The Independent article “Playing catch-up” (March 22) sort of took my breath away. Not really, but it did expose the ignorance of the history of how the white man got on the reservation. The Blackfeet Indians today are subject to the “slow-death measures” of genocide, compared to the genocide of massacre, starvation, smallpox, whiskey trade and Indian removal. The Piegans (Blackfeet) went from a population of approximately 7,800 in 1850 to 1,811 by 1890 due to the genocide of frontier Montana, and their land base was reduced by 17 million acres by 1886 and millions more by 1896, the year of the last Blackfeet land cession.
Confederate soldiers were sent up the Missouri River by the Union Army in 1862, and the Texas cattle kings brought vast cattle herds to Blackfeet Confederacy lands by 1860. The Blackfeet lands were reduced to 1.5 million acres by the 1896 agreement, and allotment land frauds reduced the land base by 500,000 acres more. The immigrants took the water holes, gold mines, oil fields, hay meadows, water rights, timber, tourism businesses and retail and government contracts, leaving the Indians in poverty.
It is hard to see what is left for the state and white men to take from the Indians. The Crow, Salish, Fort Belknap, Northern Cheyenne and Blackfeet Indian allottees have pending land claims to recover their family allotments that were taken in state courts during the allotment period between 1887 and 1934. The tourism lands produce $168 million, and the white ranchers and farmers in Glacier County make a profit of $67 million in cows and crops on the stolen Blackfeet allotments. Eighty percent of Glacier County is the Blackfeet Reservation, and the county taxes the railroad, Glacier Park, retail, crops, cows and landowners, including the Blackfeet Tribe. All of this was done over the protests of Indians in Congress and the federal courts.
What about enforcing the Indian treaties in Montana as a reservation economic development initiative?
We have a Blackfoot history book that was banned in Montana Public Schools. That could account for the ignorance of the media and the legislature—unless it is willful ignorance, like the holocaust deniers.