irrigable land...’ Nonetheless the Commission recommended completion of the numerous projects to a limited extent at least in order to reduce the per acre cost; they recommended that Senator Walsh’s bill be passed, thus opening up for sale the unallotted irrigable lands on the eastern edge of the Reservation; they also stated ‘it is highly essential that the Indian retain possession of his irrigable land’; and finally they recommended that the cost of irrigation be apportioned among those benefited. The Commission did not ask the Blackfeet if they wanted their lands irrigated. The report illustrated the Indian Office’s determination to make irrigation synonymous with civilization and the good of the Indian.”

The second report was by Elsie E. Newton on “moral conditions.” She was mostly shocked by sexual arrangements, including polygamy. One wonders what she would think about liberated conditions today.

On January 9, 1915, Chief Inspector Linnen and Special Agent F.S. Cook ripped McFatridge in a special report. “Linnen and Cook estimated that over $942,000 had been expended up to 1914 on irrigation, and cited the request of the Reclamation Bureau for an additional $2,000,000 for additional projects. ‘The benefits derived by the Indians from this large expenditure of money have been practically nil... As a matter of fact an Indian, or white man, would need to expend some two or three thousand dollars on each irrigable allotment ... before he could expect any returns. The Indians have not the means to do this, and... it is exceedingly doubtful whether any great amount of this land which can be irrigated, will ever be successfully farmed.”

“The Agency farmers conceded that farming was futile under the climatic conditions which prevailed.” (Constant wind, temperature extremes, alkaline soil.) There were many other matters ranging from neglect to swindling. McFatridge was out. He stole $1,200 to finance his leaving and went to Canada.

PART TWO: The Return of Corruption and Starvation, 1915 -1920.

The next superintendent was C.L. Ellis was relatively honest and saw the Rocky Boy’s Cree off to Fort Assiniboine.

“Like McFatridge, Ellis was burdened with a serious problem: the refusal of the Conrad-Valier Company to fulfill its part of the agreement reached in 1911 with the Indian Office and the Department of the Interior. Although obligated to supply sufficient wataer to irrigate at least 7,000 acres of land along Birch Creek, the Company consistently diverted all of Birch Creek at its dam for its off-reservation reservoir.” [Lake Francis?]

The fence around the reservation had been dismantled and the materials sold to individual Indians. Cattle problems revived, including the practice of traders accumulating cattle in lieu of payment for goods.

“A similar lack of success continued to mark the operations of the Balckfeet irrigation projects. The losses on some of the canals through seepage and high evaporation rates were admitted, but the Annual Report of the Project Manager for the Reservation claimed that the Indians were too inexperienced to succeed at farming irrigated lands. He complained that the Indians made little use of the irrigation capacities of the various projects.”

In March of 1916 a delegation from the new Tribal Council, which now included more full bloods and four illiterate members, went to Washington D.C. with many complaints. Two new concerns were “cleaning the rolls” of unentitled people and protecting the mineral rights. It appeared that Standard Oil believed it was worth drilling. At last now the Council took minutes and all signed them.

Ellis left in summer, 1917. Leasing and allotment were hopelessly entangled but US participation in WWI meant beef prices were up. This meant that the mixed bloods were becoming more and more wealthy while the gulf between them and the full-bloods widened. Thomas Ferris, the former stock supervisor, was briefly the superintendent, but soon left because of his health. McFatridge was eluding pursuit long enough to evade the statute of limitations for his theft, though he remained on the reservation.

Linnen and two other officials returned to the irrigation issue. “Each of the older canal projects needed expensive repair work, partly as a result of faulty construction. A dam had been constructed on the Two Medicine Creek system at a cost of $140,000 but many thousands of dollars more would be required before the system was fully operative. The Cut Bank Canal and Seville systems suffered from extensive seepage and, despite the costs already incurred, was capable of irrigating only 4,000 of the estimated 24,000 acres originally planned. The Badger Creek system, required in part because of the Interior Department’s generosity in dispensing with the Birch Creek water system (which had been diverted by the Conrad-Valier Company), carried water in 1917 for the first time since its construction in 1911-1912.

“ ‘From the foregoing it must be apparent that to date the large expenditure of about $1,000,000 has been made on this project without any beneficial result: that the Indians have had absolutely no benefits therefrom, and likely never will have unless it be from the increased value of their small forty acre allotments, which they will eventually sell, and it is doubtful if they will bring much more than the actual cost of irrigation.’”

Next came a quick sequence of agents: Wadsworth came in 1918, then Superintendent of Livestock F.C. Campbell, and by the year end Harvey O. Power, former Chief Clerk who had screwed up the leases and individual accounts. From 1919 until March of 1921 was Horace Wilson, dismissed for bigamy. Overgrazing, lack of bulls and drought-suppressed hay continued.

Campbell quite liked the idea of sheep. The leasing clerk was Stuart Hazlett, mixed-blood, whose muddling seemed always to benefit whites. But former Chief Clerk Harvey O. Power returned in 1918. Depending on whom one believed, everything was in great shape or everything was a shambles. Inspector Michael threw out Martin, Hazlett and Power.

In 1919 the superintendent was Horace Wilson, a drunk. Bribes, sub-leases, kickbacks, and side arrangements were the order of the day. The tribal herd, much to the relief of the tribe, was sold. It was a sinkhole for money which never got back to the Indians. Wilson’s cure for all this was to promote irrigation again. Besides persuading old full-bloods to sign a “petition” asking for irrigation, Snell, project manager from the Reclamation Bureau and Wilson sent letters to Senator Charles Curtis, Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, telling him irrigation was “urgently needed.” Snell’s formal opinion was that the Indians were hopeless when it came to irrigation and that the whites who leased the “Indian’s irrigable lands...proved just as incompetent and unable to bring in an adequate harvest.” Still, Snell wanted more money for more construction.

“In fact, the only successful irrigation farming was being done by the Jesuits at the Holy Family Mission. The problem was that they had been taking water from the irrigation project for nearly twenty years -- free of cost. When Snell and Wilson recommended that the Jesuits pay at least fifty per cent of the rate charged to individual users along the same canal project, the Jesuits refused to sign the report, claiming that the school children benefited from the farm.”

In 1919 and 1920 many people who had been self-sufficient were forced back onto rations. The deaths from starvation have never been counted, but in spite of local outcries from white people, the government simply insisted everythng was fine.

PART THREE: Comrade Campbell’s Five Year Plans: 1921 -1929

F.C. Campbell had spent over 25 years in the Indian Service, had briefly been Superintendent, and was a sheep rancher himself. He reported that the situation was absolutely rock bottom. A big vigorous man, he went everywhere advocating his solution: farming. In the process he alienated mixed-bloods and some of the “Friends of the Indian.” He organized granges who could share heavy equipment and support each other while competing among themselves, thus re-creating the old bands of the Blackfeet. He discouraged cattle and was discouraged by the necessity of keeping records, which were a mess as usual.

In December of 1922, J.W. Schultz published a pamphlet entitled “The Blackfeet Are Starving.” It didn’t attack Campbell but was dubious of his plan and accused the Indian Bureau. The new Business Council elected Robert Hamilton as chair and Joseph Spanish as secretary. Richard Sanderville identified with Campbell. Oliver Racine, aligned with Hamilton, was an enemy of Campbell who tried to get rid of him on grounds of adultery. Burke, the Indian commissioner, thought that if they just let Hamilton alone he would hang himself.

Burke then put pressure on Campbell about the irrigated lands, which were not the same as the small family garden plots that Campbell was supporting and not on the same land. Burke said if the Indians wouldn’t farm that irrigated land, whites should be encouraged to lease the land and farm it. Campbell tried to explain that not all the irrigation canals even functioned. The next plague was the classical grasshoppers in 1924, not counting trachoma and tuberculosis.

Oliver Sanderville, who was not in agreement with Richard, now complained about Campbell. The small community organizations by-passed the Tribal Business Council, which upset them enough to “vote Campbell out.”

In 1928 Campbell sealed his fate by selling the burgeoning, if mangy, horse herds to the Chappel Brothers. This verged on heresy.

Walter Liggett, Senate investigator, began to take testimony in 1928. [The orginal publication didn’t take place until 1932, but recently was re-published in installments in The Glacier Reporter.] Campbell had to ask Forrest Stone, Assistant Superintendent and Disbursing Agent, to answer many questions because he didn’t know himself.

These are Liggett’s headings:

1. Indian Defrauded by Deliberate Conspiracy. (The finger was pointed at the Sherburne Mercantile Company.)
2. Tribal Possessions Dissipated. (Mostly the misuse of the original compensations for loss of reservation land.)
3. No Accounting of Tribal Herd. (They seemed to mysteriously me
4. Indians’ Interests Seem Secondary. (How the Great Northern Railroad secured advantages, including suppressing Blackfeet businesses, though Liggett himself objected to getting Indians to meet trains, dance, and tell stories. He said it was undignified.)
5. Agency Officials Dominate Council. (Joe Brown was accused in the horse sale.)
6. No Accounting Made to Indians and Leasing. (General bad practice and judgment.)

In 1929 Forrest Stone became the next agent.

PART FOUR: Oil, Oil!

Leases had been given since 1914 but no one drilled. There was some question whether the tribe owned the mineral rights under its own land. The US Geological Survey said there was no oil in the northeast sector, though that was where it was most avidly sought. Mysteriously, Louis Hill, son of the Great Northern Railroad magnate James J. Hill, had a ten year lease secured in some sort of by-pass through Washington, D.C. He did a lot of tricky stuff. By this time there were many small wild-cat operations around, some operating behind Indian cat’s paws. [This continues to the present.] Campbell disliked all this oil stuff and sat on leases. Hamilton was the main person pushing for drilling.

The first oil strikes were in 1930 on the eastern edge of the reservation. The US Government refused to do anything about test wells just over the line on Indian land. The officials seemed paralyzed.

CHAPTER VII Tribal Democracy 1930-1950

(This section is 43 pages long and has 136 footnotes. It is the final chapter.)

Forces on the reservation included Depression and then WWII. Government help during the Depression didn’t affect the reservation much. WWII meant that many, esp. mixed bloods, left for Pacific Coast war-worker jobs or for the military, where they were welcome, but returned home to a bad situation. One of the worst effects was even more of a split with the old full-bloods.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which gave the reservation self-government, opened the door to internal graft. The government seemed to withhold any help or guidance. The tribe turned again the government.

PART ONE: Unplannning, 1930-1935

Same old story: land lease mismanagement, bad bookkeeping, overgrazing. Senator King of Utah said: “It is peculiarly significant that the Indian Bureau’s opposition to the reorganization program... was first developed and made effective in connection with the Blackfeet irrigation project of Montana. As I have already pointed out, this Blackfeet project is one of the most dismal of the Indian Bureau’s irrigation failures. The Preston-Engle Committee had recommended the total abandonment of the Blackfeet project and had insisted that no new capital investment be sunk in ths project... However the Indian Bureau’s irrigation division was determined to go forward with new capital investment... Engineer Hanna... assured the House Appropriations Committee... ‘we can refund that whole amount in time.’ The ‘whole amount’ to which Mr. Hanna referred was one million dollars.”

In 1935 Superintendent Stone was replaced by Warren O’Hara. A herd of 5,500 “drought cattle” was brought in by the government about the same time. They were in terrible shape (as usual) and 300 were lost through the severe winter (as usual). In 1934 138 Indian families (blood quantum not mentioned) were self-supporting and 747 families were receiving federal assistance through a combination of relief and rations. Campbell’s farming was OUT.

If grazing leases were problematic, oil leases were exponentially worse. Now that major strikes were made alongside the reservation near Cut Bank, everyone claimed rights. The Tribe was frantic in its desire and genuine need for the development of oil. The US Geological Survey was now involved and the Cut Bank oil tycoons began to have state political clout. At a time when the federal government was determined to make the tribe pay its own way, the tribe needed help in managing the bonanza but didn’t get it.

PART TWO: The Council’s Peculations, 1935-1945

C. L. Graves, the new superintendent, thought of organizing as Campbell had, but this time with stock associations. Special Agent Williams addressed the subject of equipment inventories: condemned and missing machinery was valued at $100,000.

David Rodnick, government anthopologist, reported that the reservation had developed “two antagonistic cultures.” The agency staff was seen as aligned with the agency staff and the fullbloods felt their only defenders were the federal Indian Office people.

In September of 1939 Special Agent Marvin Clark found that the Council’s cashbook journal had not been updated since January 1 and many receipts were missing. There was also an assortment of cash and checks unaccounted for. (The Treasurer was Nancy M. Goss.) Individual Council members felt free to make loans with a formal vote of the whole. Chairman Hazlett’s bonding company wanted to cancel his bond. John Collier wanted to turn all the evidence over to the Justice Department, but Superintendent Graves promised that tribal funds would be kept in “...a special individual money account at the Blackfeet Agency where tribal funds can be under the scrutiny and control of the superintendent.”

The Tribal Council included Brian Connolly, Wright Hagerty, and Levi Burd, all cattle ranchers with reservation leases, on which they waived bidding and bonding. Nancy Goss was discovered to be writing checks to herself and not depositing the oil royalties that Graves was supposed to be monitoring. The unhappy full bloods took a council with representatives of the Indian Bureau that included D’Arcy McNickle. Now the government wanted to be paid for those “drought cattle” bought at bargain rates in the Depression at the higher wartime rates.

The issue of how to handle oil leases united full-bloods and mixed-bloods but divided the tribe from the government, which was considering just taking back control of oil, but they did nothing more than consider. In 1942 the council just went ahead and made their own arrangements without asking or telling any federal people. A fellow named Teter interposed himself as a sort of agent at large, promising better royalties. The same leases were issued to different people.

Things got bad enough that Senator Burton K. Wheeler was asked by a committee of Indians to remove authority from the Tribal Council and call in the F.B.I. -- he relayed this to Secretary Ickes. Felix Cohen was now involved as a government representative. Ewers, who had just built the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, was also involved. Many prominent locals, including Brian Connolly and George Pambrun, were caught up in cross-accusations of wrong-doing.

PART THREE: The Council vs. the Bureau Post-war.

The sheep economy crashed after the war. In 1947 a District Office was added, but didn’t seem to help. Rex Kildow was the new superintendent. The “Tribal Store” was created and then collapsed. Per capita payments kept the grumbling to a minimum. The oil revenue began to shrink, several tribal businesses failed, delinquent leases were not collected. An audit couldn’t be completed for lack of records. Kildow said the government was severely letting the tribe down by letting the council run it to suit their own personal needs. Again there were threats of prosecution, but nothing happened. A complication was presented by Felix Cohen’s employment by the Council. He encouraged them to have their own account in local banks. The assets of the tribe were rapidly being dispersed.

D’Arcy McNickle, Chief of the Tribal Relations Branch, urged that the Indian Bureau should fulfill its trust responsibility and preserve trust property. Investigators were no match for Felix Cohen.

In 1952 the Council (Chairman George Pambrun, advised by Cohen) asked to have the state to take over road management, education and extension. Not much changed.