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Dance camp near the Mission of St. Ignatius, Flathead Reservation





and orchard and field of grain obliterate look, and it was therefore ordained that their footsteps and mark the ruse of the the pumpkin should flourish where the conquering race.

Bitter Root had bloomed and the plough

share should supplant the arrow. We have read much of late years con- Before the last traces of the customs of cerning the Hopi, their gentleness and the Selish vanish utterly under the blight peaceable pursuits, but we have heard of artificial conditions, it is well to stop little or nothing of the Selish, living in and look back at their history, first in their valley home, along the Jocko river the light of recorded fact and then in the or among the sheltering foothills beneath diaphanous glow of their

quaint the heights of Sin-yal-min. Happily, myths and hero-tales. the home of the Hopi is remote, their When Lewis and Clark penetrated the pueblos lie upon citadels of stone, and unknown in their adventurous journey, the way to them is paved with the burn- they found a particularly gentle and hosing sands of the desert. They possess pitable people who called themselves the nothing that greed can covet, so the Hopi Selish, living in the Bitter Root Valley. are safe enough for a time, at least, until A few of these Indians had seen the Sieur the pressure of civilization sends forth a de la Verendrye and his cavaliers on their tidal wave so sweeping that even the des- futile search for a highway to the Pacific erts shall not be spared. Paradoxical as it sea, but of the entire tribe there was but sounds, the Selish, in being more fortu- a handful of aged hunters who had looked nate, have been proportionately more un- upon the face of a white man. They fortunate. Dwelling in a fertile valley welcomed the strangers, offered them the lush with grain and berry, watered with hospitality of their lodges and manifested streams and lakes, their holdings were too a spirit of friendliness which sent the exvaluable an asset for commerce to over- plorers rejoicing on their way. The white


men described them as simple, straight- Bitter Root valley, hunting buffalo and forward people, the women distinguished warring over that noble game with their for their virtue and the men for their enemies, the Blackfeet, without disturbbravery in the battle and the chase. They ance from the outer world, until a party were cleanly in their habits and honorable of Iroquois came amongst them, led by one in their dealings with each other. If a Ignace La Mousse, bringing tidings of a man lost his bow or other valuable, the mysterious faith. That was the beginone who found it delivered it to the chief, ning of an impulse to seek the “Medicine” the Great Father, and he caused it to be of the white man, and expedition afhung in a place where it might be seen by ter expedition-four in all—were all. Then when the owner came seeking sacrificed to the cause before a mishis goods, the Chief restored it to him. sionary from St. Louis came to teach the

. They were also charitable. If

man Indians the word of God. However sinwere hungry, no one said him nay, and cere of purpose these good fathers werehe was welcome even at the board of the and surely their black-robed figures loom head men, to share the best of their fare. heroically against the background of the In appearance they were of the shade of past—they were the first feeble impulse of

— the “palest new copper after being freshly that civilization which was to bring derubbed.” They were well formed, supple struction to the natives of the wilderness.

" and tall, but Lewis and Clark confusing In the footsteps of the fathers followed them with certain of the tribes living the gold-seekers and the settlers, the armed about the mouth of the Columbia River, troops and Governmental grasp, and the called them the Flatheads, though they Indians, struggling with demoniac fury had never practiced the barbarous custom were beaten back and driven from their of ffattening the heads of their offspring. own. In this sweeping survey it must be However, in the early journals they were remembered that the Selish took no part given the misnomer, and it has clung to in the reign of bloodshed and death. them, libelous as it is, through the cen- Peaceably they toiled in their garden plots turies.

after the buffalo were no more, or hunted The Selish remained in their native

smaller game.

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The Bitter Root Valley lies in the treaty of the Hell Gate, but Victor, the western part of Montana. It is milder of Lodge Pole, the wise, just guardian of his climate than the surrounding country, and people, stood firm in his resolve to hold the soil is rich and well watered. Hither the Bitter Root, and hold it he did. This the white settler came, and the Indians proved to be but a postponement of the in

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welcomed him, sharing with him their evitable. Charlot, "Little Claw of Grizzly fields until the valley was overrun and it Bear,” succeeded his father Victor as was decreed that the Indian must go. This hereditary chief of the Selish tribe. He expulsion has been attempted before at the believed in the friendship of the white



men, gave them protection in the valley, they had rested through the centuries, beand when Chief Joseph and his band came fore the echo of the white men's booted through the land bent on vengeance, leav- tread disturbed the primeval quiet. He ing ashes and blood in their wake, Charlot said, moreover, that he would never be and his braves met the war party and de- taken alive to the Jocko. After this clared that if one white settler in the Bit- ultimatum, which was listened to rather ter Root were harmed, the Selish would coldly, the Indians went as they had rise against Joseph and his men.

come, shadows out of a gaily-colored past Yet it was not long after this that the who aroused the frank curiosity, and often Garfield treaty was drafted and presented the fear of the orderly citizens of the capito Charlot to sign. In that document tal. Their mission had failed; they reCharlot was required to renounce forever turned to the Bitter Root empty-handed, the home of his forefathers and retire heavy-hearted. Charlot might remain with his tribe to the Jocko reservation, in the valley, the wise men had said, but which included the region of Sin-yal-min. in remaining he sacrificed his title, his It was a stern, impassive gathering. Char- land rights, his pension—in other words lot, great chief, in reality king of his he was an outcast and a pauper. tribe, Arlee the war-chief, elected to that For years he lingered on in his old, beoffice by the vote of the people, and others loved haunts and happily there is no recrepresented the Indians, while the Gov- ord of the indignity and poverty he sufernment of the United States had elo- fered, but this much we do know: he quent and persuasive statesmen with documentary force and red tape to persuade Charlot that his evacuation of the Bitter Root was at once desirable and necessary. But Charlot was a

of shrewdness and iron will. He declined

. the offer of a pension and the privilege of roaming at large over the pastures of the Jocko. The Bitter Root was the home of · his fathers. There they had lived from time immemorial; he, himself, was born within its glades; there he had grown to maturity and sunk, as sinks the sun towards its setting, into old age. He added with finality that there also he would lie down to his eternal sleep.

Arlee, the war-chief, had no such patriotic scruples. He signed the treaty thereby courting and receiving Governmental favor and by the decree of those to whom he pandered, superceded Charlot as Great Chief and drew the pension and other preferment that went with that high trust. Before this extreme measure was carried out, the old chief, with Duncan McDonald, Chief Antoine Moise and other faithful followers decided that if the President, the Great Father himself, understood, he would not be so harsh with an old man whose years to live would be few and whose wrongs were many and sore. So they went to Washington and told their story. Charlot asked for nothing but the “poor privilege” of living where his fathers Tepees of Kootenai Indians on the shores had lived, and lying down to rest where

of the Flathead Reservation



turned with all his will against the trace these stories out is almost as diffiwhite man, and his former love

cult as to follow the spider's strand or to changed to hate. He lifted no hostile hand surprise the wild bird, yet the task is against his enemies-indeed, his hands worth the labor. The scope of the present were shackled in all but actual fact-but sketch permits the recital of only a few no word of the despised tongue profaned legends gathered from the Indians themhis lips and no expression of forgiveness selves, and therefore they have been chosen softened the iron hardness of his face. At with some care.

A foreword of explanalast, closer and closer pressed, he and his tion may be necessary to make their braves arrayed in the jealously preserved meaning clearer. The Indians believe that remnants of their war-regalia, issued there was a time when men and beasts forth proudly, like a conquering army,

conversed together in a common tongue. and entered the Jocko. There was rejoic- To that era belonged Coyote, the mythical ing among the Selish, even those who had hero of the tribe. followed Arlee honored the royal Charlot, and paid him homage when, with the mien How the Selish Came Out of the of a triumphant victor, he rode into the

Mountains. land of exile. The years have come and gone.

The In the long, long ago, the valley land sting of that first expulsion has passed for was inhabited by a terrible Monster who all save Charlot and a few of the older fed on human victims. Through fear of men who remember the wrong and feel him the Indians kept to the lean hills, ever the pang of the unhealed wound. Even gazing with yearning eyes upon the fertile they have learned to love the valleys of the fields spreading out in an emerald flood Flathead and the Jocko, for at all times below. At length Coyote, the most darit has been their pleasure ground shared ing of all the braves, challenged the Monin common with kindred tribes. But now, ster to mortal combat. The Monster achaving settled into passive contentment, cepted the challenge, and Coyote sought once more comes the dread edict of ban- out the poison spider in the rocks and bade ishment and the inevitable retreat which is it sting the Monster to the death. But racial death.

not even the spider's venom could pene

trate the horned scales of the enemy. Then A wealth of folk-lore and poetry will Covote took counsel of the Fox, his crafty pass with the passing of the reservation; friend, and prepared himself for the fray. therefore, it is well to stop and listen be- He bound a strong, leathern thong around fore the light is quite vanished from the his body and tied the other end of it fast hill-tops, while still the streams sing with to a great pine tree. The Monster aparticulate murmur, and the trees whisper proached with gaping jaws and poison regretfully of things lost forever, and a breath, and Coyote retreated farther and time that will come no more. We of the farther until the thong stretched taut and work-a-day world are too prone to believe the pine curved like a bow. Finally, the that our own country is lacking in myth tree, strained to the ultimate limit, sprang and tradition, in hero-tale and romance, back with terrific force, felling the Monyet here in our midst is a legended land ster with a deadly blow. Coyote was vicwhere every land-mark is a chapter in the torious, and the Woodpecker, coming to great, natural record-book of folk his aid, cut the pine and sharpened its whose day is done and whose song is but trunk to a point. Coyote drove this an echo.

through his dead enemy's breast, impaling Already the young Indians, who him to the earth. Thus the valley was contaminated by alien influences, are neg- rid of the man-eater, and Coyote, the delecting the lore of their fathers, and the liverer of his people, led them down into patriarchs, jealous of the tribal dignity the verdant fields, where they lived in and honor, are slow to betray their myths plenty and content. to those who may prove vandals and dese- Next in interest to this allegorical crate with mockery things sacred to the story of the advent of the Selish into the nation from whom they are sprung.

Το lowlands is, perhaps, the more modern ac







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