Calf Shirt’s Revenge

Gold was discovered in Montana north of the Missouri River in 1862 and this brought a flood of gold-seekers into the area who ignored the fact that this was Blackfoot land and the treaty did not allow their presence. The government ignored the treaty, too, and attempted to negotiate a new treaty in which the gold-rich lands would be ceded to the United States. The general feeling was that Indian reservations should not contain gold mines.  

Calf Shirt was a prominent Kainae (Blood) chief in the era after the Civil War. This was an era in which the American traders no longer viewed the Indians as equal partners in the fur and hide trade and had no respect for Indian culture. Calf Shirt is generally described as a large and powerful man. He was aggressive and became a terror when drunk. While “under the influence” he was considered a mean bully and had killed a number of his own people while in one of his drunken rages.

In the spring of 1865, a group of American miners established Ophir at the mouth of the Marias River in an attempt to challenge Fort Benton’s dominance as the head of steamboat navigation on the Missouri River. There was, however, trouble with the Blackfoot. During the winter, some horses went missing and the Americans simply assumed that Indians-meaning the Blackfoot-had stolen them. A group of four Americans then killed three Blood Indians (the Blood are a part of the larger Blackfoot Confederacy) who they assumed were the thieves. It was later found that the horses had actually been liberated by a Crow war party.

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In May 1865, Chief Calf Shirt led a war party of about 100 warriors seeking revenge. They found a group of woodcutters from Ophir near the Marias River and attacked them. They killed ten in revenge for the death of the three Blood warriors. In the eyes of the Blood, this was an equal trade. As a result of this attack, the community of Ophir dissipated and the wood from the cabins was used to fuel the steamboats.

In December 1873, after trading his buffalo robes at Fort Kipp, Calf Shirt kept demanding more whiskey. Young Joe Kipp refused and Calf Shirt pulled a gun. He missed, but Joe Kipp did not. Calf Shirt stumbled, wounded, out of the trading post where a volley of 15 more shots from other whiskey traders brought him down. His wives asked a medicine man to pray over his body for 3 days in an attempt to bring him back to life. Both the Bloods and the Americans asked them not to do this. They did not want him resurrected.  

Bob Scriver and the Indians (Photo Diary)

Bob Scriver (1914-1999) is among the West’s greatest sculptors. He was born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. His forte was American Indians. As a scholar of Blackfoot Indian culture and history, he is known for his ability to capture historically accurate detail in his sculptures. He was given the Blackfoot name Sik-Poke-Sah-Ma-Pee.  

Scriver’s biography in the Fine Art Dealers Association states:

An accomplished musician, Scriver earned his master’s degree in music, taught in Montana public schools, and played professionally in big bands before taking up taxidermy, which would assist him in his ultimate profession, sculpture. A student and scholar of Native American artifacts, Scriver is best remembered for creating a series of sculptures that chronicled the history of the Blackfeet Tribe, as well as a series devoted to rodeo subjects.

Scriver operated the Museum of Montana Wildlife and the Hall of Bronze in Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. After his death in 1999, these two collections were given to the Montana Historical Society.

The Scriver family collection of Blackfoot artifacts was sold to the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta. This collection included some ceremonial Blackfoot bundles and this upset many of the tribal elders. Alberta returned the sacred objects to the Canadian Blackfoot.

Shown below are some of the Scriver sculptures which are on display at the Old Fort Benton in Fort Benton, Montana.

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The Blackfoot Beaver Dance is shown above.  According to the display:

“The beaver bundle was the largest and oldest sacred bundle of the Blackfoot and is uniquely theirs. For years beaver holy men added parts and songs from other bundles. As the ritual grew, there were more and more participants. The sacred rites and songs multiplied to such an extent that the owner and his wife needed help with the ceremony. The part of the bundle opening ceremony depicted here is the Dance of the Beaver done by the wives of the Beaver Men. Holding beaver sticks in their mouths and carrying a stuffed beaver skin, they imitate a beaver swimming in and out of the lodge to the beat and songs of the rattles. Today there are too few beaver people to perform the complete ceremony.”

Karl Bodmer and the Indians

In 1832 Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, with young Swiss draftsman Karl Bodmer and hunter-taxidermist David Dreidoppel, embarked on a scientific expedition to study the flora, fauna, and native peoples of western North America. In 1833, they left St. Louis on the steamboat Yellow Stone owned by the American Fur Company and began their journey up the Missouri River. At Fort Pierre in what is now South Dakota, they changed to the steamboat Assiniboine which took them to Fort Union on the Montana-North Dakota border. From here they went by keelboat (a human-powered craft) to Fort McKenzie.  

Prince Maximillian was fascinated by Native American culture and they spent a month in the area. At Fort McKenzie, Maximilian met Bear Chief, a Blackfoot chief, who was introduced to him as a man who had never traded with Hudson’s Bay Company. Maximilian writes of the Blackfoot:

“They are always dangerous to white men who are hunting singly in the mountains, especially to beaver hunters, and kill them whenever they fall into their hands; hence the armed troops of the traders keep up a constant war with them.”

Prince Maximilian produced a book of his scientific observations made during the trip and an atlas of 81 lithographic prints done under the supervision of Karl Bodmer. A number of Bodmer’s prints are on display in the Bodmer Gallery in Old Fort Benton in Fort Benton, Montana. According to the display:

“Exploration on the Upper Missouri by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuweid and artist Karl Bodmer provided a vivid description of Native American life along the Missouri River corridor before the Anglo-European culture had much effect. Bodmer’s precise attention to detail and his lithographs of individual pieces of clothing, weapons, tools and ceremonial regalia leave an image to accompany the details found in the Prince’s journals.”

Bodmer’s works are considered one of the definitive works on Native Americans. They are today considered as the most accurate accounts of the Plains people before their ways were changed by the arrival of the Euro-Americans. Photographs of some of these prints are shown below.

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The Cypress Hills Massacre

In the 1860s and 1870s packs of non-Indians known as wolfers roamed the Northern Plains of Montana and Alberta seeking to exterminate wolves. They would kill a buffalo, then douse the carcass with poison and wait for the wolves to devour the poisoned meat and die. They would then skin the wolves and collect the bounties. They got $2.50 per hide in bounties.  

It was not uncommon for Indian dogs to eat the tainted meat and die. While this created hardships for the Indians, for many wolfers there was little distinction between the extermination of wolves, buffalo, and Indians. They viewed all as a common nuisance whose extinction they sought.

In 1873, a group of wolfers, known as the Green River Renegades, paused in Fort Benton, Montana for some heavy drinking. When they returned to their camp outside of town, they found that they had lost about 40 of their horses. While the horses were most likely captured (some Indians would say “liberated”) by a Cree party, the wolfers made little distinction between one Indian tribe and another.

The Green River Renegades assumed that the raiders would take the horses across the Medicine Line into Canada where they would be traded at one the whiskey forts along the Whoop-Up Trail. These forts were run by American traders seeking to circumvent the US prohibition against selling alcohol to Indians and ignoring any possibility of Canadian law.

The Green River Renegades crossed into Alberta and stopped at Fort Farwell. They asked the trader about any Indians with horses in the area and were informed that there were only some peaceful Assiniboine in the area and that they didn’t have any more than a few horses. Upon hearing this, the wolfers sat down, ordered whiskey and got drunk.

Led by John Evans, the wolfers located the Assiniboine camp of Little Soldier. Abe Farwell, the owner of Fort Farwell, beat the wolfers to the camp and attempted to warn the Indians that they were in danger.

The wolfers attacked the camp, killing 30 people, and mutilating the bodies. The wolfers were well-armed with Henry and Winchester repeating rifles, while the Assiniboine had only bows and a few muzzle-loading muskets.

The wolfers captured a number of Assiniboine women and gang raped them throughout the night. One elder, Wankantu, was clubbed to death and then decapitated. His head was impaled on a spike outside of nearby Fort Solomon.

The Indians protested to the American Indian agent as well as to Canadian authorities, but the wolfers were never brought to justice. Even though the leaders of the Green River Renegades– John Evans, Thomas Hardwick, George Hammond-were well-known in the region. The Americans seemed to have little interest in justice. On the other hand, the brutality of this attack helped stimulate the creation of the North-West Mounted Police and end the illegal whiskey trade in the region.

The Assiniboine refer to this attack as the Cypress Hills Massacre.  

Powwow 101: Grass Dancers (Photo Diary)

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The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. There are many who feel that the male grass dancers represented the oldest style of dancing at the modern powwows. Originally, the dancers had braids of grass dangling from their belts and during the dance the dancers would move so that the grass braids swayed like the prairie grass in the wind. Today’s dancers use ribbons instead of grass, but the idea maintaining the swaying movement continues. A good grass dancer is balanced: if he makes a series of steps with his right foot, then these steps are mirrored with the left foot. Shown below are some of the grass dancers at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.

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The Canon and the Mule

The Blackfoot were the most feared Indian nation on the Northern Plains in the nineteenth century. The United States established their reservation in 1851 at a treaty council held in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Since no Blackfoot chiefs were in attendance, the government probably felt safe in declaring all of the land north of the Missouri River as their reservation.

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The Blackfoot signed their first treaty with the United States in 1855, when they met with Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens and others at the Judith River. The Treaty of Judith River establishes the Great Blackfeet Reservation which includes 17.5 million acres north of the Missouri River and east of the Rocky Mountains. Governor Stevens told the Blackfoot:

“This country is your home. It will remain your home.”

Meeting in the council were not only the various Blackfoot tribes (Piegan and Blood), but also the Flathead, Nez Perce, Gros Ventre, Kootenai, Pend d’Oreille, Cree, and Shoshone. One of the primary Blackfoot concerns was hunting rights. They feared that being restricted to the reservation would restrict them from their traditional hunting grounds. On the other hand, the other tribes did not want to see the Blackfoot granted exclusive hunting rights to contested areas. In the end, the western Indians were given the right to hunt from the Mussleshell River to the Yellowstone River.  

The treaty promised to provide the Blackfoot with annuities, to provide them with instruction in agricultural pursuits, to educate their children, and to promote civilization and Christianization. Indian treaty violations were to result in deductions from the annuities. This assumed that only the Blackfoot would violate the treaty. There was no penalty for non-Indians, including the federal government, if they were to violate it.

Fort Benton was designated as the Indian Agency for the Blackfoot. The Indian Agent’s duties were to distribute annuities to the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy and to maintain peace between the Indians and non-Indians in the region.

By 1865, non-Indian settlement in Montana was increasing and these new settlers felt that they were somehow entitled to Indian land. Therefore, the United States met with the Blackfoot and the Gros Ventre to convince them to move their southern boundary in order to allow American settlers to move in.

Many U.S. and Indian dignitaries assembled at Fort Benton for the Treaty Council. The Indian agent for the Blackfoot is described by his contemporaries as knowing as much about Indians as he did about the inhabitants of the planet Jupiter.

As all were assembling just outside of the fort, someone decided that the chiefs who had gathered for the treaty council should be shown American military might. A freight train which had been passing through included a mule which was carrying a cannon barrel strapped to its back. Some non-Indian of questionable intelligence decided that it would be a good idea to set off the cannon while it was still being carried by the mule.

The cannon was carried so that the muzzle pointed toward the mule’s tail. The gathered non-Indians, intent on impressing the Indians with their might and intellectual superiority, filled the cannon with powder and grape shot. A fuse was inserted and lit. The mule, hearing the fizzle of the fuse, turned to look. The River Press reported:

“As his head turned, so his body turned and the howitzer began to take in other points of the compass. The mule became more excited as his curiosity became more and more intense. In a few seconds he either had his four feet in a bunch, making more revolutions a minute than the bystanders dared count and with the howitzer threatening destruction to everybody within a radius of a quarter mile, or he suddenly tried standing on his head with his heels and howitzer at a remarkable angle in the air.”

Panic set in among the non-Indian dignitaries: some dove into the nearby river, others simply hit the ground, while others ran for the cover of the nearby fort. The Indians simply stood around wondering what all the excitement was about. When the cannon finally went off, the mule’s rear end was pointed at the fort, which absorbed the grape shot. The buffalo mural over the main gate was peppered with shot. No humans were injured and the mule was never seen again.

Having impressed in the Indians with their superior firepower and intellect, the Americans promised the chiefs that they would be paid an additional annual sum for signing the treaty. After signing the treaty, Little Dog, the head chief of the Piegan Blackfoot, said:

“We are pleased with what we have heard today. … The land here belongs to us, we were raised upon it; we are glad to give a portion to the United States, for we get something for it.”

As with all Indian treaties, the Americans assumed that it was immediately binding for the Indians, but it had to be ratified by the Senate before it was binding to the United States. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in retaliation for Blackfoot and Blood war parties which killed miners who were trespassing in Indian territory, refused to recommend ratification to the Senate. When the government refused to ratify the treaty, the Blackfoot decided that the government had lied to them once again.

 

Powwow 101: Fancy Dancers (Photo Diary)

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The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. The male fancy dancers are usually crowd pleasers with their brightly colored outfits. They also wear two feather bustles: one high between the shoulders and one low, hanging from the waist. Shown below are some of the fancy dancers at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.

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American Indian Youth and Budget Cuts

Historically American Indians, particularly those living on reservations, have had the highest poverty rates in the United States. In addition, reservations have some of the highest teen suicide rates in the world. For many American Indian young people the future does not look promising and there is little to break the oppressive cycle of poverty. The most successful approach to dealing with poverty among young people has been education, both classroom education and work education. There are two stories this week about the impact of austerity on Indian youth.  

Summer Job Program Cut:

In 2010, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Salish Kootenai College, and the Creston Fish Hatchery sponsored the Youth Conservation Corps to provide 30 summer jobs for high school students. In this program, the students were exposed to natural resource management careers (this is a high priority for the tribes) and provided them with hands-on work experience. Rich Janssen, Department Head of Tribal Natural Resources, reports in the Charkoosta News:

“Due to federal budget cuts, Flathead Indian Reservation youth will lose the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the outdoors this summer.”

Janssen also says:

“They gained valuable experience while improving the outdoor recreational experience for everyone. This is the kind of cut that hurts our entire community by limiting options for our youth.”

While people in Congress are concerned about the impact of the sequester on people who fly in airplanes and who visit the White House, they have no concern for Indian young people who have never flown in an airplane and who will never visit the White House because they are trapped in the cycle of poverty.

University of Montana:

The University of Montana has announced massive cuts in its teaching staff and reduction of the number of classes being offered. Decreasing support for higher education from the state and federal governments, plus decreasing enrollments due to increased costs of education and the University’s inability to deal with rape scandals associated with its athletic teams, are seen as the causes of the budget shortfalls. While economic austerity has been announced for the University, American Indian students are pushing for a new position in the Financial Aid Office tailored specifically to meet the needs of Indian students.

Between 2004 and 2011, 86% of the American Indian undergraduate students at the University did not graduate. Amanda Stovall, a UM senior and enrolled member of the Crow tribe and former vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Montana, says:

“I really believe that with the Native American center, the University of Montana could become the leading destination for Native American students in the nation. But the reality is we’re not retaining students, so we have to change some things.”

For American Indian university students, the financial aid process is confusing, in part because each tribal government has its own scholarship process, and this means it has its own deadlines for need assessments. This creates additional hurdles for Native students on tuition waivers or higher education scholarships.

In applying a business model to the situation, Stovall says:

“It costs less to retain a student than it does to recruit a student, and we already know we have retention issues around the Native American population. I just feel like it’s the best business decision they could make right now.”

The Powwow (Photo Diary)

Eagle Staff

It begins with the drums. This is the signal for the dancers to enter into the dance arbor, usually led by dancers carrying the eagle feather staff. This marks the Grand Entry which starts each powwow session. This is a powwow: the most common form of Indian celebration.

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The powwow itself is not a religious or spiritual ceremony; nor, in its current form, is it a particularly “ancient” celebration. The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage.

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Following the eagle staffs, carried by Fancy Dancers in the powwow shown above, are the flags-American, Canadian, tribal, MIA, state (this varies from powwow to powwow). At many powwows, following the flags are the “royalty” and other dignitaries.

Royalty

The dancers continue to file in-it is not uncommon for a grand entry to take a half an hour-until all dancers have entered the arbor.

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On the other hand, for many people – dancers, drummers, and spectators – the powwow is also a spiritual experience and a spiritual ceremony. Many begin their participation in powwow by smudging: cleansing and spiritually purifying themselves, their dance regalia, and their drums with the smoke from sage or sweetgrass.

Background:

During the Dark Ages of American Indian Religious Freedom (1880 to 1934), the Indian Office (the current Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the local Indian agents discouraged all types of Indian dancing as barriers to civilization. Christian missionaries to the reservations often complained that Indian dances “inflamed animal passions and the immoral and uncivilized people.” Indian agents were told by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to prohibit Indian dancing as such activities were deemed to be injurious to the moral welfare of the Indians.

The Baptist field matron for the Kiowa-Commanche Reservation in Oklahoma condemned powwow dancing in 1915:

“These dances are one of the breeding places of illegitimate children, which is becoming the shame of the tribe.”

The new superintendent for the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana addressed his concerns over Indian dances in 1917 by stating:

“I recommend the policy of repression and at the same time instruction to show the uselessness of these practices.”

On the other hand, non-Indian tourists had an interest in seeing the Indians dance. While Indian dancing was discouraged on the reservation, non-Indian groups often invited Indians to put on dances in off-reservation venues as a part of celebrations intended to attract tourists.

In 1911, for example, Colorado Springs, Colorado invited a group of Ute to be a part of an exhibition at an 8-day carnival. The Indians performed dances and other ceremonies that were discouraged at their reservation. The events, while not favored by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, were popular with those attending the event.

In spite of attempts to eradicate Indian dances, the dances continued. In the off-reservation venues, the dancers would often be from different tribes and thus a kind of pan-Indianism developed in which the powwows were not a celebration of one particular Indian culture, but of Indianness in general.

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Contemporary Powwows:

At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. Some powwows are held in conjunction with tribal casinos.

People dance at powwows for many reasons. Some dance because they are Indian and this is a way of celebrating their heritage. Powwows are a time for renewing friendships, for seeing family and friends, for coming home.

Many powwows will include naming ceremonies, honoring ceremonies, and give-aways to mark significant life events, such as graduations, birth, marriage, and homecomings (particularly for veterans).

Some dance because they earn money in the contests. Many large powwows run dance contests and some dancers travel a powwow circuit, dancing at different powwows each weekend, and earning enough money through their winnings to stay on the road.

Dance contests are usually categorized by gender and age group. In addition, there may be categories for different types of dances. For men, this might include Fancy Dance, Traditional, Grass Dance, and Straight Dance. For women, this might include Traditional, Fancy Shawl, and Jingle Dress.

Some dance because of their personal spiritual beliefs and vision. It is not uncommon for Indians in the process of recovery from alcoholism and/or drug addiction to dance as a way of spiritually reinforcing their sobriety.

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Grand Entry

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Kyi-Yo:

For 45 years, the Indian students at the University of Montana have been holding the Kyi-Yo Powwow which draws dancers from throughout the region. Shown below are a few photographs from the latest powwow.

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Powwow 101: Children (Photo Diary)

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For Indian people, powwows are about friends, family, and children. The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. Shown below are some of the children at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.

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Powwow 101: Men’s Traditional (Photo Diary)

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The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. One of the mainstays of most powwows is the men’s traditional dance which has its heritage is the older Plains Indian warrior dances. The dance regalia for the men’s traditional are characterized by a feather bustle. Shown below are some of the women’s fancy shawl dancers at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.

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Travelers’ Rest State Park (Photo Diary)

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For thousands of years, the Indian peoples of western Montana were connected to the rest of the world through an intricate network of trade routes. The natural hub of these routes is Travelers’ Rest which is today operated as a state park.  

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Travelers’ Rest is located at the east end of the Lolo Trail. This trail crosses the Bitterroot Mountains and connected the Salish-speaking people of western Montana to the Nez Perce and other Indian nations in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

To the east, the trails led into the buffalo country of the Great Plains, a resource area whose importance increased after the acquisition of the horse in the eighteenth century.

To the north, the trails led into the rich hunting and gathering areas of the Mission and Flathead Valleys and beyond. These areas were rich in camas as well as deer, elk, and caribou. The north trails also connected them with other Salish-speaking groups (Pend d’Oreille, Kalispel, Spokan, Couer d’Alene) and the Kootenai.

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While the site of today’s Travelers’ Rest State Park was an important and frequently used Indian camp site, the designation “Travelers’ Rest” comes from the American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In September 1805, the party of American explorers known officially as the Corps of Discovery arrived in the Bitterroot Valley. They had crossed into the valley via the Lost Trail Pass which had been blanketed by the season’s first snow. They were lost and hungry. As was their custom, the Bitterroot Salish (also known as the Flathead) provided the strangers with food and friendship. Indian agent Peter Ronan would later report:

“During the stay of the explorers in the Flathead camp Captain Clarke took unto himself a Flathead woman. One son was the result of this union, and he was baptized after the missionaries came to Bitter Root valley and named Peter Clarke.”

Meriwether Lewis named the creek on which they camped “Travellers’ Rest.” On their return trip the following year, they camped here again. Today it is the only archaeologically verified Lewis and Clark campsite.

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Shown above is the Lewis and Clark campsite with tent frames showing the locations of their tents. As a military expedition, they laid out their camps according to the military manual.

In 1960, Travelers’ Rest was established as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of the site as a critical decision point for the leaders of the Corps of Discovery (also known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition).

Archaeology:

For many years it was thought that the Travelers’ Rest campsite was located at the confluence of Lolo Creek and Bitterroot River, about 1.5 miles east of the current park. In 1996, investigators came to suspect that this location was incorrect. Historical archaeologist Dan Hall used remote sensing equipment to identify places where the magnetic properties of the soil had been altered. In 2002, archaeologists excavated these anomalies and found evidence of the expedition’s latrine and campfire.

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Among the medications which the Corps of Discovery carried with them was Dr. Rush’s Thunderbolts, a powerful purgative that was commonly used by the members of the expedition. The medication contained mercury and thus the feces deposited in the latrine by the members of the expedition also contained mercury, an element not found in American Indian feces. When the archaeologists had the soil from the latrine site analyzed, it revealed mercury vapor.

The charcoal from a hearth site was analyzed using Carbon-14 dating and provided a date range from 1785 to 1855, well within the range of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The archaeologists also uncovered a military uniform button, a blue glass trade bead, and a spilled piece of lead.

Loop Trail:

Shown below are some photographs taken from the loop trail through the park.

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Powwow 101: Women’s Jingle Dress (Photo Diary)

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The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. One of the common dances at many of these powwows is the women’s jingle dress dance.

The jingle dress dance regalia is distinctive: the dress is ideally adorned with 365 visible jingles which are metal cones made from chewing tobacco can lids. The dance is Anishinabe in origin and was developed from a dream or vision which appeared to a Midewiwin medicine man. Shown below are some of the jingle dress dancers at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.  

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Powwow 101: Women’s Fancy Shawl (Photo Diary)

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The powwow is a public celebration and demonstration of community pride in Indian culture and a way of honoring Native American heritage. At the present time, there are powwows held in all fifty states and in most of the Canadian provinces. Some are held on reservations and reserves, while others are held in places such as universities and colleges. One of the most popular dances to watch is the women’s fancy shawl dance. This is a colorful, high-stepping dance. Many years ago, when I was still dancing, one fancy shawl dancer explained it this way:

“The idea is to spend as little time touching the ground as possible.”

Watching the women’s fancy shawl competition is like watching a psychedelic blur of color moving in time to the beat of the drum. Shown below are some of the women’s fancy shawl dancers at the 45th annual Kyi-Yo powwow at the University of Montana in Missoula.

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More Plateau Indian Beadwork (Photo Diary)

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In American Indian cultures, art is not separate from daily life. Traditionally, the things people used in their everyday life-clothing, tools, housing, containers-were often decorated to enhance their beauty and their spirituality. Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. With the European invasion, new decorative elements became available to the Indians: glass beads. These beads were quickly adopted into the cultures and began to replace and supplement both painting and quilling. The Plateau Indians soon became well-known for their fine bead work. Shown below are some examples of Plateau Indian beadwork which are on display at the museum at the Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, Montana.  

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Moccasins:

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Gloves:

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Fort Fizzle (Photo Diary)

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Just west of Lolo, Montana is Fort Fizzle Picnic Ground and Historic Sites operated by the Lolo National Forest. This is a day-use facility celebrating Fort Fizzle, an interesting non-battle of the 1877 Nez Perce War. The site also celebrates the passage of the Corps of Discovery under the leadership of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.  

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The Fort:

Shown below is a replica of the “fort.”

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Plateau Indian Artifacts (Photo Diary)

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Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. Shown below are some Plateau Indian artifacts which are on display at the museum at the Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, Montana.

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Shown above is an example of quill work. The design is made from porcupine quills.

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Shown above is a parfleche: a large leather envelope.

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Shown above is a feather bustle that was often used as a part of a dance outfit.

Drums:

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Cradleboards:

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Fort Fizzle and the Nez Perce

The War Department in 1907 officially enumerated 1,470 incidents of military action against American Indians between 1776 and 1907. According to the War Department, only two of these actions have the formal status of “war” under U.S. Army terminology: the 1877 Nez Perce War and the 1878 Bannock Indian War. One of the interesting non-battles of the Nez Perce War was Fort Fizzle-the battle that never happened and the fort that fizzled.  

While many of the Nez Perce bands had not signed a treaty with the United States and had not relinquished their lands, the United States government decided in 1877 that all of the bands had to move to the reservation in Idaho. There were a number of reasons for this decision. First, American settlers-technically squatters-who were claiming Nez Perce land insisted that the Nez Perce be moved. While the American government had negotiated a treaty with the American supported and appointed Nez Perce chief Lawyer, the minutes from the negotiations make it clear that Lawyer had not signed the treaty on behalf of the bands outside of the reservation area.

Second, the United States wanted to put down what it felt to be an illegal religious movement inspired by the Wanapam prophet Smohalla. Commonly called The Dreamers by the Americans, the United States had sent in America’s Christian General, O.O. Howard, to put down this religious movement and to make it clear to the Indians that their only chance of survival involved their conversion to Christianity. The Nez Perce reservation in Idaho was run as a theocracy by the Presbyterians, and other religions, including Catholicism, were actively discouraged. In fact, other religions were not allowed.

General Howard met with the non-treaty Nez Perce bands and made it clear that he intended to go to war against them by making logistically impossible demands regarding their move to the reservation. As the Americans had intended, violence erupted and with that they now had a “just” war. What wasn’t expected, however, was the American defeat at Clearwater, Idaho.

The Nez Perce bands did not want war and sought only to escape the violence which they knew contact with the army would bring. On war footing, the warriors (those who had actually counted coup in battle) met in council to discuss their options. Many felt that Montana was a separate region from Idaho and that the army would not follow them there. With Looking Glass in supreme command, the non-treaty Nez Perce bands decided to leave the war behind in Idaho and cross over into Montana. The Nez Perce felt that they would be able to find peace in Montana. With 200 warriors, 550 women and children, nearly 3,000 horses, and several hundred dogs, they started up the Lolo Trail across the Bitterroot Mountains. The Nez Perce column stretched out for several miles.

In the meantime, non-Indian settlers had started to move into the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys, often ignoring the treaty rights of the Bitterroot Salish (also known as the Flathead). While the Bitterroot Salish had always extended the hand of friendship to the Americans, starting with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the newcomers always demanded more and acted as if they owned the land. Many feared the peaceful Indians and asked the government to send in troops to protect them from the Indians. Many wanted the Indians removed from the area, and there were those who advocated total extermination.

While the army saw no military need for a fort in Western Montana, political pressure from Washington required that one be built. In 1877, shortly before the breakout of the Nez Perce War, the army reluctantly authorized the construction of Fort Missoula. Captain Charles Rawn and 34 men from the 7th Infantry were dispatched from Fort Shaw (located near Great Falls, Montana) to build the new fort. Since the fort had no real military function, it was not walled in and the men started putting up some buildings which would serve as housing and storage.

In the midst of their building project, a courier arrived from Fort Shaw, bringing word of the Nez Perce War. It was known that the Nez Perce were crossing over the Lolo Trail-a well-known, well-used road to the buffalo hunting grounds east of the Rocky Mountains. Captain Rawn and his men were to intercept the Nez Perce as they came out of the Lolo Trail into the Bitterroot Valley.

Captain Rawn had only 30 regular army soldiers at Fort Missoula. He quickly recruited 100 volunteers from the non-Indian farms and ranches. Another 100 were recruited from Missoula. He then led this anxious and untrained group into the mountains to meet the fierce Nez Perce warriors. At the narrowest part of the Lolo Canyon, Captain Rawn had his men and the volunteers construct a barrier about three feet high using sticks and logs. They then dug rifle pits to provide additional protection. They then loaded their guns and waited for the “hostile” Indians.

Nez Perce scouts spotted the make-shift fort and the main body camped about two miles away. The Nez Perce were not seeking war or conflict and were rather surprised to find soldiers waiting for them.

The next day, Looking Glass and Whitebird, accompanied by Delaware Jim as their translator, approached Fort Fizzle. They explained to Captain Rawn that they had peaceful intentions and wanted simply to pass through the Bitterroot Valley. While Captain Rawn agreed that he would grant them passage, he stipulated that they must surrender their arms, ammunition, and horses. Once again the chiefs faced what they felt were unreasonable demands by the American military. They realized that Rawn was asking for unconditional surrender and that a fight would have negative consequences for both sides.

Captain Rawn suggested that they meet again the next day to finalize their agreement. Rawn was hoping that reinforcements would arrive by then and reinforce his position. The Nez Perce chiefs agreed and then sent out scouts to survey the countryside.

The next day, Looking Glass and Delaware Jim returned to meet with Captain Rawn. Looking Glass again told the captain that the Nez Perce are peaceful and Rawn reiterated his demands to surrender their guns, ammunition, and horses. Looking Glass indicated that he would discuss the matter with the other chiefs and left.

When the American volunteers found out that Rawn was negotiating peace, most of them left. They had volunteered to kill Indians, not talk to them.

In the meantime, the Nez Perce broke camp, moved up the slopes, and outflanked the barrier. W. R. Logan, who was stationed at the breastworks, later reported:

“About ten o’clock we heard singing, apparently above our heads. Upon looking up we discover the Indians passing along the side of the cliff, where we thought a goat could not pass, much less an entire tribe of Indians with all their impedimenta. The entire band dropped into the valley beyond us and then proceeded up the Bitter Root.”

The Americans reported that the Nez Perce were in good humor, cracking jokes, and being amused at the way they fooled the soldiers. While Captain Rawn attempted to catch up with the Nez Perce, all of his volunteers had deserted.  

Fort Fizzle and the Nez Perce

The War Department in 1907 officially enumerated 1,470 incidents of military action against American Indians between 1776 and 1907. According to the War Department, only two of these actions have the formal status of “war” under U.S. Army terminology: the 1877 Nez Perce War and the 1878 Bannock Indian War. One of the interesting non-battles of the Nez Perce War was Fort Fizzle-the battle that never happened and the fort that fizzled.  

While many of the Nez Perce bands had not signed a treaty with the United States and had not relinquished their lands, the United States government decided in 1877 that all of the bands had to move to the reservation in Idaho. There were a number of reasons for this decision. First, American settlers-technically squatters-who were claiming Nez Perce land insisted that the Nez Perce be moved. While the American government had negotiated a treaty with the American supported and appointed Nez Perce chief Lawyer, the minutes from the negotiations make it clear that Lawyer had not signed the treaty on behalf of the bands outside of the reservation area.

Second, the United States wanted to put down what it felt to be an illegal religious movement inspired by the Wanapam prophet Smohalla. Commonly called The Dreamers by the Americans, the United States had sent in America’s Christian General, O.O. Howard, to put down this religious movement and to make it clear to the Indians that their only chance of survival involved their conversion to Christianity. The Nez Perce reservation in Idaho was run as a theocracy by the Presbyterians, and other religions, including Catholicism, were actively discouraged. In fact, other religions were not allowed.

General Howard met with the non-treaty Nez Perce bands and made it clear that he intended to go to war against them by making logistically impossible demands regarding their move to the reservation. As the Americans had intended, violence erupted and with that they now had a “just” war. What wasn’t expected, however, was the American defeat at Clearwater, Idaho.

The Nez Perce bands did not want war and sought only to escape the violence which they knew contact with the army would bring. On war footing, the warriors (those who had actually counted coup in battle) met in council to discuss their options. Many felt that Montana was a separate region from Idaho and that the army would not follow them there. With Looking Glass in supreme command, the non-treaty Nez Perce bands decided to leave the war behind in Idaho and cross over into Montana. The Nez Perce felt that they would be able to find peace in Montana. With 200 warriors, 550 women and children, nearly 3,000 horses, and several hundred dogs, they started up the Lolo Trail across the Bitterroot Mountains. The Nez Perce column stretched out for several miles.

In the meantime, non-Indian settlers had started to move into the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys, often ignoring the treaty rights of the Bitterroot Salish (also known as the Flathead). While the Bitterroot Salish had always extended the hand of friendship to the Americans, starting with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the newcomers always demanded more and acted as if they owned the land. Many feared the peaceful Indians and asked the government to send in troops to protect them from the Indians. Many wanted the Indians removed from the area, and there were those who advocated total extermination.

While the army saw no military need for a fort in Western Montana, political pressure from Washington required that one be built. In 1877, shortly before the breakout of the Nez Perce War, the army reluctantly authorized the construction of Fort Missoula. Captain Charles Rawn and 34 men from the 7th Infantry were dispatched from Fort Shaw (located near Great Falls, Montana) to build the new fort. Since the fort had no real military function, it was not walled in and the men started putting up some buildings which would serve as housing and storage.

In the midst of their building project, a courier arrived from Fort Shaw, bringing word of the Nez Perce War. It was known that the Nez Perce were crossing over the Lolo Trail-a well-known, well-used road to the buffalo hunting grounds east of the Rocky Mountains. Captain Rawn and his men were to intercept the Nez Perce as they came out of the Lolo Trail into the Bitterroot Valley.

Captain Rawn had only 30 regular army soldiers at Fort Missoula. He quickly recruited 100 volunteers from the non-Indian farms and ranches. Another 100 were recruited from Missoula. He then led this anxious and untrained group into the mountains to meet the fierce Nez Perce warriors. At the narrowest part of the Lolo Canyon, Captain Rawn had his men and the volunteers construct a barrier about three feet high using sticks and logs. They then dug rifle pits to provide additional protection. They then loaded their guns and waited for the “hostile” Indians.

Nez Perce scouts spotted the make-shift fort and the main body camped about two miles away. The Nez Perce were not seeking war or conflict and were rather surprised to find soldiers waiting for them.

The next day, Looking Glass and Whitebird, accompanied by Delaware Jim as their translator, approached Fort Fizzle. They explained to Captain Rawn that they had peaceful intentions and wanted simply to pass through the Bitterroot Valley. While Captain Rawn agreed that he would grant them passage, he stipulated that they must surrender their arms, ammunition, and horses. Once again the chiefs faced what they felt were unreasonable demands by the American military. They realized that Rawn was asking for unconditional surrender and that a fight would have negative consequences for both sides.

Captain Rawn suggested that they meet again the next day to finalize their agreement. Rawn was hoping that reinforcements would arrive by then and reinforce his position. The Nez Perce chiefs agreed and then sent out scouts to survey the countryside.

The next day, Looking Glass and Delaware Jim returned to meet with Captain Rawn. Looking Glass again told the captain that the Nez Perce are peaceful and Rawn reiterated his demands to surrender their guns, ammunition, and horses. Looking Glass indicated that he would discuss the matter with the other chiefs and left.

When the American volunteers found out that Rawn was negotiating peace, most of them left. They had volunteered to kill Indians, not talk to them.

In the meantime, the Nez Perce broke camp, moved up the slopes, and outflanked the barrier. W. R. Logan, who was stationed at the breastworks, later reported:

“About ten o’clock we heard singing, apparently above our heads. Upon looking up we discover the Indians passing along the side of the cliff, where we thought a goat could not pass, much less an entire tribe of Indians with all their impedimenta. The entire band dropped into the valley beyond us and then proceeded up the Bitter Root.”

The Americans reported that the Nez Perce were in good humor, cracking jokes, and being amused at the way they fooled the soldiers. While Captain Rawn attempted to catch up with the Nez Perce, all of his volunteers had deserted.