Day Five: Parade, Workshops, The Show

Waiting for the show

We paraded through Browning followed by horses and their riders who were raising money for cancer research.  Every rider had lost a relative.  The workshops were a great success and most of the children tried each of them.   The show was exactly right for the people who came to see it.  The only thing I can add is photographs.


Yana’s workshop

Day Four, Part Two






Today Joannie gives her workshop on storytelling through quilts.  The quilt’s story — her story — is based on her parents’ internment as Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.  “Were they well treated?” someone from our groups asks.  She replies  “All of a sudden they had nothing.  Can you be well treated in a situation like that?”

Joanne’s quilt

The two Pauls (project moving force Magid and project photographer Anderson) and Chris (project documentarian) go off to visit the Bison with Tyson, a member of the tribal business council. Last summer, Brooklyn, our Nez Pierce friend and mentor, spoke about what the land means to the Nez Pierce. “The land shows us how to live, how to be good people,” he said.

The Bison have been central to Blackfoot culture for thousands of years.  Before the Blackfoot acquired horses in the Seventeenth Century  (traded from the Nez Pierce among others) large dogs were used to transport the tipis as they followed the herds. A Blackfoot woman could take down a tipi, travel miles and put it up again in a day.  Like Brooklyn and the land, Tyson tells Chris he learns from the Bison (iiniiwa).  He says they teach him by how they move,  how they socialize,  how they treat their families.   The herds are estimated 30 million before the European invasion.  Bison were the custodians of the prairies, keeping the grass healthy by grazing, providing an environment for prairie dogs and birds, providing food resources for important other bio-engineers like grizzlies, and wolves, and supporting unknown numbers, certainly thousands and thousands, of human beings.

The Blackfeet’s Bison have been bred to return their DNA to what it was before bison were almost eradicated as white settlers moved across the continent in a policy  stated as “every dead buffalo is a dead Indian.”  The largest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, settlers reduced the species to a thousand bison by 1900.

Bison_skull_pile_edit copy

The eradication didn’t end there. This winter, authorities at Yellowstone National Park sent hundreds of bison to slaughter in what they said was an attempt to control disease.  In doing so, they ignored the quarantine shelter built and paid for by the Sioux and Assiniboine nations, called a “slap in the face” for Montana’s Fort Peck tribes. The reason given for the slaughter is that Montana ranchers are afraid the bison might transmit a disease that would cause their cattle to abort. No such transmission from bison to cattle has been documented.  Ranchers’ cattle and bison graze the same land, and some have suggested this might be the real reason for the complaints and the decision by the park authorities to act as they did.

In the late afternoon, the dog — the one I had my meltdown about, the one who has been at our door since the first day — is off for a rabies shot. Leta and Caraway are going to take her, first to Canada and then home. All goes well. She doesn’t panic in the car and she doesn’t bite the vet.

While we wait for the paperwork that will allow her to enter Canada, a large woman with short curly hair starts a waiting rooms conversation. Her dog, she says, is called Isadora after Isadora Duncan, her cats are Rasputin, Nickolas and Alexandra. “You must read a lot,” I say. “Yes,” she answers.  She’s a history teacher and in Browning, her dog Isadora is also a Browning rescue.   The children she teaches are the best behaved she’s ever taught she says. “I think children are important here.”

The talent show is a children’s event except for three intrepid adult Chautaquans: Aritis on spoons, Kym on guitar and vocals, Donna on vocals and drum.  It has the best of all possible outcomes:  every child wins a prize.  When the grand prize winner gets a bicycle (donated by the bicycle shop in Port Townsend) his mouth drops open.  I miss the shot.


When it is late, when almost everyone but us has left for home, there are two women and four children still sitting on chairs outside. One continually looks at the phone in her hand, the other keeps watching the road.  It is cold, they aren’t warmly dressed, the children are young.  I ask them to come inside. Chris drives the women with the phone to pick up her car. He reports that she goes into a casino and comes out with keys: shades of the earlier conversation about casinos on reservations mean.

tipi evening
Tipi Evening, Browning



PS I am no longer in real time with this blog, but thought I should finish my account of what happened in Browning.  As Pom says in his letter from Brocket, Alberta posted below, Chautauquans are working hard.