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Blackfoot Lodge Tales

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Blackfoot Camp
Blackfoot Camp

We were sitting about the fire in the lodge on Two Medicine. Double Runner, Small Leggings, Mad Wolf, and the Little Blackfoot were smoking and talking, and I was writing in my notebook. As I put aside the book, and reached out my hand for the pipe, Double Runner bent over and picked up a scrap of printed paper, which had fallen to the ground. He looked at it for a moment without speaking, and then, holding it up and calling me by name, said:

“Pi-nut-u-ye is-tsim-okan, this is education. Here is the difference between you and me, between the Indians and the white people. You know what this means. I do not. If I did know, I should be as smart as you. If all my people knew, the white people would not always get the best of us.”

“Nisah (elder brother), your words are true. Therefore you ought to see that your children go to school, so that they may get the white man’s knowledge. When they are men, they will have to trade with the white people; and if they know nothing, they can never get rich. The times have changed. It will never again be as it was when you and I were young.”

“You say well, Pi-nut-u-ye is-tsim-okan, I have seen the days; and I know it is so. The old things are passing away, and the children of my children will be like white people. None of them will know how it used to be in their father’s days unless they read the things which we have told you, and which you are all the time writing down in your books.”

“They are all written down, Nisah, the story of the three tribes, Sik-si-kau, Kainah, and Pik[)u]ni.”

Although George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) won distinction as an ethnologist, author, editor, and explorer, perhaps his most enduring achievement was that cited by President Coolidge when he presented the Theodore Roosevelt Gold Medal of Honor to Grinnell in 1925: “Few have done as much as you, and none has done more, to preserve vast areas of picturesque wilderness for the eyes of posterity.”

It was largely thanks to Grinnell that Glacier National Park was created, and in Yellowstone Park, as the President said, he “prevented the exploitation and therefore the destruction of the natural beauty.” Grinnell was a member of the Marsh, Custer, and Ludlow expeditions in the 1870’s, and during those years prepared reports on birds and mammals of the northwestern Great Plains region which are still authoritative. From those years, also, dates his interest in the Indians, particularly the Pawnee, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne. Among the score of books resulting from his lifelong study of the Plains tribes, “The Fighting Cheyenne” (1915) and “The Cheyenne Indians” (1923), “Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk-Tales” (1889), and “Blackfoot Lodge Tales” (1892) are perhaps the best known. A friend of the famed North brothers, who commanded the Pawnee Scouts, Grinnell encouraged Captain Luther North to set down his recollections, and contributed a foreword to the book. Titled “Man of the Plains”, this work was published for the first time in its entirety by the University of Nebraska Press (1961) .


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