A graphic of a purple bear in front of a solid red circle with a yellow moon, with "Headwaters" text



Glacier, Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers Directorate, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, Climate Change Response Program

Headwaters is a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else.


Season 4

Episode 1

A Growly Bear and the Invention of Bear Spray


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Michael Faist: This summer, I came across the story of a bear nicknamed Growly. Growly was a grizzly bear who lived in Glacier National Park in the 1970s. And when he was young, he lived a normal bear life. His mom taught him how to pick huckleberries and dig up glacier lily bulbs. He swam across his first creek, caught his first animal, and—after a couple of years—struck out on his own, ready to take on the world. We also know that by age seven, Growly got into some trouble.

Music: [dramatic drums start playing]

Michael: You see, when you're a bear trying to pack on the pounds before winter, you've got to eat a lot. And if you want to eat, say, 150 calories, you could find and pick 150 huckleberries. Or you could eat one Twinkie.

Music: [quiet contemplative music starts]

Michael: Bear management records from 50 years ago are light on the details, so we don't know exactly what Growly did, but we do know he was labeled a, "problem bear." A term often used to describe bears who associate people with food. More often than not, problem bears aren't malicious or uniquely ill-tempered, they're smart. They know that they need a lot of calories to survive the winter and happen to live around humans who leave a lot of food lying around. One account stated that Growly wandered through a busy campground searching for food. Another claimed that he followed his nose to an empty cabin, "vandalizing" it to get food inside. He hadn't hurt anyone, but this habit suggested it was only a matter of time, and park managers decided to remove him. The next time Growly followed his nose, he followed it into a trap.

Music: [upbeat flute music starts playing]

Michael: For some bears, this is where the story ends. But for Growly, this is just the beginning. Growly would soon leave Glacier, and would go on to change how all of us recreate in Bear Country—and play a part in the creation of bear spray.

Music: [Headwaters theme begins playing; starting with mandolin, then a drumbeat, a flute line, and other instruments layer in before the music finishes]

News Clip: So this is what helped save our lives.

News Clip: I'm going to spray you.

Sound Effect: [spraying sound].

News Clip: She took two steps into the cloud and made a 90 degree turn and then ran out of there.

Music: [Theme music finishes]

Michael: You're listening to Headwaters, a podcast about how Glacier National Park connects to everything else. And in this episode, we're talking about bear spray. I'm Michael.

Daniel Lombardi: I'm Daniel.

Michael: For people who might not be familiar, Daniel, what is bear spray?

Daniel: Bear spray is, it's basically a self-defense spray. Like a pepper spray. A really strong pepper spray that you spray at a bear if you're being charged or attacked.

Michael: Right. And it's become a central part of the visitor experience here in Glacier, because we have one of the highest densities of grizzly bears anywhere in the lower 48 states.

Daniel: Yeah. So most people who come to the park, they're picking up bear spray at the airport on their way here or at basically any store around in the whole area.

Michael: Gift shop, grocery store, all over.

Daniel: It's an essential item around here.

Michael: And if you see a park ranger out and about, they will have a can with them. And if you go on a hike with one, they'll likely sing its praises sometimes, literally. I went on a hike with a Ranger this year who wrote a whole song to let wildlife know we were in the area.

Ranger Frank: [singing loudly to the tune of Jingle Bells] Grizzly bears, grizzly bears, grizzlies in the way. Get off the trail, cause if you charge, with pepper, you'll get sprayed.

Michael: Thanks, Ranger Frank.

Daniel: Oh, wow.

Michael: [smiling] Yeah, it was very good.

Daniel: I love it.

Michael: But while bear spray is ubiquitous now, it hasn't been around forever. So in this episode, we're diving into the origins of bear spray, and meeting some of the people behind the hottest lifesaving accessory in bear country.

Music: [dramatic drums play]

Michael: [in the car] I think it's this red roofed building.

Daniel: My first question for you then, Michael, is like, what actually is bear spray? What is it made of? And how do they how do they make it?

Michael: Right, how do they make the stuff? And that was my first question, too. And it turns out we don't have to go far to find the answer because a lot of bear spray is made locally, right outside of Glacier.

Daniel: [in the field] Where we at?

Michael: [in the field] We are at the Counter Assault Bear Spray factory in Kalispell, in the Flathead Valley. Hello, I'm Michael. I'm looking for Randy?

Randy Hunt: That's me.

Michael: [in the field] Nice to meet you.

Randy: How you doing?

Michael: [in the field] It's been nice to me, Randy. Thanks for having us.

Randy: Come on in.

Michael: And luckily for us, Randy Hunt, head of operations with the brand Counter Assault, invited us for a tour.

Michael: [in the field] And you manufacture everything right here in house?

Randy: Yes, everything. So our we bring our pepper oil in from, you know, it's brought from the other side of the United States, actually grown in India. And is brought herec and we mix the pepper oil here into different solvents...

Michael: If you're wondering how to use bear spray, you should check out our St Mary episode from our first season. There will be a link in the show notes for this episode. But with Randy, I got to learn what goes in the can. And the central ingredient, unsurprisingly, is pepper oil.

Michael: [in the field] And you said the pepper oil, you get it from the East Coast or other side the country, and it's grown in India. That's one thing I didn't really grasp, was like you're getting it from actual was like cayenne peppers? Or

Randy: They're a they're a heat chili. So if you think your jalepenos they've got heat content in Scoville heat units, there are about three to four thousand scoville heat units in a jalepeno. Your habanero is around 150 to 350,000. We're running 3.2 million.

Michael: They get the oil from peppers or chilies in the genus Capsicum, which includes everything from pepper in pepperoncinis to cayenne peppers.

Daniel: [surprised] So it's like, they're like real peppers that go in food!

Michael: And because it's all from real peppers, it's a food grade oil, which on its own would be safe for consumption. Technically.

Randy: So you can use it, it's safe to eat. You can actually fry chicken wings in it or french fries. You probably won't want to eat them because it will clear everything out of ya.

Michael: [in the field] [laughing]

Randy: But but yeah.

Michael: And this oil is in more than just pepper sprays. It's found in everything from hot sauces to pharmaceuticals, like arthritis cream.

Daniel: Okay, but that's not all that's in the can. There's something else besides peppers mushed up in there.

Michael: Yeah, the pepper oil is actually only 2% of the ingredients, because if it was just pepper oil, it would harden in the can and be useless.

Randy: When you spray it. If you think, if you cook bacon, it will solidify when it cools down and it turns white. But we've got to keep the oil in a liquid form. So we put a solvent in there instead of shooting hard pieces of like, bacon grease out of at the bear,.

Michael: [in the field] [laughing]

Randy: It keeps it in a liquid form in the air.

Michael: So so even though pepper oil is only 2% of the ingredients, bear spray's three times more potent than pepper spray for humans. And so the ingredients are: the pepper oil, a solvent to keep that oil liquid and a propellant to launch the spray.

Michael: [in the field] That's the pepper oil.

Randy: Yep.

Michael: [in the field] [laughing] Oleoresin Capsicum. 3.2 MOS, 40lbs.

Michael: What would you say it looked like, Daniel?

Daniel: It looked just like hot sauce! Yeah, it looked like hot sauce.

Michael: Like a dark, thick, hot sauce. It was. [laughing] I mean, it smelled hot, too.

Michael: [in the field] And so how much of this goes into each bottle or can, like, the pepper oil?

Randy: These two containers ten gallons will make about...

Michael: They were actively filling these cans when we were there. Randy was saying like these two 10-gallon buckets of the pepper oil concoction will make over 1500 cans of bear spray. So a little bit goes a long way.

Randy: Goes a long ways, but it's still not as far as we would like it to go, because, yeah, there's some some spendy food grade oil.

Michael: [in the field] I bet.

Michael: So while there are many brands of bear spray today, Counter Assault holds the distinction of being the first. Opening back in 1986, they helped pioneer this formula of pepper, propellant, and solvent that reputable brands widely use today.

Randy: You know, across the board, all the bear sprays are using a really hot pepper oil, and all of them are going to work. And the biggest thing is: people are safe and the bears are safe. And that's what it's been refined down to, is using a product that's not going to hurt people, it's not going to hurt bears, keeps everybody safe.

Michael: Bear spray's non-lethality—the fact that bears that get sprayed with this will turn around, but ultimately be unharmed—is not only a huge selling point, but it helps explain why bear spray exists at all.

Music: [dramatic drums start playing]

Michael: Ever since Glacier was established in 1910, grizzly bears were on the decline. When the U.S. was founded, there were an estimated 50,000 grizzlies in the lower 48 states living everywhere from Canada to Mexico, between Iowa and California. But by the mid 1900s, Euro-Americans had all but exterminated them. There were less than a thousand grizzly bears left in the lower 48, largely isolated within large public lands in the west, like Glacier and Yellowstone. Something that's still true today. But while national parks are often seen as safe havens for wildlife, the relationship between glacier and grizzly bears was fraught in the mid 1900s. Grizzlies or bears in general were a huge attraction for park tourism, but not in the way they are now.

Daniel: Right. This was an era where a very typical part of the visitor experience was to feed the bears like out of their car, throwing out pieces of bread alongside the road, feeding bears.

Michael: Yeah, like this "animals as a spectacle" approach. The second director of the Park Service, Horace Albright, was actually a huge fan of feeding wildlife in parks. He encouraged the creation of bear feeding platforms in Yellowstone, and Yellowstone even opened a zoo at one point for people to come look at captive animals.

Daniel: Wow.

Michael: So it really was a different relationship than the one we have with wildlife today. And predictably, it had some consequences. Like, encouraging bears to seek out humans when they're hungry seems like a disaster waiting to happen. And it eventually led to tragedy. In 1967, two visitors camping in separate areas of the park were killed by grizzly bears who'd come to their campsites in search of food. These shocking deaths later came to be known as Night of the Grizzlies, and were the first grizzly fatalities in Glacier's 50-year history. In response, Glacier completely overhauled all of its bear policies. They closed some campgrounds, outlawed giving food to wildlife and installed bear proof trash cans. They also found and killed the bears responsible and faced a lot of pressure from the public and even some policymakers to kill more. The park superintendent at one point issued a memo, here daniel, can you read it?

Daniel: Okay. "When a grizzly bear appears in any area of visitor use, it will be immediately destroyed by a park ranger." Wow. That is a pretty aggressive stance for a park to take against bears.

Michael: Yeah, it was pretty intense.

Daniel: The park is taking a very aggressive stance to kill bears in order to keep people safe.

Michael: Mhmm.

Daniel: But as a species, at this time, they're actually becoming very threatened in the 1960s and 70's.

Michael: Right, as Glacier is dealing with these events, grizzlies are identified as an endangered species by the federal government, which demands a broad recovery effort. you know, scientists started studying how many bears were left, what their habitat needs were—insight that would help them recover and hopefully help our two species coexist.

Daniel: So they need to know more. Park managers are looking for more data about bears in general. But if we zoom in on the story we're looking at here—that is the history of bear spray—you can see this emerging need for a tool that allows people and bears to de-escalate conflicts in a non-lethal way at an individual scale.

Michael: Yeah. Which brings us back to Growly, the bear who apparently didn't like grapefruit.

Janet Ellis: And he told the story that the main thing Growly hated was grapefruit,

Michael: [on the phone] [laughing]

Janet: But he liked oranges fine, he figured out how to slice an orange open. He had really long claws.

Michael: After being captured in Glacier National Park in 1976, Growly was sent to Churchill, Manitoba. A town in northern Canada known for its polar bears.

Janet: I was a research assistant.

Michael: That voice is Janet Ellis.

Janet: And I spent four months on the bears study with the Bears in 1978.

Michael: Janet is currently a Montana state senator, but she spent a few months helping zoology grad student Gary Miller conduct a study on bear behavior.

Janet: The University of Montana had a bear lab up there, way far from town.

Michael: There were four bears in this study. Two grizzlies, Growly and Snarly, and two polar bears nicknamed Magdalen and Guen. Janet helped take care of them.

Michael: [on the phone] So what does it look like to take care of a grizzly bear in a lab?

Janet: So it was cleaning the area. It was feeding them every day and making sure they had water. The Hudson Bay store was the local grocery store in Churchill. And so we would get meat scraps and vegetable, you know, whatever food that they were willing to give away. And that's what the bears lived on.

Michael: Each bear was monitored dawn to dusk, body temperature, heart rate, posture. Reading through the paper, I really liked these little drawings that showed bear body language. And it turns out Janet drew those.

Janet: I did illustrate Gary Miller's master's thesis.

Michael: [on the phone] Oh, you drew the the bear outlines of their different postures?

Janet: Yeah, I did all that stuff.

Michael: Oh those are so cute!

Michael: Finally, one by one, they'd bring the bears into a 13 foot by 20 foot cell, with a drinking well for water and a barred metal door. From outside the cell, an assistant would provoke the bear into charging, approaching the door and stomping if necessary.

Daniel: Wow. That so that's all it took to get them to charge at the gate of the cage?

Michael: Most of the time. Yeah, I mean, Janet said that every bear was different. The polar bears were pretty docile. And one of the grizzly bears, Snarly, was actually really easily provoked. She said that he'd charge whenever somebody just approached the door.

Daniel: So they approached the cage door and the bear could see them and would just charge at the door.

Michael: Mhmm.

Daniel: Wow.

Michael: And when a bear charged, they would deploy a deterrent to hopefully stop them in their tracks. They tried different. Sounds like a handheld boat horn.

Sound Effect: [boat horn noise]

Michael: A referee whistle.

Sound Effect: [whistle blowing]

Michael: They played a recording of a bear growling.

Sound Effect: [sound of a bear growling]

Michael: It was actually a recording of Growly, the bear, growling—which might be how he got his name. And they tested a popular item marketed to alert bears to your presence. Bear Bells.

Sound Effect: [small bells jingling]

Michael: Here's an excerpt from their research, read for us by a voice actor.

Voice Actor: Twice when small bells were tested on growling, he slept through the test. The bells were of the type that are sold to hikers in Glacier and Yellowstone National parks to warn bears of their approach. In these tests, the assistant stood at the door of the cell and rang the bells. Growly was not more than six meters away and never woke up. The idea that small bells will warn grizzlies before approaching clearly needs reevaluation.

Daniel: I've definitely heard a lot of bear bells on the trail here in Glacier, but the problem is I don't hear them until the person's like right next to me on the trail. So yeah, they're just not loud enough to really alert a bear.

Michael: Yeah, I've heard that, you know, the thing you're bothering the most by wearing bear bells is yourself. And it wasn't just sounds. They tried strobe lights. They waved a giant piece of plywood, and they sprayed bears with chemicals or irritants like onion juice and Windex.

Daniel: Oh, wow.

Michael: And they also deployed a product called Halt, which was a pepper spray developed for postal workers who were getting bitten by a lot of dogs in the fifties.

Daniel: While they were throwing everything at these bears. But before this, there really weren't that many choices.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, it seems a little strange now that they'd be trying things like Windex, but there weren't non-lethal deterrents available at the time, so they were just seeing whatever would work.

Daniel: Hmm. So after they tried all this, what were the results?

Michael: Well, sounds like the handheld boat horn worked pretty well, but only if they were extremely loud. And the boat horn also apparently didn't work in low temperatures. The bells and whistles didn't do much. The giant piece of plywood could stop a bear, but the effect didn't last very long. However, Halt—the postal worker pepper spray—worked really well.

Daniel: Hmm.

Voice Actor: Each time it was tested, the bear charged until it was sprayed. The bear then turned and ran to the farthest corner of the cell where it rubbed its eyes and blinked vigorously. In one case, Snarly went to the water well and washed his face with his paws.

Janet: That's the only thing that would stop a charging bear. And that was true with Grizzly bears and polar bears. I mean, they couldn't see! Even if it was for a couple of minutes, and they would just stop and it would freak them out.

Michael: [on the phone] Hmm.

Janet: And so, yes, it was the only thing—because we had again, mentioned boat horns and bells and all kinds of things. So it, it was a precursor.

Michael: Thanks to Growly, Snarly, Magdalen, and Gwen—who endured around 20 tests each—the paper that came out of this study concluded with this line:

Voice Actor: The results of Halt dog repellent in the laboratory indicate that effective repellents can be developed.

Music: [dramatic drums playing]

Daniel: So the study up in Churchill, it showed that this dog pepper spray works pretty well. I mean, was that it? Did they just then package it up and sell it as bear spray?

Michael: There were a few steps in between. So the University of Montana was funding the study Janet was a part of, and with this conclusion that a deterrent could be developed. They started funding a follow up study.

Daniel: I'm guessing that at University of Montana, they were using different bears?

Michael: Yeah. This second study had a new set of bears, including one problem Bear from Glacier that was labeled in the study as a roadside panhandler.

Daniel: Oh, wow.

Michael: And these new bears were sent down to Fort Missoula.

Daniel: Who led this follow up study?

Michael: So the student that was working on this study was named Carrie Hunt. And it's funny, newspaper articles that you read about Carrie go out of their way to highlight that she is five foot one, 115pounds, and just like the first study in Churchill, is provoking these 500 pound grizzlies into charging in order to test these deterrents.

Daniel: So this had the same premise as the first study?

Michael: Yeah, very similar. A magazine actually interviewed Carrie about the experience.

Voice Actor: Hunt step to the barred door of the bear's cell, by stomping her feet, she provoked almost all the bears into charging. More than once, concrete dust flew from the hinges as a huge bear rammed the cell door.

Voice Actor: Even though the situation was controlled and there was no way I could get hurt. It was still frightening. The power and aggression of an angry charging grizzly is overwhelming.

Voice Actor: If the bear charged it received an application of the repellent being tested.

Michael: A lot of the things they were testing were very similar to that first study, they did sounds like in this case rock music. They did Halt, that same dog spray.

Voice Actor: Everything from tear gas to rock music was tested, but only a commercial dog repellent spray had any significant effect. The spray's active ingredient was capsaicin, a derivative of red peppers.

Michael: Ironically, the study was actually funded by a competitor to what we now know as bear spray called Skunker.

Daniel: Oh..

Michael: Can you guess what soccer is?

Daniel: I'm guessing it smelled really bad.

Michael: Yeah, it was a synthetic skunk spray. And turned out Skunker didn't work, and it just kind of made the bears sad.

Daniel: [laughing] I'm not surprised.

Michael: They didn't leave the area. But Halt, once again, did work. The only problem was that's not how people have bear encounters in the wild.

Daniel: Sure.

Michael: You know, and this tiny can of pepper spray, designed for a dog that's biting a postal worker, like it doesn't shoot far enough. It's not strong enough. And so Carrie highlighted that, you know, this is a really promising thing to follow up on, but it would need some refining. It needs some iterating to turn it into an effective bear deterrent for public use.

Daniel: So now there's two studies that are both showing that some kind of pepper spray is probably going to work pretty well to stop a charging bear.

Michael: Yeah.

Daniel: But to work in the real world, it needs some modifications.

Michael: Right. And this result started to trickle out into, like local Montanans that either were connected to the university in some way and found its way to a guy named Bill Pounds. After hearing Carrie's results, he reached out and offered to help refine it, and eventually that collaboration turned into Counter Assault.

Randy: Over the years has been refined, has got different propellants, it's got different concentrations of the pepper.

Michael: One of the big things that they worked on was the delivery method. You know how the spray would leave the can?

Michael: [in the field] Yeah, you mentioned the spray. That was one thing I realized I hadn't mentioned, because like some of the earlier brands were shooting six feet in, like a pencil-thin stream, like Wasp killer.

Randy: Right. So that stream, you're not going to hit a bear from 30 feet away in the eyes, especially when you're in a panic yourself. I mean, I don't care who you are, you're going to be in a panic when a very charging at you. They wanted that shotgun pattern, as it's called, a fog pattern. Fog.

Daniel: Okay. So this this is part of the process we saw. They're taking a canister full of the ingredients and they're putting like a spray nozzle on the top of it that shoots the bear spray out into a fog or a cone.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. And through testing and conversations with bear biologists, you know, they refined that fog into a spray that would last 7 seconds and shoot 30 feet.

Randy: That fog is going to get in the sinuses. It's going to get in the eyes. It's they're going to inhale. It's going to get in all the mucous membranes, the lungs. That's what changes their senses, and they just stop. It's it's a shock to their system like it is ours.

Michael: There were some obstacles along the way before bear spray was widely adopted. There were fraudsters making weak knock offs, and some serious misunderstandings, like thinking you used it like bug spray, or that it was a spice rub you could buy at the grocery store.

Voice Actor: When I first heard about bare pepper spray, I rushed right down to Albertsons to see if that store stocked it. But alas, though, I looked among the spices, the cooking oils, and even in the meat department, I found no bear pepper spray.

Michael: That was from a newspaper article back in 1999. So it took a lot of education and messaging to get people to understand and carry bear spray. But what really got people on board was its track record. It was working.

Larry King: He and his family were in the sights of three bears, recently managed to get away.

Michael: This is a newscast from Larry King where he's interviewing a guy who had to use bear spray here in Glacier.

Larry King: Sounds like Jack was lucky. What happened, Jack? What happened to you and the Bears?

Jack Hanna: Well, Saturday night, Larry, just Saturday night, my wife and I went to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. We lived here 20-something years. It's a favorite place to hike.

Michael: So the story is about this group hiking the Grinnell Glacier Trail when a bear started following them, and after following them for a little while, started running at them.

Larry King: I waited to get about 30 feet and unloaded one blast. It kept coming. My wife stood about ten feet right in my face. I just went bam, right in his face and ran away again.

Michael: Bear spray stopped it in its tracks.

Larry King: So this is what helped save our lives.

Michael: A lot of stories like this come up when you Google bear spray, including this line.

Voice Actor: Thanks to God, a friend and pepper spray. I'm still here.

Michael: That quote comes from a bear attack survivo,r who would go on to found his own bear spray company called UDAP, which is based in Butte, Montana. Testimonials like these have slowly won people over, and even folks who doubted a pepper spray could work as well as a firearm.

Randy: You know, like I said, I was retired military. I'm a gun guy. It's fine. But these guys are like, Well, I need my gun. Okay, well, you're still trying to hit something, if it's a charge—that you've got a kill zone that's, you know, maybe grapefruit-sized, that you have to try to get a bullet through. Well, you may not be able to do that. And I don't care, I carry weapons, but I carry bear spray when I go in the woods.

Michael: And because of this effective track record, Glacier suggests all visitors to the park carry bear spray. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommends all hunters carry it, too.

Michael: [in the field[] So how many cans do you put out from here in a year or a month?

Randy: Now, in 2021, we did 375,000 cans of bears spray. And it's just education. That's what's helped. Back in the day, a few years ago, like I talked with Pride here, he says: I remember when we did 30,000 cans in a year. I said, I'm doing that in a month. So that's how much it's picked up from those first days back in the eighties and where the word has gotten out.

Michael: Even still, bear spray is no substitute for common sense. Being safe in bear country involves storing food properly, making noise on trail, hiking in groups, not just grabbing a can of bear spray and calling it a day.

Daniel: Yeah, I've actually heard some bear experts talk about the downside of bear spray is that people think they just strap it on their back and then they're safe, and that it actually discourages the kind of awareness and mindfulness of bear safety that you need to have in mind.

Michael: You don't want to get complacent.

Daniel: No, you can't just put it in the bottom of your backpack and think it's going to help with a bear attack. I mean, you can't put on your seatbelt and drive off a cliff.

Michael: Right. And it is also worth pointing out, like I've carried bear spray on all the hikes I've done here in the last ten years. I've never had to use it, have you?

Daniel: No. My whole life I've been in bear country, and I've never used bear spray.

Michael: Right? I mean, I've taken it out a few times.

Daniel: Uh-huh.

Michael: But I've never had to spray it. The only times I've actually been around it going off was when people set it off on accident.

Michael: The adoption of bear spray coincides with a shift in our relationship with bears: a shift from managing bears to managing people. That change, which we're all a part of, makes a huge difference for our wildlife. Compared to the 1960s, there are a lot more bears and humans in Glacier. Around 100 more grizzlies and literally millions more annual visitors. But that hasn't led to an equivalent rise in bear human conflicts or problem bears like Growly needing to be removed. Thanks to these tools that help us coexist, more bears get to live out their normal bear lives, even as more and more people like you and me come to visit.

Music: [dramatic drums playing]

Daniel: I think I just have one question left for you, Michael.

Michael: Yeah?

Daniel: Whatever happened to Growly?

Michael: Growly, you could say, was actually the first life that bear spray saved. Here's Janet Ellis again talking about the end of that first study in Churchill.

Janet: They were shutting down the bear lab after we left. And so we had two grizzly bears, the polar bears were released back into the wild, but the grizzly bears were going to be destroyed.

Music: [somber music playing]

Michael: It's not easy to release a food conditioned bear back into the wild. So it's standard practice in cases like this for the bear to be euthanized. But after taking care of Growly for months, Janet had taken a liking to him.

Janet: We could play tug of war with him, where his forearms were gigantic and so couldn't fit through the bars really very far. Just a little bit. But he put his hand out of the cage and you could grab his claws. He could give up, and he was going to win.

Michael: She fed growly, gave him water, got him exercise. Apparently he really liked playing with these giant tires they had lying around.

Janet: He'd just pounce on them, he could put them up in his mouth and shake them like a rag. I mean, he was so strong.

Michael: So when it seemed like Growly was going to be euthanized, she started writing letters to friends and family.

Janet: Well, I wrote various relatives to see if they had any ideas. And it was my dad, who was an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, that talked—there was a city councilman I think, who was in his law firm. And then he knew somebody else who was head of Parks and Recreation, and they knew Jack Hanna. You know, It was that sort of thing.

Michael: Through her dad's network, Janet reached Jack Hanna, the director of the Columbus Zoo—and coincidentally, the guy you heard Larry King interviewing earlier, because years later, he used bear spray on the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Anyway, they asked Jack, you know, if we can raise enough money to feed Growly for a year, would you take him? And he said yes.

Janet: So they raised, they raised enough money, I know, for him to be fed for a year and then also to pay for the transport down.

Michael: The only problem was, Janet had to take him there herself. He wouldn't fit on a plane and there wasn't even a road out of Churchill.

Janet: So you had to get on a train. We had a a big culvert trip. Have you seen? You know-

Michael: [on the phone] Yeah, the giant metal cylinders.

Janet: But this was for polar bears, so it was really big.

Michael: [on the phone] [laughs].

Janet: And then we rented a three-quarter-ton pickup and drove from there.

Michael: After a 30 hour train ride, Janet loaded Growly's culvert trap— this big metal cylinder—into the bed of a pickup truck, and drove another 25 hours to the Columbus Zoo. Apparently, Growly was pretty cooperative.

Janet: He was in a culvert trap with the, in the back. I could see him when I was driving and he was looking forward. And that's where the grate was so he could watch. And he hadn't been outside in two years at least. So he was really interested in what was going on. But he didn't really rock the truck.

Michael: Like anyone on a road trip. Greatly needed food and water along the way. Janet could slip him food through the grate, but she had to get help with water.

Janet: But when he stopped at a gas station, you did need to water him. We went. I had to water my bear in the pickup to explain why you needed the hose [laughs] at a gas station. That's the thing that's most entertaining.

Michael: Ultimately, Growly was a great road trip companion, and the drive went off without a hitch. So after a few days of travel, Growly was introduced to his new home at the zoo.

Janet: They had trees and boulders, and he wanted day bed, he just rearranged the whole thing, and they had to put wire around the trees so he wouldn't destroy them. Yeah. He had his own opinion on redecorating his new home.

Both: [laughing]

Michael: I grew up in Columbus, and spent a lot of time as a kid at the Columbus Zoo. So there's a real chance Growly was the first bear I ever met. And I might have run into Janet there, too.

Janet: My son, he's 28 now, but he remembers Growley, cause we would go to the, every time we went to Columbus, we would go to the Columbus Zoo.

Michael: Grizzly bears are formidable neighbors. Not to be taken lightly. And in the 20th century, their future was uncertain. Some Americans argued they should be destroyed entirely, that our two species could not coexist. But tools like bear spray have proven that wrong.

Music: [music begins to build under narration]

Michael: Today, we have access to an easy and effective tool to diffuse bear encounters that doesn't harm the bear. And while no deterrent is a guarantee, Growly showed us that bear spray works. Seeing him at the zoo, I didn't know about the cabins he vandalized or the summer he spent in Canada enduring boat horns, onion juice and pepper spray. I doubt anyone there other than Janet knew the whole story. But I did know that it was special to see a grizzly bear. And thanks in part to Growly, you don't have to go to a zoo to do that.

Music: [credits music continues to build, and plays under the credits]

Peri Sasnett: That's our show. Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park and is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. We could not make the show without them. You can learn more about what they do at Glacier.org. Headwaters is made possible with help from Lacy Kowalski, Melissa Sladek, and so many people throughout the Glacier community— especially the natural and cultural resource teams. We're grateful for all of you. Our music this season is by the brilliant Frank Waln. The show's cover art is by our sweet friend Stella Nall. Check out Frank and Stella's work at the links in our show notes. Special thanks this episode to Randy Hunt and everyone at Counter Assault. Janet Ellis, Carrie Hunt, and Chuck Bartlebaugh for discussing this project with us, as well as Growly, Snarly, and all the other bears who contributed to the creation of Bear Spray. Besides sharing this episode with a friend who might appreciate it, you can help us out by leaving us a rating and review in your podcast app. Thanks for listening.

Bear spray saves lives, but where does it come from? We follow a Glacier grizzly to learn the story.

Learn how to use bear spray, in the St. Mary episode of Season One: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/confluence-st-mary/id1542669779?i=1000501502018

Headwaters is created by Daniel Lombardi, Michael Faist, Gaby Eseverri, and Peri Sasnett

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Stella Nall art: https://www.instagram.com/stella.nall

Episode 2

Can Ranger Traditions Survive into the Future?


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Peri Sasnett: Picture a National Park Service Ranger station. What does it look like? Maybe a big log cabin with a mossy pitched roof and a creaky screen door? Glacier does have plenty of those, but my office is in park headquarters, which has some strong mid-century middle school energy. And working here, I'm always happening upon obsolete relics of bygone eras. Handwritten memos, ink stamps, a fax machine... I haven't found a typewriter yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to find one lurking in a drawer. Only a few decades ago, people in this building used those things all the time. But like a lot of people, many rangers' jobs have changed pretty dramatically in the last 40 years. Mine definitely has. But in this episode, we're spending a day with a ranger whose office equipment and duties haven't changed much at all in 40—or even 100—years.

Lora Funk: Can you drag this dead goat out of the waterfall? That's a weird one. The marmot's living in the toilet again!

Peri: Meet Wilderness Ranger Lora Funk. She has long, sandy blonde braids and bright blue eyes. She wears the park uniform with a little mud on her boots, and she loves to laugh at the absurdities of life in the backcountry. I immediately want to be her friend.

Lora: My laundry is a bucket with a metal plunger that people call an Alaska Maytag, and I think it gets the clothes cleaner... But I don't think people necessarily think my clothes are clean. [laughs]

Peri: Alongside her colleagues, General and Tank—both horses—and Ellen the mule, Lora helps steward and patrol the Belly River Valley of the park.

Lora: Yeah if someone were to say, like, picture a historic ranger station and a iconic valley... It's Belly River.

Peri: One of her favorite things about the Belly is that there are no roads. So unlike the rest of Glacier's Ranger Stations, you can't drive here.

Lora: The Belly River Ranger Station is located six miles into Glacier's wilderness. [sounds of horse footsteps in the background] You either have to hike in or ride a pony.

Peri: I interviewed Lora in the ranger station, but also while she lugged gear around and rode a horse, who occasionally took an interest in my microphone.

Lora: Would you like to be interviewed, General? Hello. Hello. [loud snuffling and sniffing sounds] He went for it! [another loud sniff] Is he going to eat it?

Michael Faist: Just sniffin.

Lora: We have two rangers, myself and Alison, the commission ranger. There's a trail crew which varies in size 2 to 4, and we have three had a stock, and that makes up our entire staff.

Peri: The Belly River Ranger station is a brown log cabin—a Park Service specialty—with white window frames and a flagpole out front. It sits between a creek and a wide open meadow where the horses graze and its covered porch faces west towards steep sided, rocky peaks. It's a very traditional scene, and so is life out here.

Lora: So I live off grid. I live in a one room cabin there with a propane stove. And we do get running water for a few months of the season. Otherwise, we have to haul our water from the creek. I do not have a bathroom connected to my house. I have to walk through the outhouse. Yeah I mean, you start to lose track of time and age and everything out here. Some of that kind of stuff fades away because then you're like, is it 2020 or is it 1920? There's elk running around and there's a fence that looks just about the same... I'm reading books and hauling my water from the creek.

Peri: When I tell my friends I work for the Park Service, I think this might be what they picture. But in a lot of ways, the agency is looking to the future—trying to modernize our infrastructure, lower our carbon emissions. And tell our stories differently. Parks have podcast now, for example. It seems like a vestige of the past to come to the Belly and see Lora still riding horses, packing gear on mules and living in the backcountry. And honestly, I wonder how long this way of life this type of ranger can last. But I know I want to experience it before it's too late.

Music: [Headwaters theme begins playing; starting with mandolin, then a drumbeat, a flute line, and other instruments layer in before the music finishes]

Peri: I'm Peri, and you're listening to Headwaters, a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else. And today, I'm tagging along for a day in the life with the person who might have the coolest job in the park.

Lora: All right. Today, we've got the horses, the mule, saddled, and we're going to head out. Take care of ranger business.

Peri: Today's "ranger business" is going up toward Helen Lake to pick up and pack out some leftover supplies. Michael and I walk in front of the stock while Lora rides, since apparently they prefer to follow us.

Lora: Come on, keep up with the humans. Keep up with the humans.

Peri: Apparently, horses have abandonment issues. So even though we didn't really need both Tank and General, everyone came along for the ride. [drumbeat of music plays]

Lora: [talking to the stock] All right. How does everyone feel today? [clinking of tack and gear] Okay. Good. Good. Yep.

Peri: For most park staff, our ranger business is pretty specific: giving a campfire program, studying plants, managing the park's budget, making a podcast. But for Lora, almost anything could be her ranger business on a given day.

Lora: I am, like, I'm a wilderness ranger and I am specially trained on the Wilderness Act and wilderness values and character. But in the end, my day to day is a lot of general ranger duties, whether it's bear management, EMS maintenance, pulling weeds.

Peri: There are specialists for each of these things: bear biologists, search and rescue, trail crew, invasive plant crew. But Lora and other rangers like her pitch in to keep things going day to day.

Lora: Well, it takes a whole team to manage Glacier. That's why we have the experts. And so I'll call them in if we have something major. I can fix a toilet, but if the whole outhouse goes down, I gotta call trail crew. [drumbeat playing] A lot of people talk about the quote, "Jack of all trades, master of none." But the full quote is "Jack of all trades, master of none. Better something than nothing done." And that's kind of what I live by out here.

Peri: And this is much the same as the ranger business that rangers have been doing in the Belly River for decades. Take this entry from an old log book in 1994.

Chuck Cameron: September 14th, 1994. Patrol with Bob on stock to Elizabeth Lake head to deliver additional gear and supplies to the trail crew. Dug out the firepit and replaced the campground map with an updated version. Also pulled another handful of hawkweed. Chuck Cameron.

Peri: Every day when Lora gets back from the field, she writes down the day's activities and events In a big green government issued logbook. She and her predecessors have been doing this since the earliest days of the ranger station here. From Chuck 30 years ago to some of the earliest Belly River Rangers back to 1929.

Joe Heims: June 5th, 1929. Station to Red Gab Pass and return. Distance 16 miles, mounted. Object: cleaning trail and looking over trail conditions. Game seen: one mountain goat, two deer, one elk. Weather clear. Temperature 41 degrees at 7 a.m. Joe Heims.

Peri: But these days, this type of work is becoming more and more rare. Even this ranger station used to be staffed in the winter, but hasn't been for a long time.

Lora: Spots like mine that are remote are, I think there's less and less these days.

Peri: Glacier has only a handful of wilderness rangers, and just a single backcountry ranger station. And throughout the Park Service, these kinds of places, and the people with the skills to staff them, are disappearing. [drumbeat plays]

Peri: In addition to all the odd jobs Lora does, a huge part of her job is talking to park visitors, most of whom are on multiday backpacking trips. As we hiked up the trail past Dawn Mist Falls, a scenic and loud waterfall, we ran into our first hiker of the day.

Lora: [waterfall sound in the background] Hi there, how's it going?

Backpacker: Good, how are you?

Lora: Good. Where you coming from today?

Backpacker: Lake Helen.

Lora: How is it?

Backpacker: Beautiful.

Lora: Good!

Backpacker: I think it's quite the best view out there.

Lora: Yeah, a lot of people say that.

Peri: She asks where they've been and where they're going.

Lora: Cool. Do you have a permit I could take a look at.

Backpacker: Oh, yeah.

Lora: Helen, Glenns, Goat Haunt. Cool! What a great trip.

Peri: And she'll chat about their trip, making sure they have what they need.

Lora: Any questions about anything they covered in the permit office?

Backpacker: No, I think I'm good. Hopefully this uh, the food gets lighter.

Lora: Yeah. I mean, every pass will be easier.

Backpacker: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Lora: Yeah. Have fun on your trip! Belly River is my favorite place, but Goat Haunt's second, and you're going to both. So.

Peri: And sometimes they have something more unusual to report.

Lora: You know, maybe they saw a bear or a wolf or something really interesting that I can then report to the biologists or, you know, like I was saying, they often will report whether the food hang pole's damaged or the marmots living in the toilet again. [laughs] [drumbeat plays briefly]

Peri: Most days, though, she patrols, checks the campgrounds, gives the pit toilet a once over, makes sure food is stored properly, and gives a helping hand where it's needed.

Lora: So every once in a while I come across a food hang and it's not high enough.

Peri: Most backcountry campgrounds have a food hang pole where you toss a rope over and then pull your food up, securing it ten feet off the ground, just high enough to keep it away from curious bears.

Lora: [to camper] Oh, hi there! How's it going? Yeah, I just lifted your hang cause it wan't the ten feet.

Camper Yeah. Sorry about that. That was my first bear hang, so.

Lora: Oh, okay! Well...

Camper Not the prettiest.

Lora: It's okay! Just make sure, like, if you notice, I had it all the way to the top.

Camper Do you actually mind showing me what knots you did.

Lora: Yeah, I'll show you!

Peri: Today, Lora uses her educational ranger charm to teach a camper the best knots for the job.

Lora: So I use a form of a trucker hat. And so then what I do is I come through... [drumbeat plays]

Peri: It's about six miles from the ranger station where the gear was stashed for us to pack out. So we had plenty of time to chat as we walked through the forest and along the choppy turquoise waters of Elizabeth Lake, with colorful Seward Peak and the sheer Ptarmigan Wall beyond.

Lora: I'd never been to Montana before I got this job. I'd worked at Olympic as a wilderness ranger intern in college, and I always thought I was going to go back there. But then I got this job and I was like, "Oh, I guess Glacier's my place."

Peri: [to Lora] So did you always think about being a backcountry ranger or working for the Park Service? Was that always something you were interested in?

Lora: Definitely not. [laughs] I went to a liberal arts college and my major was American Studies, and I had a thesis that focused on public land history. But I took that summer internship at Olympic and realized, Wow, this is what I need to be doing. This is where I'm happy.

Peri: And it makes perfect sense that someone who loves history but wants to work outside would end up working here and living in a log cabin.

Lora: So if you're talking to me about Glacier or Belly River, I often go into the history part versus anything else.

Peri: [to Lora] Is that part of what drew you to go to the Belly River?

Lora: Definitely. The history and the legacy of Belly River. Um, having a mentor, Chuck Cameron, that worked here in the eighties and nineties. He got to share a lot of his experiences out here and the experiences of his mentor. So continuing on that legacy and preserving the Ranger Station, the institutional knowledge, passing that on... Is something that really drew me to Belly River.

Peri: Chuck is one of the voices you've heard reading logbook entries from his time in the Belly River in the 1990s, along with one from Joe Heims in the 1920s. Both were rangers in Glacier for over 40 years. A long line of rangers connected by the tools they use, the horses and mules, and the way of life that makes up this job.

Lora: It's definitely a connection to the past. We're using similar Decker saddles on the stock. That technology hasn't changed much. Yeah, we're using the same tools. I mean, literally some of the same tools that have been around for a long, long time. And yeah, we're patrolling the same trails. It's a different experience day to day, but they were doing patrol reports, we're still writing in the logbook every day what we got up to. [drumbeat plays]

Chuck: September 22nd, 1992. Patrol to Stoney Indian bench today to pull the three plank bridges for the season. Went up there with a wrench and came back with a wrench, a Pulaski, old wire, a huge tarp, an empty Southern comfort bottle, an old 10 pound syrup can, and a fishing net. Quite a haul for one patrol. South winds, 67 degrees, at 1930 hours. Chuck Cameron.

Peri: [in the field] And so, yeah, what are we packing out today?

Lora: So today we are packing out old parts of an inverted U food hang.

Peri: It's not a difficult hike to retrieve the old food hang pole. But all the same, I'm glad I'm not being asked to add a 25 pound chunk of metal to my pack.

Lora: So the reason we're having the ponies do it is because this would be more awkward for a human, and we might take multiple humans to do what Ellen can do by herself.

Peri: Glacier has a staff of packers who supply trail crews in the backcountry for eight day hitches or carry gear in for bat biologists or the fish crew. But for a few sections of metal pipe, Lora and Ellen can manage.

Lora: So there's definitely a technique to mantying loads, and with practice people can become really quick and really neat with theirs.

Michael: Like you?

Lora: I would not say mine is the prettiest. [laughs] I've seen some very lovely loads come through.

Peri: Packing loads on a mule is quite an art. Ever since horses and mules were domesticated thousands of years ago, people have been packing things on them. And Lora is quick to say she's no expert.

Lora: I'm not a packer, I'm a ranger who happens to pack. I learned from other experienced rangers, I learned by going along with the packers over the years, learning from them and their different styles. But this spring I had the opportunity to go to the Nine Mile Wildlands Training Center in Missoula and attended their basic packing course. And I got the opportunity to attend this thanks to the help and funding of the Conservancy. Which I really appreciate.

Peri: Mules are especially popular for packing because they're strong and sure footed. Their personalities vary, but Ellen is a keeper.

Lora: But mules are fun. They've got really strong personalities. Each one one's very different.

Michael: How would you describe Ellen's personality?

Lora: [sounds of packing and tying straps] She's very social. She's patient with me, you know, because I had her two years ago, so she was helping me learn. Affectionate, even. But she'll give you a look. She's like, "What are you doing?"

Peri: Basically, Lora puts the metal pipes into boxes that look like giant dresser drawers. Ellen can carry one load on each side, and after Lora makes sure they weigh the same, she wraps them up in a canvas tarp called a manty, and then finally ties them onto the metal rings of the pack saddle with some elaborate rope work.

Lora: Sometimes you see it in their eyes when a weird load comes over. They're like, "Really? You're going to put that on me?"

Peri: It seems straightforward enough, but it takes a lot of adjusting to get the load to set just right. It's kind of like packing and repacking and adjusting your own giant pack for an overnight trip—except way heavier.

Lora: [talking to Ellen] All right. Ay ay ay. All right.

Peri: [to Lora] A lot of packing seems to me to be tying and untying things.

Lora: I think you got it.

Peri: [to Lora] Am I ready to be a Ranger?

Lora: Your, you're a Ranger packer.

Peri: Spending the day with Lora, I feel lucky to see her in action and get a glimpse of what she and her predecessors have been doing here for over a hundred years. But there aren't many people who know how to do these things anymore. And I guess part of me is wondering, does anyone need to know how to do these things? Do these traditional skills still have a place in the modern world? How do we decide what's worth holding on to?

Lora: I was reading like a book where it's like, one of the tests in the application to become a ranger was, can you saddle and pack a horse properly and quickly? And it was just part of like the job application and the interview process. And everybody could ride and pack and shoe, and all the ranger staff could could do it because it was just the way of life out here, of surviving.

Peri: This isn't the case anymore, though.

Lora: You see older rangers that are reaching towards the end of their careers and the younger folks can't ride or pack. And it's something that rangers have been doing for a hundred years. And so it's like it does it ends now, or do people like me start learning and riding and packing? And we have a lot of young packers in the park, but specifically like the Ranger Packer.

Peri: I'd argue that it's a good idea to keep these thousands of years old skills alive just because—whether it's practical or not—so we don't lose them. But for Lora, it's not just nostalgia.

Lora: I value it because I get to use it day in, day out here to do my job. And I can do my job better with these three.

Peri: [to Lora] Because it's useful.

Lora: Yeah.

Peri: It's like, this is the easiest way to get a bunch of heavy stuff from point A to point B if you're not going to get a helicopter out here, which is expensive and dangerous.

Lora: It's practical, but it's also iconic. So it's that dreamy scene of, you know, the string going through the mountains, over the passes, through the valleys.

Peri: Today, that was us. And it felt like a link to something I didn't know I was missing. And I get the sense that's how a lot of people feel when they come here.

Voice actor September 1988. I live in here with two horses and a mule. And some people would say that I'm a fool, no power, no phone, and all alone. But I say Belly River is a home with a family and friends I've made over the time. I have precious memories that will always be mine. Written by Chris Burke for V.V. O'Shea.

Peri: We get back late in the day, and Lora takes care of General,Tank, and Ellen before sending them off to their evening pasture. The peaks turn rosy with alpenglow, the nighthawks call, and Lora gives us a tour of the station. Which is a functioning Ranger Station, of course, but is also basically a museum of Belly River history.

Lora: So this is the Ranger Station office. We have a library, medical supplies, base station radio. The telephone doesn't work anymore.

Peri: [to Lora] For the record, the telephone is like a 1900 telephone with the little bells that look like eyes and the little, the receiver on the side. [both laughing] I feel like I would describe this room as filled with ranger whimsy.

Lora: I think that's probably accurate. [laughing] We have a typewriter that I think was used until the nineties. Maybe we'll get it back in working condition. Some fun drawings of the mules that were worked here in the past. A photo of the old Bear Mountain fire lookout. And then next to it is Joe Cosley, the first Belly River Ranger.

Peri: Some homes have a photo of the pope hanging on the wall in a place of honor. The ranger station has a portrait of Joe Cosley.

Lora: I do not look to him for my values and ethics based on his actions. But uh, but he's—he's an icon for here. Infamous...

Peri: Joe Cosley, the first Belly River Ranger, was hired under the rationale that to catch poachers, you should hire a poacher. Unfortunately, he never really stopped poaching. But that's a story for another time.

Lora: We also have the historic Belly River file, which has old newspaper clippings, any stories or interviews that people have done about Belly River?

Peri: [to Lora] I feel like not every wilderness district is like this.

Lora: Definitely not.

Peri: It's easy to romanticize these old traditions and ways of life, but it is hard work.

Lora: They always ask me like, "This is the dream job." You know, "how do I get your job?" But they never ask me that question when my head's inside of a pit toilet, or I'm covered in just gross mud and it's pouring down rain.

Peri: And it's not just the physical challenges that can make this lifestyle tough to maintain. There are also logistical challenges to arranging your life in a way that you can do this job. And not everyone can do it.

Lora: At this point in my life, I don't mind being seasonal. I like the change. I like the work. It's just harder and harder to live in this area on seasonal wages and to find housing available in the winters. Logistically, it becomes more difficult when you're trying to balance multiple jobs, multiple health care plans. I've had five health care plans in one calendar year from seasonal work. So I'd like to do this as long as possible, but who knows what the future holds?

Chuck: [drumbeat playing] May 8th, 1990. It's a fine day here in Belly. I'm in for the 1990 season and glad of it. About 40 elk, 4 white tailed deer, and 4 Canada geese on the way in, snowing the whole way. Stored shutters in the annex and caught a glimpse of the saw-whet owl in the large aspen to the east of the pasture. Fine dinner and cribbage lessons provided by Ursula. Good to be back. Chuck Cameron.

[music playing, with a historic audio clip saying: the Stetson that I'm wearing is the hallmark of the Ranger profession. I always tell them, "Put your hat on. That's what makes you a Ranger." Echoing: I always tell 'em, put your hat on, that what makes you a ranger.]

Peri: No one person can do this job forever. But you'll learn a lot if you stick around for a decade or two, and you can pass that on to the generations after you.

Lora: I mean, some of the most beloved rangers of Glacier have come through Belly River and yeah stayed a long time. Tracy 16 seasons. Bruce as well for a long time Dave Shea was here. Chuck Cameron. And then Joe Heims, you know, staying here through the winters. I wish they would let me do that, but I'm just a seasonal. [both laugh] Definitely the people that have worked here before, or currently do, hold this place close to their heart, and it's something we all share.

Peri: [to Lora] Well, and I think it's like the relationship goes both ways, too. It's not just like "I live here and it's pretty." It's like I, like I take care of this place every day. And it takes care of me.

Lora: Yeah. And I think that there are definitely people and cultures that have been like that for a long time. And I think I didn't necessarily grow up in that. And I think a lot of us didn't.

Peri: I know the Park Service preserves historic buildings and objects—basically the Ranger Station and a lot of what's in it. But maybe it's also part of our mission to preserve ways of life, and skills and traditions that, if we're not careful, might otherwise go the way of the fax machine in my office.

Lora: We would lose a connection to the past, and we'd lose very practical skills in what and how we manage these lands.

Michael: Yeah, and it feels like this building would go from being like a living home and workspace to kind of a museum.

Lora: Yeah, it would just be a memory, yeah, a memory of the past, or this is what it used to be like instead of "This is what we're doing now." We're still living out here. We're still ranging.

Peri: I came to the Belly for a peek back in time, but if Lora has her way, this might be a look forward to. There will be other Belly River Rangers decades from now, packing mules, looking back at her entries in the logbook, and taking care of ranger business.

Chuck: [wistful violin music begins to play] October 4th, 1989. Final morning in the station. Mopped the floor, final cleaning, covered the generator, shutters on, I guess that's it. It's been a fine season. Please take care of this place, whoever uses it. It is a unique place indeed. Radio 10-7 and I'm gone. South winds and 60 degrees at 1200 hours. Chuck Cameron.

Peri: That's our show. Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park and is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. We could not make the show without them. You can learn more about what they do at Glacier.org. Headwaters is made possible with help from Lacy Kowalski, Melissa Sladek, and so many people throughout the Glacier community, especially the natural and cultural resource teams. We're grateful for all of you. Our music this season is by the brilliant Frank Waln. The show's cover art is by our sweet friend Stella Nall. Check out Frank and Stella's work at the links in our show notes. Special thanks this episode to Lora Funk, the whole Belly River staff, including Ellen the Mule, and the trail crew for letting us use their cabin. We appreciate Chuck Cameron reading his logbook entries, and the park's archives staff for giving us access to them. And shout out to Alex Stillson for always being willing to lend a hand. Besides sharing this episode with a friend who might appreciate it, you can help us out by leaving us a rating and review in your podcast app. Thanks for listening.

Peri: In this episode, we shared a few log entries from Chuck Cameron, former Belly River Ranger, and a mentor to Lora. Well, this year, he's retiring.

Lora: He's done really incredible things, saved lives—like literally saved lives. And has meant a lot to a lot of people. And I've heard a lot of Rangers say, I want to be like Chuck. And that kind of gives me hope.

Peri: In our next episode, we sit down with Chuck, and hear about his legendary career in Glacier..

We meet a ranger who lives in one of the wildest corners of Glacier—a place where age-old tools and skills are still practiced daily. But do traditional skills, or this way of life, still have a place in a rapidly-evolving world?

Headwaters is created by Daniel Lombardi, Michael Faist, Gaby Eseverri, and Peri Sasnett.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Stella Nall art: https://www.instagram.com/stella.nall/

Season 3

Season 3 Trailer

Becoming | Trailer


Lacy: Headquarters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Daniel: This is Headwaters. A show about the connections between Glacier National Park and everything else.

Expert 1: The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. It's still here. It's still happening today.

Daniel: Season three is called, Becoming.

Expert 2: They entered a homeland that was known and loved.

Expert 3: One people's hope is in another culture's, doom.

Daniel: These are stories about history refusing to stay in the past. From whiskey running and the war on wolves, to drilling for oil and dreaming of riches.

Expert 4: If you had to send a message 12,600 years into the future, what would it be? And how would you know anyone would even understand it?

Daniel: This is a collection of stories about how one place in the Rocky Mountains became what it is today.

Season Three of Headwaters is a history of Glacier National Park. From whiskey running and the war on wolves, to drilling for oil and dreaming of riches, this is a collection of stories about how one place in the Rocky Mountains became what it is today.

Episode 1

Becoming | Prologue


Lacy Kowalski: Headquarters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Daniel Lombardi: You're listening to Headwaters. [a drumbeat plays briefly in the background] My name is Daniel, and we're about to release our third season. We're calling it Becoming. You're going to hear important, unknown and often misunderstood stories from Glacier's past. This is not a complete history, but a look at how the park became what it is today. These episodes will take you into the field and weave together conversations with dozens and dozens of experts. Each episode is framed by the theme music and the show's cover art, which is a beautiful mosaic of all of the stories we set out to share.

[drumbeat plays again]

Daniel: This is episode zero. I'm thinking of it as a bonus episode that sets up the rest of the show. Or you know what? If you want, you could skip this episode for now and come back to it at the end. I think it works either way. But this episode is two interviews that illustrate the philosophy and the approach we took to making this season of the show. The first interview is with the native hip hop artist Frank Waln, and the second interview is with the illustrator and archeologist Eric Carlson. Frank and Eric helped us set the tone for season three, so I sat down with them to talk about some of the themes and philosophies, the deeper ideas that went into making the show. Season three is all about history and looking at our past from different viewpoints. Talking with Frank, he encouraged us to think about history with a less rigid understanding of time. [flute music begins to play] All of the music you'll hear in Season three of Headwaters was made by Frank Waln. But personally, I think I'm probably most excited about the theme song.

[Headwaters season three theme continues to play—drums, mandolin, and other instruments layer in]

Daniel: So hey, Frank, will you introduce yourself?

Frank Waln: I'll introduce myself in my language first. [Speaking in Lakota] Hello, relatives. I just introduced myself in my language, Lakota. I said my Lakota name is [Lakota Name], which translates to Walks with the Young Nation, or Walks with the New Nation. And I said that I welcome you all with an open heart and an open handshake. I'm also—I also go by Frank Waln, I'm a Lakota music artist, music producer, audio engineer, curator from the Rosebud Reservation in South Central South Dakota.

Daniel: Tell me about where you grew up. The Rosebud Reservation.

Frank: Actually grew up on a ranch ran by Lakota women. So I had a very close connection with not only the land but animals. And so the landscape on the reservation I come from, it's out on the Great Plains. So it's it's—if you stand almost anywhere on a reservation and look out, your eyes will see as far as the horizon goes, like it's not flat in a lot of places. You know, the skies are big, the sunsets are great. The sunrises will bring a tear to your eye. And it's very rural, too. It's very rural. And then, you know, outside of the land, sure, the reservation deals with a lot of issues like poverty and just a lot of the aftermath of colonialism, having, you know, our homelands colonized.

Daniel: Yeah like how do you—because I think we're going to come back to this as a concept, so just how do you define colonialism?

Frank: Well, I think as an indigenous person, I define colonialism from the lens of the experience my people had with colonialism. So it is the displacement of an indigenous population in order to colonize or resettle the land for various reasons. But, you know, it could even happen with animals and plants. So it's not just a human thing. It also happens in nature in many ways.

Daniel: Yeah. So it's like a violent displacement of people, as well as plants and animals from home.

[flute music from the theme song plays briefly, marking a transition]

Daniel: A complete shift: so did you like growing up on a ranch? I didn't really like it as a kid, but I really appreciate it now.

Frank: You know, I kind of feel the same way because I think, you know, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do music and be a creative person. And a lot of my family, all my family still ranches or rodeos. But I think I still also didn't completely despise it because I love being outside. With me and my mom it was always a struggle because I wanted to be inside, like playing an instrument, writing a song, and she'd be like, “No, we need to go—we need to go work cause we need to go do ranch stuff right now.” So it was always a back and forth between me and my mom.

Daniel: You're living this, uh, rural ranch life, and you, you somehow stumbled upon playing the piano. Is that right?

Frank: I found the piano when I was in elementary school. My mom was a teacher, and so she had to be at a high school super early. So the elementary school I went to, she would drop me off and I was always one of the first kids at my school. And there was an old piano in our classroom, out of tune, everything. And I ended up just messing around and I loved it. I love the way just pressing, pressing a button and hearing, you know, hearing some music made me feel. And I just started teaching myself to play piano and haven't stopped since. Now I play, you know, a handful of instruments and produce and, and I've actually written music that has been performed by an entire orchestra. I still can't read written music entirely. I got my own way of reading and writing and figuring out music.

[sparse, but joyful music begins to play]

Daniel: Wow. And so you you'd go into the classroom and there was a piano there. And you just taught yourself.

Frank: Yes. Yes. I learned by ear and by sight. And I remember I was really stubborn and I wanted to learn something very difficult first. So I one of the first, like four pieces I learned was Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. And I remember I, like, found my own way of transcribing it. I don't even remember how I did. It was it was probably all over the place and wild. But I wrote out the whole song so I could read it and I memorized it and I can still play it now. But yeah, I learned by, by sight and sound.

Daniel: Mmm yeah, that's cool. But then, so tell me, how did you go from that to rapping?

Frank: [laughing] Yes, actually, you know, it was for me anyway, at the time, it felt like a very natural progression because, you know, when I started to get into to middle school, I was actually interested in like getting my own CDs and stuff, my reservation is so rural that we had to drive at least 2 hours to, you know, find a—to get to a CD store to even buy music. And so a lot of the music that I consumed was from my family. A lot of my cousins, my older cousins who I looked up to, a lot of them were listening to hip hop. And so I was exposed to a lot of different hip hop, and I just resonated with the music. And so a lot of what hip hop was in the beginning and the source of it, to me, has a lot of Indigeneity. And I'll give you some examples. An element of hip hop is called the cipher. It's like where everyone circles up and it's really dope, if you're a dancer, you're beatboxer, you have an instrument, everyone kind of starts vibing and someone lays down a beat, and then you go around the circle, and whether you sing a rap or even dance or play an instrument, everyone takes turns and kind of does a little performance over the music everyone's creating together, and that is Native. [a beat begins, with flutes and other instruments layering in] Whether it would make you look at power or you look at our ceremonies, that's what we do. We circle up and through song and dance, we share our energy together. [music continues to play] At the time, I was I was struggling a lot with a lot of mental health issues. A lot of people in my family and people where I’m from struggle with a lot of things like addiction and mental health issues and just a lot of violence and stuff like that. So music was my escape too. So it was like a, it was a way for me to get away from all of that and kind of be in my own bubble.

[Frank rapping in a song] Let me try to paint a scene of chasing lonely rez kid dreams, with nights banging out beats on that laptop screen. With nothing but your heart telling you you’re right, I spent years in the dark just to find my light. Shout out my mother and my aunties cuz they raised us all in a setter colonial state that called them s*****. I'm from the Rez. That means I've bled to shed all the things I saw. So I ain't one to judge when loved ones doing time and everyone on drugs. We used to run around the rez now we pray and smudge. Now I understand why ancestors prayed for us. In the beginning the reservation...

[music fades out]

Daniel: You were seeing people struggle in your community, and I read then that that kind of made you want to go into medicine. Is that right?

Frank: Yes. Yeah. So I actually thought I wanted to be a doctor for a couple of years, starting when I was 18. So I didn't even tell anyone about my music. I actually kept it a secret from for most of my teen years, it was just something that I did because it made me feel good and helped me cope. And, you know, I never thought, ever, ever I would be able to make a career out of it or, you know, be able to do anything substantial with it. And so I thought the only way I could help the world and help people heal and help my home community and the people I loved heal was being a doctor.

Daniel: I'm curious how that might influence your music even now or if it if you think it does.

Frank: Yeah, definitely. I didn't realize that, you know, healing can, can mean more than just Western medicine at the time. When I started going into music, I had a conversation with an elder back home that I never forget. And I was, I was in a gas station on my reservation. I was, I was gassing up and getting some things and this, this elder I know, he was behind me in line and he started talking to me. And so he always would ask me when he'd see me, “What are you up to now? You know, you're going off to college?” And so I told him that I wasn't going to do medicine anymore. I didn't want to be a doctor. I really want to pursue music. And when I told him that, he kind of he stopped and he shook his head. And, you know, I didn't really expect too much. But then he said something really, really profound to me. He said, “you know, sometimes music is the best medicine.” And I think it kind of set something off in my brain and just kind of widened my perspective of what medicine can be. You know, it can also be creative, it can be spiritual, it can be emotional medicine. And I think that's what music is for me. I did it to help myself heal. So very naturally, you know, using my music to help myself heal, I would write songs about things that I needed to heal from. And once I started putting my music on the internet and putting myself out there as an artist, I realized a lot of other people, especially Native people, felt the same way and, you know, started resonating with my music and sharing it and listening to it. Creating music that helped me heal, helped me set the foundation for my career. And it even led to doing things like I did a residency for seven months at a children's hospital in Delaware, a place called Nemours Children's Hospital. I did music therapy there for seven months and I helped patients create a song from the ground up. And so, you know, just doing things like that, I know I wouldn't even be in a position or in a mindstate to use music in that way if I wasn't coming from that background of studying pre-med.

Daniel: Music is, it has been healing for me and it sounds like it was getting into hip-hop was itself a healing experience for you. And like, what wounds do you think you're trying to heal with your music?

Frank: Whenever I present and perform, I talk a lot about healing, and I talk about healing as multi-generational and also timeless because I don't think time exists linearly, at least Native People, Lakota People don't look at time in a linear fashion. We look at time right now, we carry the past, the present and the future with us at all times. Our ancestors are always with us. And so the wounds that I'm healing are the wounds of colonialism. And so I'm healing the wounds of genocide. And I 100% believe, and I tell this to Native communities when I present, perform for them, that whenever we heal ourselves, we also heal our ancestors because we are connected to that history. And when you heal yourselves, you also heal future generations.

Daniel: Wow, Frank, that's really powerful. You have a lot of themes of history, and so now that kind of makes sense to me why you're like approaching music from outside the traditional Western understanding of time.

Frank: Yes. Exactly. You nailed that right on the head. And that's another way that I also create music and do what I do from an Indigenous perspective, because, you know, some of my songs are rooted in and some of our oldest stories, you know. So just carrying that history in our art is a very Native thing as well.

Daniel: Okay, so then let's dig into some of the music for our podcast, for Headwaters. This year we're working with you to use a track you wrote called Wild West as our theme song. Do you remember writing that, because you didn't originally write it for us? It was something that you wrote for you, right?

Frank: Yes, for sure. So the theme song for this season actually started out as a song idea that I had called Wild West. I created the beat using a lot of different flute samples that I created. I laid down the drums. It's a really powerful track. And at the time I was really—I think this was around like 2016, 2017. I was really struggling with the pain, the anger, and the frustration I was feeling as I was learning about the specific details of the atrocities, the horrible things and the genocide that happened to my ancestors and also to me. You know, like one of the things that was just weighing heavy on me when I wrote this song was, I was reading this book about different policies, IHS (Indian Health Services), which is the branch of the US government that gives Native communities health care. And one of the chapters, they talked about how the US government tested vaccines on babies without the mothers’ knowledge at the IHS on my reservation the exact two years when I was first born and going in to get my vaccines as a baby. You know, so realizing that the government tested vaccines on me without my mom's consent or knowledge, and then learning that when you're in your twenties, just, you know, just like what that does to you as a human. And so I was I was feeling a lot of heaviness, and I ended up putting it in those lyrics, Wild West. And the concept was like, you know, kind of flipping that old Wild West concept on its head that cowboys and Indians and just being like, this is what the contemporary Wild West is.

Daniel: That's a powerful story. The name of the track, Wild West, it's a big concept. It's a big idea. You and I both grew up in the American West, and it's interesting to think about what that term is supposed to evoke and what it does evoke. The idea, I think in the, the Hollywood Western is the place where a rugged individual can do whatever they want.

[flute music from the Headwaters theme plays briefly, marking a transition]

Frank: One of the things I like to do with my music is taking these concepts that are like kind of the colonial lens of looking at Native People or where we come from and then flipping it on its head to show that to show my perspective or the Native perspective on all of that.

Daniel: It opens with this really cool flute. You play the flute, you have at least one whole album of flute songs. Then there's also a stringed instrument in there, right?

Frank: Yeah. So that one is another instrument. So I play a native flute. Another instrument, which is one of my favorites, is actually the acoustic bass guitar. And I kind of play bass differently, especially the acoustic. I've had a lot—I've actually had more than one guitarist tell me I play bass like it's a guitar.

Daniel: Oh, that's yeah, that's interesting. Then what about the, the drums? I know in a lot of your music, you use traditional Native drums.

Frank: Yeah. Yeah. It's layered in there. Almost every track I do. Another reason, you know, one of the reasons I do that, like I said, hip hop, you know, it's built around the drums. A lot of native music is built around the drums, especially for Lakota people. You know, we were actually famous, like people said they would hear our—if they went to war with us, they would hear our drums before they seen us because our drums were that loud and that powerful, our songs were that powerful. And so the drums in that song are just multiple layers of samples sampled, kick and clap, and also natural. My mom got me a Buffalo hide big like Lakota style drum when I was in fifth grade. And so I use that same drum and some other drums, even like a gourd rattle I got from the Southwest. So just a lot of different instruments I've been given as gifts, Native instruments, Native percussive instruments always get layered into almost every song I do.

Daniel: Oh, yeah, that's cool. So for people listening to season three of Headwaters, that intro theme song they hear is called Wild West.

Frank: And I'm glad, I'm glad we found a home for it.

Daniel: Frank, thank you so much for taking the time and for making music for us. It's been wonderful.

Frank: Yes. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you for, you know, collaborating with me and asking me to collaborate. And we had some some really great and meaningful discussions.

[Frank rapping] These are dark times, hard times, [rapping in Lakota] if you gotta know, I got a heavy heart, every part and valve weighed down with a heavy scar. And I got them in the place I'm from. Some call it reservation, some call it concentration. Concentrating the trauma of genocide up in a nation. This system murders us, call it premeditation. Tragic death becomes a circumstance. They outlawed our songs and wouldn't let us dance and now it gives me the blues. They say we're red, to them we're dead. My People set up to lose.

[music starts to fade out as Daniel speaks]

Daniel: That was my conversation with Frank Waln. Next, you will hear an interview with the artist, Eric Carlson.

[final lyrics of Frank’s song, then the music fades out] The fire's in our youth, ancestors return soon.

Daniel: Eric does a few different kinds of art, but my favorite is his Unstuck in Time series. In this series, he makes these detailed, complex, beautiful scenes of familiar places, but with all of their history and characters unfolding and living at once. The cover art that Eric made for this season, which you can see in its full size, if you click on the link in the episode description, it reminds me of kind of a Where's Waldo painting. Each character that we talk about in the show is stuck frozen together in the ice of a glacier, challenging the viewer to expand their view of time in history.

Eric Carlson: Thanks, Daniel. Thanks for having me here. It's nice to be back up in the park. My name's Eric Carlson. I'm a archeological illustrator and archeologist.

Daniel: What came first? Art or archeology? Or have they always kind of been together?

Eric: Yeah, they they kind of co-occur. Art is a, it's a big part of, of archeology in a lot of the ways that that we document the past. Often depicting things visually works better than than writing things down.

Daniel: I hadn't thought of that. Art or illustration—this isn't just your approach. Like that has always been part of archeology.

Eric: It's always been a huge part. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Daniel: That's cool.

Eric: Yeah. You look through any archeological textbook, everything is heavily illustrated.

Daniel: What about for you personally, though? How did it come about? Was it were you always growing up, drawing or were you always, like digging in the dirt or both?

Eric: No, it was I guess it was art first.

Daniel: Okay.

Eric: For sure, as a child. And I studied art in college a little bit. And it wasn't until the last year of college that I got into anthropology and have been working as a archeologist ever since, over 30 years.

Daniel: Wow. Can you list off some places and cool projects you've got to be a part of then?

Eric: Yeah. I mean, I've worked a lot of time in Oregon, probably eight years I spent working as an archeologist and, and then also in the Four Corners, I probably spent seven or eight years working.

Daniel: Wow.

Eric: Through illustrating, I've been able to, to, to do archeology overseas quite a bit as well. So I've worked in really early Neolithic sites in southern Jordan on the Dead Sea Plain, worked on sites that had basically some of the first farming villages on Earth, you know, in addition to do in the archeology out there with the crew, I was the onsite illustrator. None of the artifacts from those excavations could leave the country of Jordan. So everything had to be documented at the end of the day after it was excavated. So I spent long nights illustrating, I don't know, arrow points.

Daniel: And so it's all day digging, and uncovering things, and then all night illustrating them.

Eric: That's right.

Daniel: Wow.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: And of course, you worked, uh, as an archeologist here in Glacier, too.

Eric: And not too long ago, it was, I guess, 2018 and 2019.

Daniel: How do you how do you think of the relationship between archeology and history? Are they kind of just branches of the same tree or…

Eric: Archeology is basically establishing a history of, of deep time, of, you know, time before written documentation. But it's a lot more than that too. Archeology is a really good tool in being able to give voices to people that are often left out of history, out of written history. History is often written by those in power. There's a lot of biases and prejudices and stuff that get written into those histories that remain there.

Daniel: This is a really interesting point that you're making. Like in some ways, archeology is, is a kind of history, But what's different is it's not so dependent on the written texts or traditional historical sources that we use in history. It also allows you to look at—tell the history and tell the story of people who had less power.

Eric: Yeah, and you look at the history books here in Montana and often, you know, they talk about the Copper Kings and, you know, some of these people that ended up becoming very powerful. And in archeology, often the sites that we uncover, the things we find in the ground are the—are what families leave. So we're studying just everyday, a family group that was passing through West Glacier, for example, on their way up and over the mountains to, to the east side for a hunt bison or something. But it's so important—is more important than, you know, studying a king or queen. It's like how everyday people lived and experienced and related to this landscape and related to the world around them.

Daniel: Archeology is a, a tool or a process that allows us to tell the stories or tell the histories of people who didn't have their lives immediately biographied or their portraits painted, they were everyday people.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: That's really cool.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: Okay, Eric, before we go deeper into kind of anything else, let's talk about your art. I think at one point we were talking in the past few months and you were telling me you were looking at a lot of like animal muscular anatomy and skeletal diagrams and stuff because you had to illustrate the way a culture was butchering and processing animals.

Eric: Yeah, I think that was for the uh, I did some illustrations of Viking era sites for University of Oslo. And they, they wanted a illustration of a, of a boat burial, the burial of a chieftain within a boat that was being buried. Anyway, they had a room designated inside of this boat with a bunch of grave goods and animal sacrifices, including dogs and horses and chickens and things like that. So. Yeah. So I had to research.

Daniel: You gotta make sure that animals look right. [both chuckling]

Eric: The anatomy of a horse like crammed—of a dead horse, crammed into a tiny little compartment in a Viking boat.

Daniel: Tell me about the Unstuck in Time series and that theme of art that you have. Where does that where does that fall?

Eric: Yeah. You asked about where that originated, and I think—and I was thinking about that, and I think it was back in Juneau, back where I grew up. Juneau is an old gold mining town. There's a, basically the ruins of two giant huge gold mines that encircle the, the city of Juneau. Now, they're—the mines have been abandoned for about a hundred years and basically been reclaimed by the rainforest. And as kids, we would go especially into this one mine called the Treadwell Mine and explore those old buildings and the, the buildings as they decay and collapse. You know, they, they get grown over by moss and other vegetation of the forest there extremely quickly.

Daniel: And so then you start illustrating it. Yeah.

Eric: So that's why I've taken that idea with me now. Everywhere I live, everywhere I go, I'm always imagining what a place will look like in the future if humans just walk away from it.

Daniel: But you Unstuck in Time series, I think it has a whole—there's a whole other layer beyond that. And that is this layer of it's almost like the, the spirit and the, the people and the characters and the animals from this place, from whatever place it is, whether it's Juneau or Missoula or Glacier, it's you, you bring to life all these elements from this places past and put them all in one scene.

Eric: I think it has to do with, with engagement, with being there and learning and living in those places intimately, meeting people, knowing people, learning the history and the pre-history of these places.

Daniel: You couldn't show up somewhere and paint one of these unstuck in time pieces the first week.

Eric: Yeah, not at all.

Daniel: No. It's about—you have to know that place.

Eric: Yeah. In fact, it's almost like a way—those nstuck in time drawings are almost a way of honoring a place, giving back to that place.

Daniel: This unstuck in time work that you do has been so inspiring for me and it is a big part of what inspired the way we're approaching season three of Headwaters this year.

Eric: Okay.

Daniel: Yeah, it's been really cool.

Eric: Well, how has it inspired you?

Daniel: I think you are looking at the land, looking at Glacier, this park, in a way I hadn't looked at it before. And I think you're looking at time in a way that I hadn't thought about it before. And so your art has definitely got me to reflect at least, or question maybe, the way I see landscape and time. Yeah. And so I think that probably comes from your training as an archeologist that when you look out at a landscape that you're working in, you don't just see the landscape as it is today. Right. You see other stuff?

Eric: Yeah. Yeah, you're right. And it's about this concept of time. Yeah. The worst enemy out there right now are cameras, because they condition us to see snapshots and to see just a stuck scene, a stuck moment in time. And, I mean, we're inundated with these images all around us, and we, we learn to live our lives like that, like we're just in the present where things are static. But if you throw those cameras away, and you start seeing time in a broader way, yeah, as a duration instead of a moment, you're able to see these—these dynamic processes of change. Animals, birds, living and dying, multiple generations of of creatures and humans and stuff that have occupied the land under our feet and have become the soil. They've become the trees. Like everything gets regenerated and gets, again interwoven into everything else out here.

Daniel: And into us, if you live here long enough.

Eric: Exactly right. Yeah.

Daniel: One of the best ways I can think of to describe your work in your approach to time, you know, I think you said it pretty well that it's, it's not about a snapshot. It's not like the photograph. One of our episodes this season is going to be, it's going to talk about Charlie Russell, you know, and whatever you think of his art, he really painted in snapshots. I think he was finding like a really fun or wild or dramatic scene and then he's painting one instant in that.

Eric: Right.

Daniel: But that's not what you do, at all.

Eric: [laughs] No. No. And that's, I think one of the most important parts of of illustrating is this idea that it's not a snapshot at all. It's kind of an anti-snapshot. You're looking at things, you're drawing things from multiple perspective points. And all of those perspective points get compressed into a single image. Like with artifact illustration, you're looking at an object from at least six or seven different locations, or you're moving it in your hands, you’re rotating it and looking at it from almost an infinite amount of perspective points. And they all, all of those perspective points you're drawing from, and you're combining them into a single image that—an image that you can't ever find or take a snapshot of.

Daniel: That's really interesting that you say that it you know, I've been thinking a lot as we work on this season three, we kind of want there to be like one perspective that's true or Right.   [pensive piano music begins to play]

Eric: Right. Yeah.

Daniel: But your work is like deconstructing that, and historians tell us this too, that the study of history you know, it's about being okay with a lot of different perspectives.

[music finishes]

Daniel: I showed someone a draft of the art you're doing for for Headwaters. And they were like, “there's a lot going on here, and it looks a little bit like a disaster happened.” And I was wondering, I was like, well, I mean, this is a culmination of real events and real things that have happened here. And disaster's kind of a loaded term, but it's—a lot has happened here. And your art captures that.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: Represents that.

Eric: Yeah. I don't know what to say to that. [both laugh] It's yeah, it's been a chaotic last 200 years or so on this landscape. Yeah. But, but yeah, prior to that too, I mean, there was constant change. Glaciers come and gone. Pleistocene creatures have come and gone.

Daniel: Whether or not you see it as a disaster kind of depends on your perspective, your–

Eric: Your point of view.

Daniel: It kind of depends on your point of view. Yeah. I love the idea that this year's podcast, you know, Headwaters, is kind of represented by that style of art of yours. This, this scene of the park, but unbounded by time, kind of breaking free of its traditional—it's not a snapshot of the park. It is, it is something different. Like it's a—the background is all, it's the Many Glacier valley. You'll recognize it. But it's full of ice.

Eric: Yeah. With a glacier that it's probably a mile thick, which is what the glaciers were, about that thick about, you know, in the middle Pleistocene. And I think there's a, you can just see the peak of Grinnell Peak there sticking up over the the bit of glacier, that's about all you can see.

Daniel: And so anyone listening can can just probably pull up, look at their phone and look at this art. But the glacier, this massive glacier, is kind of receding and melting a little bit. And there's all of these characters and elements of the park's history spilling out of it. I love the, as the as the ice retreats, you can see the stromatolites making up the ground beneath.

Eric: Oh, yeah. Those stromatolites are really important to all my art. Yeah, there's I guess, a Siyeh Pass and Logan Pass, you can see stromatolites which are fossilized algae, basically, that's like 1.5 billion years old that lived in the shores of these ancient seas.

Daniel: I can see why you would love this. It's basically geologic reality, doing what you try and do in your art. It is these ancient, ancient fossils, [Eric chuckles] and they are literally uplifting and jumbling up the park's geologic history.

Eric: We want everything to be linear. We want everything to be a timeline. Mm hmm. But it's not. [laughing] And everything's mixed up all the time and the past is re-occurring in the present, all around us all the time. You just have to be aware of it. You have to see it.

Daniel: Coming out of this glacier, you illustrated… you know, we have the Great Northern Railway. We have lots of stories this season about that. So it's, I love that it's like crashing through the ice. Then you've got, you have the stromatolites beneath and then wolves kind of hunting and running around the whole scene. I love wolves. That's really cool.

Eric: Yeah, they're important part of this park for sure. Yeah. The wolves have always kind of symbolized basic freedom and life.

Daniel: And then all the other pieces you included in there are things that, that we're going to talk about in the season. You know, you have an oil well crashing down, you have a homesteading, you know, Euro-Americans homesteading and creating a mercantile store out in the forest. You have Buffalo Soldiers. So many cool pieces of the park's history colliding. Everything unstuck from its time.

Eric: Unstuck in time. Yeah. [both chuckling] But over the top of all that, you have the Native American presence. Yeah. That dominates the entire.

Daniel: The whole scene.

Eric: Yeah. And that's the history of the park. Mmhmm. You know, over 10,000 years here in the park. And then you've got all that jumbled chaos, you know, kind of coming unfrozen, basically in the bottom of that glacier. Yeah. Just in the, in the very, very, very recent past.

Daniel: But yeah, all of the, you know, the historic characters and elements from the past 200 years take up a good chunk of of the art piece but only a slice, just a sliver of the actual history.

Eric: Exactly right. Yeah.

Daniel: When we're talking about your Unstuck in Time series, the word, the word “becoming” rises in my mind.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: What does that mean for you? I mean, is that I think that's kind of a lot of what your your art is depicting is depicting a state of becoming. Do you think that's right?

Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Things are… yeah, in a constant state of change, of transformation, I guess. And you don't see that, when you're looking at moments in time. That becomes evident when you are looking at longer durations, when you're seeing things again over hundreds of years, thousands of years.

Daniel: When I go walk down to the lake, I'll admit most of the time I don't, I don't know that I am thinking about myself or the place becoming something. But of course it is. We are, we are—and the world around us is—in a state of becoming.

Eric: And you know that by expanding time out a little bit, thinking about it at it at a different time scale.

[Frank’s music begins to play again—hip hop music with chanting layered over the beat and other instruments]

Daniel: Eric, thanks for talking today. It's been really, really fascinating.

Eric: Sure. Thanks, Daniel.

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park. With support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of Headwaters was made by me, Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist and Gaby Eseverri. We could not have made Season three without Lacy Kowalski or Melissa Sladek and Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, the Glacier National Park Archives, and the Montana Historical Society. Thanks for listening.

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters:

Gaby Eseverri: We imagine the past; our history of oil exploration.

[drumbeat begins]

Daniel: [in the field] The park has a real history with fossil fuel and extractive industry.

Student: So we’re kind of watching the destruction happen, in a way.

Daniel: [in the field] This is getting serious. [group laughing] Hopefully, I don’t know, I want to like build the excitement about an oil seep, but I don’t’ know if we’ll be able to see anything.

Student: That is really gross. [laughing]

[sound of wet pebbles and mud plopping onto the ground]

Student: Oooh!

Daniel: [in the field] Oh, look at that!

[music finishes]

Gaby: That’s next time, on Headwaters.

Consider this an extended warm up for season three of Headwaters. This episode includes two interviews about time, landscape, and history, that set the stage for the next nine to come.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

Episode 2

Becoming | Stained by History


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

[wolves howling]

Narrator: It’s the winter of 1902, and I’m cold and content. Each night seems to grow longer, and each storm brings more snow—a welcome break after a hot and sweaty summer. I usually have this place all to myself... [sparse and eerie music begins, with strings plucking] But not tonight. A flash of orange erupts from the valley below, a ball of fire and billowing black smoke—leaping flames joined by a chorus of shouting, desperate men. It all started a few years ago with the sound of footsteps in the valley below. Men sharing around a campfire the story of what brought them here: [crackling of a campfire] rumors of bears covered in petroleum. “If we can find where the bears wallowed,” they said, “we’ll be rich.” I’d never seen men like this before, and I’m not sure if they saw me. But they did find what they were looking for: black puddles seeping out from the rocks along the lake... Oil. [sounds of water lapping at a lakeshore]

Not long after came hooves: twenty horses loaded with clanking metal, and twenty men clamoring with excitement.

[men’s voices in the background] From my perch on the mountainside, I watched trees crash to the ground. I heard the thumps and scrapes of hammers and saws that built cabins, boats, and a small sawmill. The sizzling of a cookstove; grumbling about canned food. Noise was constant. [squeaking of a drill; men’s voices quietly in the background]

But the most frequent sounds were the hopeful conversations of men as they stood around a massive drill. Through the wind and snow, they looked to the ground—some dreaming of a better life, others of power and riches. [wind howls] Eventually, their drill reached a bubble of flammable gas that inflated their hope to new heights. Profitable oil cannot be much deeper, they thought.

[men’s voices; the roar and crackle of a fire] Tonight, in a flash of fire, the promising gas is accidentally ignited, and all their work burns. Their cabins, their tools, their dreams, glow red as they die.

[a driving drumbeat begins, adding to the music already playing[ I am Kintla Glacier, and I have watched over this valley for thousands of years. I grew to my largest in the 1800s, in an era of rainy summers and blizzard-rich winters. Those times are gone, but I am finding a new equilibrium at the dawn of the 20th century. I’m smaller, but stable. I could survive for centuries more… Unless something changes...

[drumbeat finishes suddenly; crackling of a fire slowly fades under Headwaters Season Three theme: Wild West, by Frank Waln, which begins with a haunting flute line]

Daniel Lombardi: [a drumbeat begins, and strings layer in with other instruments] Welcome to Headwaters, a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else. I'm Daniel. This is season three, and it's all about how this place became what it is today.

[theme song continues to play, then finishes]

Daniel: There's a thing that people say: “Oh, that's ancient history.” Meaning that because it's history, it can't be relevant anymore—that something buried in the past doesn't have the power to impact the present, let alone the future. But I don't buy that. History is the study of what happened in the past. But it's also a study of the present and how we got here. This episode is about the search for oil here around 1900. Before this place was known as Glacier. But this story is also about how the past in the future can get tangled up. The climate crisis has a history here. It goes back more than a century. The very first oil well in Montana was drilled in what is now the park.

Gaby Eseverri: It's a surprising story about the way history is always closer than we think. This season, we're looking at history from different angles. And before we turn back the clock, I want to start with the world today.

Daniel: This is Gaby. Gaby, you've been talking and interviewing young people all summer long.

Gaby: Yeah. To talk about climate change and to learn how they cope with it. And it varies. Some use poetry, some use humor. [footsteps walking on concrete] And a good place to start is a trip I took to Browning High School right outside of the park. I'm walking up to Browning High, and I'm wearing my favorite sweater vest, because I'm hoping it'll make the high schoolers that I'm about to talk to think I'm cool. It's this blue vest, and it's covered in geese, strutting and honking all over the place. [sound of a doorbell] I like to think that some of them are mid honk.

Employee, through an intercom: Pull on the door.

Gaby: [in the field] Thank you.

Student: Oh, my God. I love your sweater.

Gaby: [in the field] Thank you.

Gaby: My goose gamble paid off. I'm here to meet with the Rising Voices Poetry Club. I'm introduced by their librarian and advisor, Amy.

Amy Andreas: Guys, this is Gaby.

Gaby: And they introduce themselves to me.

[sparse music in the background, playing just a few haunting notes]

Amy: I'll just have you start and you guys go around and introduce yourselves.

Sovereign Smith: My name's Sovereign Smith.

Trysten Hannon: Trysten Hannon.

Emily Williams: Emily Williams.

Rebecca Edwards: Rebecca Edwards.

Emaeyah Bird: Emaeyah Bird.

Kiera Big Horn: Kiera Big Horn.

Lily Crawford: Lily Crawford.

Amy: My name is Amy Andreas, and I’ve graduated. [all laugh]

Gaby: We gather in this cozy little space called the coffee shop, which is the usual meeting place for the club.

Student: This room is the coffee shop.

Gaby: [in the field] Because there's coffee?

Student: Because there's coffee--

Student: We usually run a coffeeshop

Student: --sometimes, sometimes we sell. [all laughing]

Gaby: [in the field] Wait, wait. Can someone please read that?

Amy: Well, she wrote it. So I made her write it up there this morning cause I was like, I love this.

Rebecca: I had to write a small poem about a very minor incident that I still remember, for my English class.

Gaby: [in the field] What was the incident?

Rebecca: It-- [laughs] It's, it's called "Milk." I don't trust it. It's weird how it curdles How it's fine one day and spoiled the next The horrendous aroma emanating off the milk Burned my nostrils.

[the group chuckles]

[sparse music from before plays briefly]

Gaby: At the beginning of the episode, we imagined the past, our history of oil exploration, but these students are trying to imagine what that history means for their futures.

Student: I don't really like thinking about climate change too much. I start getting scared and then angry. And so I usually just like push it aside and I feel like, it's really unfair because we're so young.

Student: It's—it's just it's a lot of pressure for young people to take on.

[sparse music plays briefly]

Gaby: I reached out to Amy a few weeks ago to ask if any student would be interested in writing and sharing a poem with me. And I'm glad they agreed. Articulating our feelings about climate change is hard.

Student: It took me until, until I had, like, five days left to actually sit down and write it because I wasn't in the headspace until that day. Our society like, their past mistakes and just—”you're our future generation. You got to fix this when you're older,” like—[distressed noise]

[sparse music plays again]

Gaby: Surveys show that Glacier County, where these students live, ranks the highest in the state for concern about climate change. And you can hear that in their poems.

Lily: "Terminus" by Lily Crawford. Her air whispers of decay Melting the Arctic's frozen waters, breathing fumes Through branches traveling with every howling wind Increasing slowly Soon becoming Over time like dominoes slightly too far apart Just close enough to gently knock over the next Every crash gets closer and closer Then all at once Noticeable within one's own lifetime Things begin to shift

Gaby: [in the field] Lily, so what was that about?

Lily: The world is kind of dying, a little bit, and that makes me sad.

Daniel: Okay. Gaby.

Gaby: Daniel.

Daniel: We looked forward—you talked to young people about their futures. But now let's look backwards. How did we get here?

Gaby: Of course, the climate has changed naturally in the past, but today the biggest cause by far is burning fossil fuels like oil.

Daniel: Yeah, this is a good place to start. I think of Earth's atmosphere, it's like a blanket surrounding the planet. And when we burn fossil fuels, like oil, that releases greenhouse gases into the air, gases like carbon dioxide.

Gaby: And those gases trap heat.

Daniel: That's, I guess, why they call them greenhouse gases. They get added to the atmosphere and they make that blanket thicker and thicker, trapping more heat.

Gaby: And what's wild is that those gases stay in the atmosphere for a long time.

Daniel: Yeah, at least hundreds of years, sometimes as long as a thousand years. Anyway, the point being, history does not stay in the past. Digging up and burning fossil fuels here in Glacier, even way back in 1901, that has consequences today.

Gaby: And because greenhouse gases are still accumulating, there is even greater impact on young people and future generations. [swainson’s thrush calls] Let's see what more of this history we can find if we head into the park.

[swainson’s thrush singing repeatedly]

Daniel: [in the field] So this is my kind of list of things I want to talk to everyone about today, introduce myself, and then talk about the consequences and causes of climate change.

Gaby: We're here to meet students visiting through the University of Montana. They bring a group to visit Glacier every summer to learn about climate change.

[more birds singing]

Gaby: [in the field] Why that order?

Daniel: [in the field] I think I just want to get out of the way—the consequences, which are the things that I think everyone expects to talk about here, which is like melting glaciers and more wildfires.

Gaby: [in the field] Right. More fire, less ice.

Daniel: [in the field] Exactly. So we'll talk about that a little, but then I think the more interesting, bigger focus of today will be the causes of climate change.

Gaby: Usually these students would come here to see shrinking glaciers, a consequence. Which makes sense. Over the past 50 years or so, every glacier in the park has gotten smaller. But we have something different in store for them today.

[western tanager singing]

Instructor: Good morning. Welcome to day two of our trip to Glacier. And they are—Daniel's going to be taking a group around to look at some scenes and talk about an oil seep, and the connection between the petroleum industry and the park that's a little surprising.

Gaby: But before that, we're going to try to see one of the most famous glaciers in the park, Grinnell.

[bird songs fade out]

[sparse electronic music from earlier plays briefly]

Gaby: [in the field] To start off, can you tell me your name, age and what you're studying?

[outdoor sounds in the background; birds singing: yellow-rumped warbler singing, robin tutting]

Claire Ferguson: So my name's Claire Ferguson. I'm 20 and I'm studying history and then also environmental studies. You know, I've gotten to sit on rocks and look at the stars for hours, and, like, the only sound around me was wildlife. It was nature. And I feel guilty, you know, being able to have those experiences and appreciate nature. I feel guilty not doing enough. I feel guilty by not trying my hardest to save it.

Gaby: [in the field] So all that being said, how do you or do you think you contribute to climate change?

Claire: Honestly, I think it's almost impossible to not contribute to climate change in our society.

Gaby: [in the field] So do you feel like you're part of the solution?

Claire: I want to be able to say that I helped and that's why, like, like we have a future on this earth.

[yellow warbler singing; footsteps crunching on a trail]

Gaby: So we're hiking along the shore of Grinnell Lake, and I'm getting distracted trying to spot a yellow warbler that I can hear but can't see. [yellow warbler continues singing] But the students are looking for a very specific spot.

[bird songs and footsteps continue]

Student: One of these photos was taken in 1888. The other was taken in 1914. And they're both looking at Grinnell Glacier from this bend in the stream. And we're trying to repeat those photos.

Gaby: [in the field] But it's kind of hard to find.

Student: It is kind of hard to find. And that's what we're trying to do right now. And we're going to do some bushwhacking down the stream and hopefully get to the spot where those photos were taken. But a lot of the vegetation is different, so we're having a hard time finding it.

Gaby: [in the field] Yeah.

Gaby: We love repeat photos here. Basically they're before and after pictures of glaciers. The older historic photo shows what the glacier looked like back in the day, and then we take a new picture, perfectly lined up to match the old one. As a kid, I was obsessed with playing those “spot the difference” games in magazines at the doctor's office. This is kind of like that. Except I'm not left feeling the same pride for my attention to detail, because spotting the difference today is really easy.

[fox sparrow singing]

Student: Looking at Grinnell.

Daniel: Jack just--

Student: yeeted himself

Daniel: --yeeted himself into the willows.

Student: Yell every once in a while so we know you're alive.

[plants crunching and swishing past the microphone; birds continue to sing]

Gaby: [in the field] Because Jack just started walking into all these plants. Now we're kind of following him and we're bushwhacking a little bit. But there are like plants and shrubs as tall as me. I'm five four. Oop!

[splashing, birds singing]

Gaby: [in the field] Cool, we made it to a little clearing now.

Student: What do you see?

Gaby: [in the field] Oh, there it is.

Daniel: [in the field] A yellow warbler. You wanna look through the binos?

Student: Oh, sure. It's yellow?

Daniel: [in the field] Yes, right.

Student: Oh, geez! There it goes. Now he's in the back one.

Daniel: [in the field] This is, that's what-- That's it. Singing right there. They say it's “sweet, sweet, sweet. I'm so sweet.”

Gaby: Someone needs to cross the stream to get the exact right spot for the photo and Jack, the cool guy of the group, is quick to volunteer.

[sounds of running watter]

Daniel: [in the field] Jack is taking off his clothes, this is getting serious. He popped his shirt, I think somewhat unnecessarily.

Gaby: [in the field] He's perfectly dry.

Daniel: [in the field] The water is up to his knees.

[all laughing]

Gaby: Most people take off their shoes and socks to get into a stream. Jack also took off his shirt for good measure. So he has a camera in one hand and a laminated copy of an old photo in the other. He closes one eye and holds up the photo, trying to line it up just right. He has that look on his face of, yeah, I'm making this look easy, but it's harder than it seems. To his credit, it's harder than it seems because what's in frame today is so different. It takes him a while, but he does it and eventually wades back to shore to show us what he got.

[birds continue to sing]

Gaby: [in the field] Okay, Jack's coming back.

Daniel: [in the field] Okay, let's debrief. Jack, show us the photo. And what do you think? How'd it go?

Jack: It went well. It was pretty hard because, like, the flow of the river has definitely changed. Looks like it's widened a little bit. More trees, there's taller trees that were kind of blocking the view, so it was hard to get the exact angle, but...

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah, commitment. Like, we wouldn't have got even anything, and you got wet, got in the water.

Student: MVP for the day!

Jack: Definitely worth it.

Daniel: [in the field] It kind of got lost in, like, looking for the photo and everything. But like, the huge thing is that you used to be able to see a massive glacier right above those waterfalls.

Gaby: That massive glacier you could see in the old photo was Grinnell Glacier. And today...

Daniel: [in the field] Now you can't see the glacier at all. It's back tucked under the mountain, and away out of our view. You can see the glacier was massive. It went up hundreds of feet. [pensive, wistful music begins to play] And now that's just bare rock. And so then this is we call this now the Salamander or Salamander Glacier.

Gaby: You can still see some ice, but Grinnell Glacier itself is completely out of frame. Headlines are one thing, but moments like this make them feel real.

Sylvia Blodorn: Yes. My name's Sylvia Blodorn. I'm 18. It's a sad thing to look at because the thing with the receding glaciers is that, like, I'm not going to be able to see what people saw 100 years ago, and my kids aren't going to be able to see what I'm seeing and like, you know, on and on. So we're kind of watching the destruction happen in a way, and it's hard, but it's also necessary.

Gaby: The story of melting glaciers is a pretty common one, but we're really here for another reason. To look for a cause of climate change. Oil.

[music fades out]

Daniel: [in the field] You know, bears have very powerful noses. They're very good at smelling things. They love smelly stuff. There are early stories from before Glacier was established of bears sniffing out muck and rolling in it and the people following these stinky, messy, dirty bears and realizing that they were covered in oil. These traders, they're trading furs and pelts and animal skins, and they're coming across these bear pelts—they smell like gas or kerosene or oil. So early people looking to make it rich start following these bears and the bears end up leading them to oil seeps inside what is now Glacier National Park.

Gaby: I picture the scene in my head, and I imagine little cartoon men in old timey clothes running around looking for oil. And as soon as they smell the bear pelts, their eyes change to big green dollar signs. [cha-ching sound] And when the bear leads them to the oil seep, the dollar signs in their eyes are replaced by even bigger ones.

[bigger, louder cha-ching sound]

Daniel: [in the field] The very first oil well in Montana was drilled in the north fork of the park at the head of Kinta Lake, right below Kintla Glacier, by a company called the Butte Oil Company.

[birds singing]

Gaby: The Butte Oil Company began drilling at Kintla in 1901. The company's six employees put up an 80-foot derrick at the head of the lake. Their expenses were high and production was slow and money was running out.

Daniel: Ultimately, oil extraction was never profitable in Glacier, and the Kintla effort went up in smoke after just a few years. But despite the dangerous nature of this product, the world was going crazy for this new goo. There were even pop songs about it, like the "Oil Fever Gallop."

[hip hop beat begins]

Gaby: It's not really the kind of business a family might start to serve a small town—not then and not now. It required a lot of capital to get started. Before failing, the oil well at Kintla Lake sucked up $40,000, about 1.4 million today, adjusted for inflation.

Daniel: Instead, oil had the appeal of a slot machine. It was the kind of thing that can make anyone filthy rich overnight. It just required enough cash to drop into the slot, enough work to pull the lever, and enough luck to hit the jackpot.

[beat finishes playing]

Gaby: The first gusher that inspired the country's oil fever was tapped in 1861 in Pennsylvania. That well gushed 3000 barrels per day.

Daniel: And like the one at Kintla Lake decades later, when the oil from that well shot into the air, something ignited the escaping gases, setting off an explosion that killed 19 people and blazed on for three days.

Gaby: And just as the oil fever broke at Kintla Lake, it spread to Many Glacier. Then on to Waterton Lakes National Park. [footsteps begin] Now we're following Daniel around Many Glacier because he thinks he can lead us to a place where oil is seeping out of the ground.

[song sparrow singing]

Daniel: [in the field] Um, so I have a cool photo, but... You can see Grinnell Glacier right there in the background with the Salamander Glacier above it. That's an oil well right in the center of the photo. And then you have—s So you have the causes of climate change, and then what would become the consequences in the background, the... Grinnell Glacier.

[yellow warblers and other birds singing; running water in the background]

Gaby: But what isn't pictured is the carbon dioxide that was being released and building up in the atmosphere.

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah, I didn't. I don't know. I wanted to like I want to build the excitement about an oil seep, but I also don't know if I'll be able to see anything.

Student: You're going to disappoint us. [everyone laughing]

Student: So do you have coordinates for it? Do you have, like, a general idea of where it is?

Gaby:I have three things on my to-do list for the day. Find a melting glacier, check. Find a yellow warbler, check. Find oil, working on it.

Daniel: [in the field, with footsteps in the background] Someone sent me a picture of a map, but it's also not like, like a spring of oil, like spouting out of the rocks. It's more like a general area where oil kind of oozes up through the gravel.

[running water]

Student: Yeah.

Daniel: [in the field] So the oil seep is like along the creek, kind of on the bank.

Gaby: So we aren't lost, but we don't know exactly where we're going. Not lost. Just wandering. I've seen that on a T-shirt. The plan is to show the students a raw source material for climate change: oil. But it's proving to be a bit more of a challenge than we thought for two reasons.: it's hard to look for something you haven't seen before, and even more so when that thing is underground.

Daniel: [in the field] I don't think this is the trail I've been on. [group laughing] Oh, there it is. Yeah.

[bushwacking sounds and rustling]

Daniel: [in the field] You think it's right here?

Gaby: [in the field] Well, I see just a little. A little path.

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah.

Gaby: [in the field] Okay. It looks like it could be here.

Gaby: It took us kind of a while to find the right spot.

Daniel: [in the field] Unless there's another spot like this, like, right up there, then I think we've got to it. Okay, everyone. Time to dig for oil.

Gaby: [in the field] We have no shovels. So.

[sound of a boot kicking at pebbles and sand]

Gaby: [in the field] What about like a little higher up here?

Daniel: [in the field] Well, Gaby, that's easy for you to say because you're not the one digging.

Gaby: [in the field] Someone has to record!

Gaby: They start to get hopeful, but strike water again and again. My job, though, is to fill in the holes, to leave no trace. A job I'm good at because my big boots keep doing it on accident.

Daniel: [in the field] It was like... Gaby! You just filled in our hole!

Gaby: But the students stay motivated to uncover what could be.

[more sounds of digging]

Daniel: [in the field] You should have been an oil tycoon, Hallie.

Daniel: [in the field] Still digging.

Gaby: [in the field] Still digging.

Student: She's just money hungry.

Student: I'm gonna strike it rich.

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah, waiting for the oil to like spurt up. [everyone laughing]

Student: That's the goal. If it doesn't, I'm going to leave here disappointed.

Gaby: I am just about ready to give up when it finally happens. Hallie's eyes turn into huge green dollar signs.

[cha-ching sound]

Gaby: [in the field] Oh, wait. Keep going.

[sounds of digging; water and pebbles]

Daniel: [in the field] Oh, look at that. Now let's look at this rock. I mean, it looks like it's covered in black oil, but. Oh, my God. Look.

Student: Oh, interesting.

Daniel: [in the field] On my finger you can tell it's oil. Wow. Oh, when it's on your hands, that's when you can really tell. It looks like motor oil. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Look at it on your finger. I feel like I gotta taste it.

Student: That's a good idea.

Daniel: [in the field] It doesn't really taste like anything, it just tastes like a rock.

Student: It's like kind of the sliminess you would expect from touching algae slightly. But it's not algae. It's just like, yeah, you can see the sheen on the surface of the water now. I'm just gonna try and grab a few more rocks.

Gaby: [in the field] You want to touch that?

Student: [in the field] Oh, my God.

[outdoor sounds fade out; pensive notes that we’ve heard before play briefly]

Koby Ben-Ezra: My name is Koby Ben-Ezra. My age is 21. I'm studying philosophy and environmental studies at UW Madison.

Gaby: [in the field] You think you contribute to climate change?

Koby: Yes, I do.

Gaby: [in the field] How does that feel?

Koby: It kind of feels, um. It kind of feels annoying, I think, because personally, I know that I care about the environment. I know that I try as much as I can to help rejuvenate the environment. And I know I have that, like, ethical feeling towards the environment, but but yet I can't really shift myself in a lot of ways. So I kind of would describe the relationship as annoying, kind of frustrating.

[same pensive notes play, marking the transition back to the field]

Student: Oh, my God. That is really gross. [aughing] You're right. It doesn't feel like algae. And then, like, when you spread it, it just turns your fingers bright orange.

Gaby: [in the field] Yeah, look at that. So what were you all picturing when we said oil seep?

Student: Yeah. I feel like it's easy to take for granted with how many oil sites around the world we've already figured out are easy to extract, like, oh, there's just some places that have oil. But it does make you think like how much work goes into looking for places and how much work is like goes into seeing if things are even profitable. And that there's a lot of things in between, like no oil and profitable oil. Sometimes it's just like slimy water in the ground.

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah, that's a good point.

Student: I don't think—I can't say I've ever felt oil before so.

Student: Well now you have.

Student: Now I have.

Daniel: [in the field] And this make sense, right? Like this is why it was never profitable. Just because there's not, like, oil gushing out of the earth here. It's it's very low concentrations.

[haunting violin music begins to play briefly]

Gaby: The oil may be diluted and buried under the earth, but this history and its consequences are concentrated and on the surface. The stains left on fingers will wash away. But the stains of this history won't.

Daniel: [in the field] So the park has a real history with fossil fuel and extractive industry, also logging and mining and of course fur trapping. [birds singing] People have been trying to extract wealth out of this place for a long time. And most of it didn't work. There wasn't really good enough oil or gas to make profit. In the end, the thing that turned out to be most profitable was tourism and the Great Northern Railway really saw that and was able to capture that.

Student: Well, yeah, it makes you think like what this place might look like if they were able to extract money from oil here. Especially I'm from Bakersfield, where there's a huge, huge oil industry and the entire city is just covered in oil rigs. And it's one of our most beautiful hikes, and if you search up hikes in Bakersfield is Panorama Park, and it's an overlook of an oil field. And it's, it's pretty—it's pretty gross looking, and we have a lot of problems there with air pollution and water pollution, so it makes it hard to live there. So I'm glad that this place got that we weren't able to make money from oil here.

[violin music picks up again, with additional instruments slowly layering in]

Gaby: Daniel and I say bye to the students and the one oil tycoon and start heading home. As we drive out of Many Glacier. I look in the side view mirror to see this valley fade into the distance, and something catches my eye. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. I've seen this helpful reminder a thousand times, but today it takes on a deeper meaning. All of us depend on fossil fuels in so many ways, and yet this is a crisis set in motion over 150 years ago. Sometimes history and historical moments can feel so distant, but this doesn't feel so far away. These choices made 150 years ago—they are closer than they appear.

Emily Williams: “An Age” by Emily Williams From Ice Age to Stone Age to industrial to digital to none A change of times Chemicals Atmospheres Fumes Seeming to carry a whittler’s tune Wood Water Oil Coal Stone Clock Stop Stop for a minute and look A whittler can't replace what has been took But they don't seem to write that in your book All that's left is discarded pieces

But unlike the whittler’s disarray Similar to the potter's clay Of pieces new we form Something of a new time A society on the brink of change Generations willing to right ways To handle and shape this lump of clay To mold an idea of endurance and change With gentle hands adapt we must As we lay here on this cusp To try once more In this new age

[many fingers snap]

[music continues to play under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park, with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of Headwaters was made by me Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist, and Gaby Eseverri. Frank Waln wrote and performed our music and Eric Carlson created this season's cover art. Special thanks this episode to the instructors and all their students. Jim Elser with the Flathead Biological Station. Dalton, Sylvia, Jack, Hallie. Megan, you're awesome. Mark Hansen with the Wild Rockies Field Institute and all your students. You really got me thinking. Koby. Kaylie. Claire. Margaret. Julia. Delaney. Catalina. Katherine. Serendipity. Lily. Also awesome. And of course, big thank you to Amy Andreas with the Rising Voices Poetry Club at Browning High, Kiera, Emaeyah, Lily, Vita, Rebecca, Trysten Sovereign, Emily.

Gaby: Thanks for sharing your coffee shop and good vibes.

Daniel: Thanks for listening.

[a hip hop beat plays]

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.

Gaby: We travel back in time, over 12,000 years to discover a frozen world full of surprises.

Justin Radford: I think the Missoula floods are nearly incomprehensible in today's society.

Shayne Tolman: A living, breathing mammoth, not the bones, the dead part. You're looking at your living behavior.

Shane Doyle: Think about how they must have been comparing their lives to other species. Must have made those people feel like they were on the edge of tomorrow.

Gaby: That's next time on Headwaters.

Gaby: [to Andrew] Hey, Andrew.

Andrew Smith: Hey Gaby.

Gaby: [to Andrew] So Headwaters is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Yes. What else do you guys support?

Andrew: Another project that we support in the park is HawkWatch. And I heard that you got to be involved with HawkWatch this year. What was that like?

Gaby: [to Andrew] It was amazing. It was amazing. We saw so many golden eagles. I was up there for two days, and it was a really beautiful experience.

Andrew: Yeah so HawkWatch is a raptor monitoring program where park biologists and volunteers, they go out and they count how many birds and what species are migrating through the park. And they're collecting some really amazing data that's helping us understand what's happening with birds in this region.

Gaby: [to Andrew] Absolutely. It's so important.

Andrew: Yeah. So thank you for being involved and we're excited to keep HawkWatch going.

Gaby: [to Andrew] So if people want to learn more about Hawk Watch and other projects at the Glacier National Park Conservancy supports, where can they go?

Andrew: Yeah, they should check out our website, visit Glacier.org

Glacier has a history of oil extraction. We travel to Many Glacier to see the consequences, and the causes of climate change. Along the way we talk to young people about how it feels to live with the weight of history.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

Rising Voices Poetry Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast

Episode 3

Becoming | Unfrozen


[low rumble begins]

Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Boat Captain: [over a loudspeaker] All right. My special for your time. We're going to get boarding here very shortly.

Peri Sasnett: Glacier National Park as we know it wouldn't exist if it weren't for Ice Age glaciers.

Boat Captain: Well, please no bear spray, too. We do not want to have a spicy tour...

Peri: As a geologist whose mom is in town, I want to show off what the Ice Age left behind. And one of the best views of that happens to be from the middle of Lake McDonald.

Roz Gerstein: It looks like a flat bottomed boat, doesn't it?

Peri: [in the field] I'm not a nautical expert. Just guessing...

Roz: But -- we can ask our boat guide.

Peri: So we're going on a boat tour

[bell ringing]

Peri: I was excited to tell my mom all about the geology.

Peri: [in the field] This valley is carved out by glaciers. You'll see from the middle of the lake there's a big U-shape, which is how you know it was carved by a glacier.

Peri: But as an artist, she was a bit more focused on the scenic qualities.

Roz: Very sensual.

Peri: [in the field] Sure. That's how the artist sees it.

Peri: The boat we're on is called the DeSmet, and it's one of six historic boats that offer tours throughout the park.

Boat Captain: It was built in the year 1930, and it was built specifically for boat tours on Lake McDonald.

Peri: It may be an old boat, but it moves pretty quick.

Peri: [in the field] Do you get seasick?

Roz: I'm surprised actually, that I'm not seasick.

Peri: [in the field I was going to say, I remember one incident when you took me whale watching me as a child. [both laughing]

Roz: Yeah I didn't enjoy that ride too much

Peri: Within about 30 minutes, we reached the middle of the lake and the captain slowly turned the boat around to face mountains I've seen a lot, but never from this perspective.

Peri: [in the field] So you look behind you. What can you see?

Roz: That is spectacular. The change of the colors as it goes back from gray to deep blue to light blue to green is just wonderful.

[a slow hip hop beat with ambient music begins to play]

Peri: Over a thousand feet of ice once filled this valley. And while that ice is long gone, we have it to thank for this landscape that we all know and love. Ice Age glaciers carved our postcard worthy-scenery, and our roads and trails follow the paths they cleared. But while I spend a lot of time thinking about how this landscape came to be, I'd never really imagined what it would have been like to be here while this was happening. [music ends]For thousands of years, there wouldn't have been much land to walk on. Everything was covered in glaciers, but there was a world at the edge of that ice. [pensive music begins to play] Animals and people who lived just beyond. [Headwaters season 3 theme begins to play] What was this place like during the last Ice Age?

[Headwaters season 3 theme plays, with the strumming of a string instrument, a flute, and drumbeats]

Daniel Lombardi: There are no photographs of most people who have ever lived. So many people from history are invisible today. Like a melted glacier or a footprint in the mud. Some stories can only be inferred from the impressions they leave behind. Welcome to Headwaters, a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else. I'm Daniel, and this is Season Three. It's about how this place became what it is today. Not a comprehensive history, but a collection of stories from the park's past. This episode is about the Ice Age, a time when this place was filled with thousands of feet of ice. It was a consequential time in the park's geologic history. But this episode is also about the search for life and understanding in a world we'll never see. And because the park was so covered in glaciers, we walked this story out to the edge of the ice and tracked down the history beyond the borders of the park. [hip hop beat plays briefly]

Daniel: [to Michael and Peri] So for starters, Michael, Peri-- help me out here. Can you describe what an ice age actually is?

Michael Faist: That is it a great question

Peri: Yeah so an ice age is just a particularly cold period in earth history. The most recent one was basically caused by wobbles in the Earth's orbit and in the Earth's axis that changed the angle of how the sun is hitting the planet.

Michael: Basically, we get less solar radiation. The result is that global average temperatures during the last ice age were around ten degrees Fahrenheit, colder than they are today, which doesn't sound like a ton. But this allowed glaciers and ice sheets to cover nearly all of Canada and a third of Montana, including the park.

Daniel: [to Michael and Peri] Okay, so when when was this? How long ago did this happen?

Peri: So there have been several ice ages, but the Pleistocene, which is the most recent, goes from about two and a half million years ago to about 12,000 years ago.

Daniel: [to Michael and Peri] Okay. So the Earth wasn't just a solid ball of ice for 2 million years. The ice is advancing and retreating.

Peri: Right. There's these glacial periods and then these warmer interglacial periods.

Michael: Yeah. So as we set out to try to understand what Glacier, what this place might have looked like during the Ice Age, we had to pick a specific point in time. So we zoomed in on one that Peri suggested called the Last Glacial Maximum.

Peri: Yeah. So that's basically the most recent point in time where those big ice sheets stopped growing and started shrinking. It's about 20,000 years ago, at least in this location. And at that point, there was so much water frozen on land that sea level was about 400 feet lower than it is today.

Michael: But to understand what happened next, let's zip on over to a tiny state park in Oregon.

Daniel: Oregon? Really?

Michael: Peri, if I had to ask you what the most abundant type of rock found in Glacier is, what would you say?

Peri: Hmm? Argillite, I think. Yes. Yeah. It's found throughout the park. There are bright red and green colors that are pretty distinctive. And around here, it's in a rock formation called the Belt Supergroup.

Michael: Yeah. The Belt Supergroup is found all over the Northern Rockies, but it's not found in Oregon. And yet, perched on a hill above the Willamette Valley of Northwest Oregon is a boulder made of Belt Supergroup Argillite.

Daniel: So how did it get there?

Michael: Well, it weighs 90 tons and probably used to weigh about twice that or almost as much as a Boeing 747 before people chipped away pieces to take home with them. But the story of how it got there is the story of one of the greatest natural disasters to have ever occurred in North America. The story of Glacial Lake Missoula.

Justin Radford: [over the phone] Yeah, I think the Missoula floods are something that are nearly incomprehensible in today's society.

Michael: This is Justin Radford

Justin: I'm the program manager for Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

Michael: Justin is the first and only full time employee of the first and only National Geologic Trail in the Park Service.

Justin: The trail covers about 3400 road miles. It's a massive area, and there are people and educators and partners all along this route.

Michael: So those massive sheets of ice that Peri mentioned, which covered most of Canada and the northern part of the U.S.—well, the ice age is ending. Those are melting, which produces a lot of water. All that water needed to go somewhere. And if we use the ice here as an example, water melting from the Ice Age glacier in what's now Lake McDonald would have been headed for the Pacific, flowing through the Flathead Valley, then west through Idaho, Washington and Oregon before making it to the ocean.

Peri: But at the end of the ice age, water couldn't make it to the coast. It couldn't even get past Idaho, and was instead stopped near modern day Lake Pend Oreille.

Michael: Lake Pend Oreille is an amazing visitor experience, a great place to go and hang out. But if you picture it with 2000 feet of ice on top of it, well, it created a huge blockage there.

Peri: An arm of the continental ice sheet had created a dam blocking the only way out for water in northwest Montana, essentially plugging the bathtub drain that was the Clark Fork River.

Justin: And all the water backing up down behind them was just massive in scale. We're talking about something in the neighborhood of 600 cubic miles of water.

Michael: This ice dam was holding back the volume of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined, creating what was called Glacial Lake Missoula. Water backed up throughout northwest Montana and extended nearly 200 miles to the east. And it wasn't the only lake of its kind.

Peri: There were at least six others like it in Montana. But Glacial Lake Missoula was the largest one in the West, and you can still see signs of its presence across the state today, including its old shorelines.

Justin: And it just so happens that this lake was gigantic and goes all the way up the sides of the mountains there. And so you can see these big ridge line bumps.

Michael: [to Justin] Essentially like that was at one point was the lake shore.

Justin: Yes, exactly.

Peri: You can drive to these old lake shores, called strandlines, at the Bison Range on the Flathead Reservation and see them like bathtub rings on mountains around the city of Missoula.

Michael: These clues help us measure the depth of the lake. Just south of us, on the Flathead Reservation, it was over a thousand feet deep—you could've submerged the Eiffel Tower. The ice dam was even taller and it extended for at least ten miles. [dramatic, sparse electric guitar begins to play] But as more and more meltwater entered the lake, well....

Justin: At some point the water wins, and the ice just can't hold it back anymore.

[loud rumbling]

Michael: We're not totally sure how it happened. Might have been like trying to hold your hand over a fire hose, but the dam failed and this kicked off the ice age floods.

Justin: Over a period of maybe as quick as two days, all of this water has left this area and started moving its way into Washington.

Peri: Water began charging westward at a flow rate ten times that of all the world's rivers combined. The scale is almost incomprehensible.

Justin: And a wall of water traveling at 55, 65 miles an hour, at restrictions, a thousand feet high, scouring the landscape.

[electric guitar resumes playing]

Peri: And this violent, earth-shaping flood happened multiple times.

Justin: It didn't just do it once—it formed this lake maybe as many as 100 times, geologists think over a period of about 2500 years, maybe 3000 years.

Peri: After one flood forced its way through, the ice that formed the dam would reform, repeatedly plugging that drain, essentially, and starting the process all over again.

Michael: This landscape is now called the Channeled Scablands. Floodwaters taller than the Golden Gate Bridge, traveling at 50 miles an hour. Like a massive, violent bulldozer, the floods scoured away everything in their path, scraping away 50 cubic miles of earth, which is enough dirt that if you spread it out, it could cover the entire state of Texas in nearly a foot of dirt.

Peri: And not all of that material made it to the ocean. At some points, like in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the water slowed down and debris would settle out.

Justin: Well, that's what people say. Oh, well, that's why you have great wine, great vegetables and great growing that comes from the Willamette Valley because it's got all the deposits from the floods.

Michael: [to Justin] That's so funny. People complained about Montana wine not being great because of the weather conditions, but it's parts of Montana in the Willamette Valley that make it good.

Justin: Oh, definitely. Yeah.

Michael: Which brings us back to our boulder in Oregon, which was carried there in the floods, probably encased in glacial ice. Roughly two weeks after the floods began, all of the water would have made it to the ocean near present day Astoria, leaving behind a changed landscape.

Peri: Ultimately, though, the Ice Age was ending. And the dam that created Glacial Lake Missoula disappeared, ending the era of catastrophic floods.

Michael: These floods represent just how dramatically the world was changing. The world was warming up, and landscapes like Glacier were revealed as this icy blanket receded. But the story of these floods is not one we've understood for very long.

Peri: Fast forward to just 100 years ago, and these same floods would become the subject of one of the greatest geologic controversies of its day, in part because the dominant theory of geology at the time was gradualism, that landscapes formed incredibly slowly over millions of years.

Justin: So many geologists believe that things happened gradually over time. There are some national parks out there that are great examples of this. And, you know, like at the Grand Canyon in that over millions of years story about it carving its way down and you have this sort of gradual recession through the layers.

Michael: But that didn't explain the landscape of eastern Washington.

Justin: These canyon walls were all vertical, and the streams and rivers that were running through them were teeny—small. Really no logical way that that river could have formed that kind of canyon.

Michael: What could explain it, thought a young geologist named J Harlen Bretz, was a massive flood.

Michael: [to Justin] And that wasn't the accepted explanation for why Eastern Washington looked the way it did. Like how...

Justin: No, no.

Michael: [to Justin] How was that hypothesis received?

Justin: Well, by the geologic community, not so well.

Michael: A lot of geology involves essentially resurrecting the past based on what's left behind, or in many cases, based on what's missing. And we knew at the time that this park was home to Ice Age glaciers because of our U-shaped valleys. But for geologists at the time, Bretz's flood hypothesis was a bridge too far. When Bretz first published his idea in 1923, he was widely ridiculed by his peers. One of his most vocal critics was William C. Alden, a guy I've actually heard of before, because he took some of the earliest photos of alpine glaciers here in the park. Alden was the chief of Pleistocene geology for the U.S. Geological Survey at the time, and he, like many others, couldn't imagine conditions that would send this much water across the Northwest. He declared the floods impossible, even though he himself had never been to the Scablands. But Bretz was right. In time, and with more evidence, the scientific community accepted the theory.

Peri: It only took several decades.

Michael: [laughing] Yeah, this wasn't until, you know, the 70s that we'd worked out that Glacial Lake Missoula was the source of more than one flood, and Bretz was awarded the Penrose medal, kind of geology's highest honor. But they never convinced everyone. Alden, Bretz's vocal opponent, denied the floods until his dying day.

[pensive music plays briefly]

Michael: [to Justin] We've kind of been looking to this story as a case study of how we interpret the unknown. I'm wondering, you know, what do you. Is there a lesson we can learn from the story of Ice Age floods, about trying to understand Earth history or human history where we don't quite have all the pieces?

Justin: Well, I, I think that, you know, when we bump into these kinds of moments where we're trying to understand the world, and we don't have good answers, we tend to fall back on what we know and we're hesitant to be willing to hear from others about what they might see out there.

[spare, thoughtful electronic music plays]

Peri: To me, Justin is describing a failure of imagination and of creativity, a struggle to picture a world that looks different than our own. We can see the empty space left behind. We know something was there, but it's hard to imagine what filled it.

[music ends]

Michael: The floods help us to understand the geologic history of the Ice Age, the physical world of ice and water, whose presence carved clues you can easily see today. What is much harder to find, though, is evidence of the living world from that time. Some of the best clues are found along the St Mary River, but not where it begins on the east side of our national park. We'll need to follow it as it flows north into Canada. The rest of the team was busy the day that I went, so I had to call in some backup.

Michael: [to Andrew] It's nice to have you back in the studio.

Andrew Smith: Thanks. Nice to be here.

Michael: I called Andrew, co-host of the first two seasons of Headwaters, who has a new job.

Andrew: I'm the new communications lead for the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Michael: We hopped in the car and followed the river, driving north to Alberta and the present day Saint Mary Reservoir.

Andrew: [in the field] Now we're standing out on this sandy beach—it's not something you would really expect in southern Alberta. Yeah, it feels like we're in Hawaii or something.

Andrew: [in studio] The reservoir was huge. It kind of reminded me of standing on the shores of one of the Great Lakes. It went out to the horizon. It was definitely bigger than I was expecting.

Andrew: [in the field] Stretches out as far as you can see, basically, with the Rocky Mountains behind it.

Michael: We stopped at a place called Wally's Beach to meet with Shayne Tolman.

Shayne Tolman: I'm Shayne Tolman. I'm a local...

Michael: A now-retired schoolteacher who warned us it was going to be windy.

Andrew: [in the field] It was a lot windier over the other side of the dunes

Shayne: Yeah, kind of what I was thinking when I...

Andrew: [in the field] Could maybe move back

Michael: We walked away from the lake shore to try to hide from the wind. But we wanted to meet with Shayne to talk about something that he found in the reservoir when it wasn't full of water.

Shayne: Sometimes there's a big drawdown, so a lot of lake bed gets exposed.

Michael: But before we could really hear what he was saying, we were buzzed by a crop dusting plane.

Shayne: [loud buzzing overhead] Airplane flying over. Oh, my gosh he's spraying that field right there. Oh, that could be annoying. Can you block that kind of noise?

Michael: No, uh, we couldn't. And so we had to go hide in a picnic shelter. But anyways, the reason we wanted to talk to Shane was that back in 1994, he and his family visited when the water in the reservoir had been drawn down.

Andrew: And when they walked out into the wet mud and windblown sand, a landscape that's normally underwater, they found themselves walking backwards in time.

[electronic music begins to play, underscoring a sense of wonder]

Shayne: We had been out the previous day, that has blown a lot overnight and we came back the next day and right where we walked is this humongous skull. But it's an extinct bison skull.

Andrew: Bison antiquus, the extinct ancestors of modern bison, who just so happened to be one and a half times bigger than the bison you see in Yellowstone.

Shayne: And the horns on are incredible. Just like that.

Michael: Shayne showed us a side by side comparison, and Bison antiquus's horns are absolutely enormous. Looks more like a Texas Longhorns.

Shayne: It does, doesn't it? Yeah. They're really impressive animals.

Michael: And for Shayne, this discovery touched on a lifelong fascination.

Shayne: My dad was a science teacher, so he actually had fossils in the lab. And they were just so captivating to me, to see that their little eyes are fossilized. And here they are staring back at you. It's kind of this—time gets erased as you encounter these things, and that's always stayed with me.

Michael: Shortly after Shayne stumbled into this bison skull and quite a few other things that we will get to in a moment, he started getting phone calls from the University of Calgary. They had heard about his discoveries and sent Dr. Len Hills down to meet with him.

Shayne: First thing I said to him was, “I would like to study this stuff, how can I be involved?” And he says, “well, you could enroll as a student at the University of Calgary and I'll be your supervisor.” Great, let's do it. I enrolled in the Master's program and became one of four principal investigators of the Wally's Beach site

Andrew: As Shane and his colleagues started to study Wally's Beach, they began to reconstruct what it would have looked like.

Shayne: It was not the river that we see that's cut down to where it is now in these river valleys. It was a slow, meandering river.

Michael: In the banks of this ancient winding river, they found pollen and roots which can help us understand the Ice Age ecosystem.

Shayne: We had spruce tree groves growing out here all over the prairies, as well as aspen groves. Then you had sedges and grasses that were growing in between. There was abundant plant life.

Michael: And of course they found more evidence of animals that lived alongside bison antiquus.

Shayne: We get out there, here's this skull and there's some actually some vertebrae laying there as well. And Len picks this skull up and he's turning it over. He says, “this is musk oxen.” And I'm just like, "musk oxen??" and I didn't even know they were part of this extinct suite of animals that died off at the end of the Ice Age, he says yes, it's musk oxen.

Andrew: They found a ton of extinct species, an ancestor of modern caribou, North American horses, even camels.

Michael: The camel discovery in particular, blew my mind. We think of camels as being these desert loving animals today, but the family of Camelids and the family of horses both evolved in the Americas around 50 million years ago before migrating to Eurasia. The camels that lived here were called camelops.

Andrew: And Shayne found a tooth about as long as my index finger and that tooth was serrated.

Shayne: Well, there are no animals alive today that have serrated teeth. And so I knew immediately we had a saber-toothed cat. In fact, that's not just a saber-toothed cat, it's called a scimitar cat.

Michael: So already you're getting a picture of the wildlife who were living at the edge of the Rockies, at the edge of Glacier National Park during the Ice Age.

Andrew: And it's a much different cast of characters than the grizzly bears, mountain goats and deer that we all know and love today.

Michael: But for Shayne, it wasn't bones that helped to bring Wally's Beach to life.

Shayne: And I can't even describe what I saw. It's just it's almost emotional because here's this big imprint, little smaller than garbage can...

Michael: He found footprints, left by woolly mammoths.

[sparse music begins to play softly]

Shayne: And there's another one and there's another one. Here's all of these cracks that went out from the in this spider web, out from the tracks. You could see how it stepped in the mud and it oozed up around its toes. And it's just like, okay, here's the best set of mammoth tracks on the planet. Bar none. I mean, there's only, like, four sets anyway. So it really hit us just how incredible this was.

Michael: Unlike fossils, which capture animals after they die, these footprints are a snapshot of their lives.

Shayne: Living, breathing, mammoth. Not the bones. The dead part. You're looking at living behavior. And that's so cool.

Michael: With each stride, they traveled on average eight and a half feet, and the weight of each step can reveal if it was left by a male or a female, a child or adult. And the way these six ton mammals walked can even reveal if they were injured.

Shayne: Take the cross section and you get to see the weight distribution from this angle. This animal on its I think it was just left hind foot was limping. You can see that the deformation on this side of track is less than on the other side of track. So it means that there was some injury or something.

Michael: [to Shayne] And how old is that track?

Shayne: That track would be about 13,000 years old.

Michael: And it's not just mammoth tracks, either.

Shayne: Here's the mammoth tracks. But not just Mammoth. Here's a camel trackway going through the middle of these crossing over. And here's some more horse tracks over here. And what we're looking at probably looking very much like the Serengeti, because you had all those animals intermingling and here they are moving in these vast herds and individuals that we have tens of thousands of tracks that we have observed at Wally's Beach.

Michael: It is rare for ancient footprints like these to survive. You not only need wet mud for the footprints to form, but then a strong wind to blow sand and sediment on top, filling them in and sealing them away for thousands of years.

Andrew: But today, the same winds that once preserved these footprints are now destroying them. The same wind that pushed us into a picnic shelter has blown tracks away overnight. Carried away grain by grain—a memory lost forever.

Michael: And because of where they sit in the reservoir, there's nothing you can really do to save them at this point. If they're not claimed by the wind, once they're exposed, they'll be destroyed by water when the reservoir is filled back in. All that's left is to try to document them. And efforts have ranged from photographs and measurements to teams of local students and a thousand pounds of plaster casts. [pensive music begins to play] But however fleeting they may be, this glimpse of these animals alive, living alongside one another, not in the halls of a natural history museum, but drinking from the river that I see now in the distance—you can't help but picture it. And for Shayne, imagine yourself there, following in their footsteps.

Shayne: I hope this doesn't sound too corny, but here's how I kind of pictured it. [music builds slowly] I stared at the footprints disappearing into the swirling sand to the east, and time blew away with the wind. I had a vision. It didn't take much to imagine the giant lumbering away through the mud, disappearing into the sand cloud from what was likely a watering hole. [rumbling sound, evoking a woolly mammoth] And close, so close I could hear the swooshing suck of mammoth foot in paleo-mud; see his breath dissipate against the cold ashen sky of early winter. Taste this pungent odor in the roof of my mouth. [drumbeat builds in speed] Rising above the din of the crushing palms of his feet is the sound of choke-cherry-stained tusks, battered and broken, clanking against the low growth brush as it swings its massive woolly head side to side. Its tangled auburn fur, blowing eastward. The trudging mountain knows I'm there. But what am I to he? Nothing.

[drumbeat ends; music continues to play softly]

Michael: Not long after a mammoth left these footprints in the mud, their species went extinct in North America. So did Camelops, the North American horse, and helmeted musk oxen. And while these footprints paint a vivid portrait of these animals in life, they also reveal a species in decline.

Shayne: Very clearly, something's missing. And its infants, the newborn, the young. Why aren't we seeing their tracks? You know? Well, maybe they're light, but we're seeing lighter animals also. We're seeing their tracks, the horses and stuff like that.

Michael: The Saint Mary's mammoth herd had far fewer juveniles than you'd expect in a healthy population. And one possible explanation was the warming climate. The Missoula floods were only one symptom of the dramatic changes occurring at the end of the Pleistocene. As temperatures warmed, ice sheets shifted north and the environment shifted too. New plants moved into the grasslands that these grazing animals had relied upon.

Andrew: But the last discovery we'll share from Wally's Beach hints at another factor—a discovery made by one of Shayne's students, a fourth grader named Travis.

Shayne: Picked up a piece that they thought might be an artifact. And then the next day, Travis brought it to me. Well I about fell out of my chair. It's a Clovis point.

Michael: Clovis points are sharp stones used for hunting by ancient human cultures. And these Clovis points held a clue which revealed exactly what they were used for.

Shayne: Horse protein residue. Those horses had been butchered, and that was a North American first.

Michael: Wally’s preserves a record of ice age animals and humans and produced the first archeological evidence of these humans hunting horses, later finds revealed they also hunted camels. When I first started working as a ranger at Glacier, the story of Wally's Beach grabbed me. I put Ice Age horses and mammoths in a campground talk that I've given for the last six years. And in my program, this has always been where the story ends. Camels were here. People were too. But actually visiting Wally's Beach, hearing from Shane about the work he and his colleagues and his students have put into understanding and preserving this history—it made me wonder. What was life like for the people that once stood here? What was it like to be human? 13,000 years ago.

[drumbeat plays briefly to mark a transition]

Daniel: All right, let me recap. Right in our backyard, well, Glacier's backyard, Wally's Beach has a record of Ice Age wildlife.

Michael: Yeah, a pretty extensive one at that.

Daniel: These are animals that they're really different than what we have here today.

Michael: Mm hmm.

Daniel: But they also have discovered evidence of ice age humans.

Michael: Yeah. And a lot of this evidence at Wally's Beach is in the form of something called lithics.

Daniel: Lithics.

Michael: You've probably heard of that before.

Daniel: Yeah. Lithics are stone tools that are, like, made by people.

Michael: Exactly. That includes the projectile points that were used to hunt horses at Wally's Beach, but they've also found thousands of different points and other tools.

Daniel: Shayne used the term “Clovis point,” which, if I remember right, that's one of the very oldest kinds of lithics in North America.

Michael: Yeah. So the term Clovis comes from projectile points found outside of Clovis, New Mexico. They're a distinct type of lithic that have been identified all over North America and date back well beyond 10,000 years ago. So they are artifacts from one of the oldest and most widespread cultures that we know about in North America.

Daniel: So beyond their tools, beyond these lithics, do we know much about Clovis people, what their lives were like?

Michael: I mean, the short answer is no, we don't know much.

[electronic beat plays briefly]

Shane Doyle: The topic of Pleistocene era people is always going to be a mystery for the foreseeable future. We have to assume that life was pretty challenging because of the geographic, ecological aspects of that era.

Michael: This is Shane Doyle.

Shane: Yes, my name is Dr. Shane Doyle. I'm a member of the Apsáalooke Nation. I'm a educational and cultural consultant. I live in Bozeman, Montana, and I hail from Crow Agency.

Daniel: Another Shane—two Shanes in one episode.

Michael: [laughing] Yes, but I called Shane Doyle because he has studied and worked to understand these Ice Age cultures.

Shane: Lithics, the points that they used, are really the best evidence that we have. We don't have a lot of human materials to understand that time period outside of the hunting and other tools that these folks made.

Michael: Some of the only materials durable enough to survive these last 10,000 years or more are stones and bones. So even as scientists develop new and better technologies, like ground penetrating radar and aerial imagery, we're still limited by what little is left.

Shane: I don't think we have a lot of data that we can really turn to that will really provide us with a more comprehensive picture of what life was like for Pleistocene era native people. So I think we kind of have to use our imagination.

Michael: This is where we get back to the conundrum we found with the Missoula floods, the limitations of imagination. I talked with retired Forest Service archeologist Carl Davis, and he pointed out that the presence of stone tools and absence of anything else has affected our understanding of these cultures by focusing on the masculine aspects of ancient life.

Carl Davis: And archeologists, who were primarily male for many, many years, you know, that's what they really got into. And women and children kind of got left in the dust. Because the evidence of women's activities, this wonderful perishable industry of all kinds of things, there's no evidence. We certainly can assume they're wearing, you know, carefully crafted, tightly sewn clothes and stuff. But we don't have any evidence whatsoever. So we don't really know what they look like, what they ate, what language they spoke.

Michael: And our understanding of these communities has been shaped by more than just projectile points.

Carl: You know, I think in North American archeology, there has been some bias about sort of giving legitimacy to the capability of these first people, these Indigenous peoples. It may be colonialism, it may be imperialism, it might be a little bit of racism. But I think we have a hard time maybe giving credit where credit is due.

Shane: That's where anthropology begins to fall short when we go all the way back to those ancient times. It's reflected in artwork that we often see represented from people of that day and age. The clothing that they wear is shaggy and their hair is unkempt and they're kind of usually slouched or like hunched over. They resonate with this very uncouth—something that modern man would look upon as undeveloped. And I reject that. I don't think that's, you know, a very good indication of who these people were. I don't think that they didn't comb their hair. I don't think that they didn't care about the kind of clothes that they wore. You know, I think that they always cared about that. Of course they did. Why wouldn't they? I mean, even Sigmund Freud would agree with that. I just think that it's a shame that we portray them as being, you know, dirty…savages, honestly. People in the modern era tend to think of ourselves as being so special. You have all this information that cavemen or ancient people didn't have. And, you know, [laughs] well, I think on a daily basis reflect on those ancient people and how they must have felt the same way about their lives as we do about ours. You know, obviously, they didn't have nearly the kind of technology that we do. But think about how they must have been comparing their lives to other species—animals that didn't have the ability to talk or sing or dance or laugh or cry out of inspiration or joy. I mean, the emotional realm and spiritual, ceremonial aspects of ancient life must have made those people feel like they were on the edge of tomorrow.

Michael: And as we talk about these cultures, wonder about their daily lives, try to imagine how they treated one another, what they valued, and who they loved, Shane emphasized that there is a lot more to these people than we will ever find buried in the ground.

Shane: And I think that that's another thing that anthropologists often forget about, is that the trade culture was more than just material trade. You know, these, these people wanted to learn about one another. They want to hear their stories. They want to know about their ceremonies. They want to know about their knowledge. That was the real trade culture. The material came along with it.

[pensive music begins to play softly]

Michael: In the end, it might just be the social world that we thought had disappeared that can help us better understand this time, after all.

Shane: I developed a course on Montana Plains Indians. During the process of creating that course, I looked at the different star stories of the tribes here in Montana, and it was clear to me that they shared common stories, and stories were very, very important. But when you consider that, you know, we have at least half a dozen language families represented here in Montana, completely different languages. And so we're talking about languages where they don't even share a common sound. So how could it be, then, that these different speaking people would have the exact same star stories down to the minutiae, just the smallest details of people's names, and the things that they did, and how those things are reflected in the sky and on the ground and the same stars and the same geographic features. I mean, all those things, to me, show that these folks must have been in communication and deep communication with one another.

Michael: Different cultures with different languages, living in different places, who still found a way to communicate. And it wasn't just star stories that they were sharing. It was technology—where and how to harvest teepee poles, how to stitch hides together and harvest wild plants.

Shane: They were so determined to share with each other their knowledge and the best of their communities that they created a language independently of themselves that, you know, Plains Sign Language exists really in and unto itself.

Michael: Plains Sign Language was the original American Sign Language, born out of trade between communities across the Great Plains.

Shane: You know, the Plains Sign Language, I don't think probably dates all the way back to the Pleistocene era. But I do believe that the passage of the Clovis technology, from community to community across the continent, all those communications in all of those different trade networks, that that's where the seed of that was planted.

Michael: These insights from oral traditions can help us to imagine the cultures of these ancient communities—curious, kind and cooperative pioneers living here despite its hostile and icy climate. And as Peri found, oral history can also preserve a record of specific moments in time.

[music finishes playing]

Peri: I wanted to talk to Sally Thompson, an anthropologist whose work with tribes throughout the Northwest found that Indigenous communities have preserved memories of the Ice Age.

Sally Thompson: One of the task force members was telling me a story once of his clan's migration, and I said, "you know, wow, really, it sounds like you're taking me back to the late Pleistocene." And he said, "Well, I think I am." So he, he thought for a while, and then he said, "we sing it. It's a chant. We repeat it the same way, the same time of year in a ceremonial way. It's like your Silent Night. You wouldn't change the words." He said "Some of those words are so old, we don't understand them anymore."

Peri: [to Sally] Wow.

Sally: So that really was life changing for me. And I started paying attention in a very different way.

Peri: I know Sally from her book People Before the Park, which she wrote with the Blackfeet and Kootenai tribes, sharing their traditional culture and lifeways here in northwest Montana.

Sally: Well, my name's Sally Thompson. And really what we're talking about today, I'd like to say I'm a student, not an expert.

Peri: [to Sally] I love that.

Sally: I'm a student of what, what native people have to teach us.

Peri: One thing she's learned is that oral traditions hold records of Ice Age floods. The phenomena that geologists squabbled about for decades? Some cultures have remembered them for thousands of years.

Sally: Imagine the time when immense sheets of ice are extending down from Canada all across northern North America. You know, to imagine it's not just filling the valleys. It's filling—it's overlapping all but the very tallest peaks. Mm hmm. Yeah. So picture you're standing on top of one of those peaks. And, you know, all you can see to the north and the east is ice.

Peri: When I hear this, I picture Glacier and the Flathead Valley full of ice and water from Glacial Lake Missoula. But this describes the ice margin all along the northern edge of the US. Sally interviewed people from tribes all up and down the Columbia River, whose drainage system covers most of Washington, Idaho and northwest Montana. One of these tribes is the Kootenai.

Sally: The Kootenai people are unique. They're not related to anyone, anywhere. It may be because of where they were in these cataclysmic times, that they were the only ones who survived.

Peri: [to Sally] Mm hmm.

Sally: So most people have relatives, but the Kootenais are considered by anthropologists or linguists to be an isolate. Isolated people. The only ones. And this is their story. [low rumble] Was it like before tsunami where sensitive people think something's changing or you hear this incredible sound and somehow, you know, to run up. Perhaps you've experienced, you know, some flooding before you, you know, you need to go up and you just keep running. And somehow some people manage to survive that. Then you see people have run to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain on the Columbia and and try and picture what happened. [music begins to play] I interviewed a Coeur d'Alene elder one time, Felix Arripa, told me. After he thought it through in his own language, that the way his grandparents had told him the story, then he explained to me that the words they used were something like, "everything changed, even the landscape."

Peri: This is a record of a human experience with these floods. Someone witnessed them, walked through the world they left behind and shared that story with their community. Yet, despite knowing that, it's still difficult to place yourself in their shoes—to see their point of view rather than our own.

Michael: Even with everything we've learned, it is really hard to place yourself in a world that you'll never see. All of these stories have helped me to picture it. Herds of camels and mammoths sharing Montana with people who, in the face of a dramatically changing world, are learning from one another and passing on memories that will connect them to today. But I find myself imagining it almost like a painting. Something that I can see but that I can't touch. What would it take to bring this history to life? To be able to imagine myself there, like Shayne Tolman did with the mammoth tracks. When I posed this question to Shane Doyle, he turned my attention to May of 1968 in rural Montana, when two construction workers began digging rocks out of a hillside.

Shane: And so they were digging into a cliff side to get some like flat sandstone rocks out of the cliff. And when they dug into the cliff, it was covered with this red dust that we call red ochre. Red ochre is a really sacred material.

Michael: Past the red ochre, they found lithics. And beyond that, human remains. [low, eerie beat plays] They were digging in a grave. Found on the property of Helen and Dr. Mel Anzick. These human remains turned out to belong to a child between one and three years old. And while the haphazard digging at the site made it difficult to completely reconstruct the burial, it was determined that the child had been buried nearly 13,000 years ago.

Shane: And he was probably no more than three years old when he died, was buried with a treasure trove of antiquities. Over 118 priceless Clovis artifacts. Pretty much every tool that has ever been identified in any other Clovis site was found at that burial. These were valuable, treasured items that were rare and that were hard to produce. And they buried them with the child. This child had no social standing that we could measure or compare in any other culture at any other point in history. You know, even today, children are the most vulnerable people in society. You know, they receive the least honor. They receive the least attention. They receive the least amount of resources devoted to them. If you look at what that burial spoke to, it spoke to what that community valued. You know, why would they put all of those items in there for a child who had never hunted? He was not a priest. He was not a ceremonial leader. He was not a warrior. He never produced any economic value. He was—he was really, just as children are today, but they present a resource that you have to provide for. Part of your family that you have to attend to constantly.

Michael: The U.S. has a law that establishes the legal rights for tribes to repatriate or reclaim human remains uncovered in cases like this. But it wasn't passed until 1990.

Shane: This is before NAGPRA, Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. So all the materials that—since they were found on private land, they were just taken by Mel and the two construction workers. The human remains, Mel gave those to his daughter. But at the time, they were taken by a scientist, an archeologist, who took them down to his lab in Arizona.

Michael: The remains stay in Arizona for about 30 years until eventually they returned to Sarah Anzick, the granddaughter of Mel and Helen.

Shane: Once Sarah got them, turns out she was a molecular biologist. She had an interest in studying the remains to see if she could find out who this person was, who this child was. And, you know, she said before that she just knew that this child had a story to tell, and that it was an important story and that she wanted to help the child tell that story.

Michael: So she reached out to a lab in Denmark and they set out to sequence the child's genome in an effort to understand its DNA and uncover who the child is related to.

Shane: The head guy over there, the scientist of the lab, his name is Eske Willerslev. And he and his team took on the study, and it took them three years to complete the genomic sequencing of this ancient remains. But when they did finally get the complete genome, they were able to compare it to other populations around the world. And it's pretty clear that that he was one of the very first Native Americans on the continent.

Michael: At the same time this discovery was starting to ripple out into the scientific community, the Anzick child was also at the center of an effort to repatriate the remains, to place them back where they were buried 13,000 years ago, which is how Shane got involved.

Michael: [to Shane] I don't expect there's really like a roadmap for how to conduct a repatriation. Maybe there is, I don't know. So how did you decide how to actually perform the reburial, and what did it look like on the day?

[emotional music begins to play]

Shane: There yeah, no, there is no roadmap for repatriation. There are procedures that have been developed over years in certain circumstances that fit the bill. But this one was kind of different because it was so old. And we have to assume the child was—he was related to all of modern people today. That's a lot of people to try and bring into the process. I kind of took that task on to reach out to native communities, let them know what we were doing and ask them if they wanted to participate. You know, it took a long time. We had to have a lot of meetings. There were a lot of different folks involved, not just the tribal communities here in Montana, but also the Montana burial board; Sarah Anzick, you know, she still maintained possession of the bones right up until the moment they were placed in the ground; scientists, they still had materials from the Anzick child in their lab. The reburial was supposed to be comprehensive, and so they had to agree to put all of what they had of the boy in the lab into the ground. You know, there were disagreements over where to rebury the boy, over how to rebury him. Some people believed we should just rebury him with like a rawhide pouch, you know, put him in the ground so he could go back to Mother Earth. There were also suggestions to bury him at the Montana Historical Society out on the public lawn so that people would be dissuaded from trying to dig him up and steal him. I mean, you name it, there was a whole gamut of suggestions and ideas about how to rebury him and where to rebury him. And finally, at the end, we just decided to put him back as close to where he was as possible and put him in a nice small little casket. And, you know, it was just a beautiful day. It was a beautiful ceremony. [wistful, emotional music begins to play softly] And like I said, we all felt good about it. Here's the thing that I thought about a lot. We were there that day, not just to show respect to that boy, but we were there to show respect to ourselves. When we respect others, we respect ourselves. And when we do that in a community, in a gesture where we all come together in a ceremonial way, that's a very powerful healing experience.

Michael: [to Shane] Do you think that the Anzick site, Pleistocene people, and you know, this deep time can teach us about ourselves or even the future?

Shane: Well, I think we can learn a lot from those ancient people about strength, about resilience, about love, about what really matters in this life. I guess one theme that we see today in Hollywood is the post-apocalyptic world. We think when all the chips are down that we'll turn on each other. When I think of those ancient people, I'm inspired. I just think, you know, they loved each other. And from everything that we can tell, they respected each other. I'm sure there were instances where that wasn't always true. But the Anzick grave and the show of love that was displayed for that child makes me believe that that wasn't just an isolated case. That this was part of their worldview. You know, they believed in treasuring their relationships. And in a way, that's what it was when we buried him that day.

Michael: To me, this story pulls your focus away from everything that separates us from Ice Age people—the ice sheets, scimitar cats, and more than 10,000 years—and shows instead our shared humanity. And to Shane, it illustrates what's possible when scientists and native communities work together.

Shane: I think we'll be able to tell the stories that right now we still can't really wrap our heads around because we'll be able to wrap our hearts around what it means to be a human, and we'll be able to take that understanding and place it into these ancient time periods. And that will be able to inform and provide us with a better picture of why these people laughed, what they laughed about, you know, what they cried about, who they loved. [haunting violin music begins to play] It's pretty hard to not understand what the ancient burial represents. If you're a parent and your greatest fear is to lose a child, then you understand that this is what these people did. That message is pretty clear. 12,600 years later, you can still relate to the—to the anguish that they must have felt. How unfair, how cruel, how impossibly difficult the loss that they suffered was. And the only way to heal from that is to just give the last full measure. That's a message that is crystal clear to me. There's, there's nothing about that that I don't understand.

Michael: It's true that sites like Anzick are extraordinarily rare. But the kindness that we can see there must have been common. In every laugh shared around the campfire, which echoed across newly ice free valleys, and in a piece of hard won camel, shared as a meal with a loved one. Or in the simple joy of standing by a river and squishing the mud between your toes, right beside a set of fresh mammoth tracks.

[music continues to play under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park. With support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of Headwaters was made by me, Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist and Gaby Eseverri. We could not have made Season Three without Lacy Kowalski or Melissa Sladek and Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, the Glacier National Park Archives, and the Montana Historical Society. Special thanks this episode to Shayne Tolman for driving to meet us—

Michael: And sharing your bug spray!

Daniel: Shane Doyle, Carl Davis, Roz Gerstein…

Peri: Thanks, Mom!

Daniel: Sally Thompson, Justin Radford, Andrew Smith, Vic Baker, and Ethan, our captain from the Glacier Park Boat Company. Thanks for listening.

[music finishes, and a drumbeat begins]

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.

Michael: We use art to find new perspectives on one of American history's most momentous yet misremembered events.

Caiti Campbell: You know, Lewis and Clark was just a story that I did not remember from school.

Germaine White: When Daniel called and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, really? I don't know if you want a tribal voice talking about Lewis and Clark.” You know, I just thought, they're revered by so many.

Michael: That's next time on Headwaters.

[music finishes playing]

Michael: [to Andrew] So Headwaters was made possible through the Conservancy. Right? Yes. But you also fund a lot of other projects. What are some examples of that?

Andrew: Yeah. One I wanted to tell you about today is our wilderness condition monitoring work. We have this really cool project happening right now to outfit a lot of the park's Wilderness Rangers with tablets so that they can make live reports on the condition of the wilderness while they're out and about.

Michael: [to Andrew] They used to be on paper reports that got lost and never found their way to the same place.

Andrew: They would show up wet and crumpled [both laughing] and all sorts of different things would be written on them. So now everybody's got the same form. It comes all into one database and we can learn about threats to wilderness so fast and respond to them so that nothing happens to our, our beautiful wilderness here.

Michael: [to Andrew] Well, that's awesome. Well, I guess if you want to learn about that project and more that the Conservancy funds, check out their website, and thanks.

Andrew: Yeah. Visit us at Glacier.org

Tracking down 600 generations of history. We venture out to the edge of the Ice Age to see how people lived and loved when this place was buried in glaciers.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

People Before the Park: https://shop.glacier.org/people-before-the-park/

Episode 4

Becoming | Portraits of the West


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Daniel Lombardi: This summer, Gaby went to Helena, Montana's State Capital. She went to look at a painting, but she was also trying to get some perspective. To see one historic moment from another point of view.

[door slams, voices echoing]

Jennifer Bottomly O’Looney: Later, we can go to see the rotunda.

Gaby Eseverri: [in the field] The ro-tun-da. Cool.

Daniel: An expert from the Montana Historical Society, Jennifer Bottomly O'Looney, took Gaby around the Capitol building.

Gaby: [in the field, to Jennifer] Okay, so once we walk out, it'll connect us to the House of Representatives chamber?

Daniel: Hanging on the walls are two very different pieces of art that depict one particular chapter in Montana's story: the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Jennifer: Entering the anteroom, and here are the murals by Edgar S Paxson. Probably the best known is this painting, Lewis and Clark at Three Forks.

Gaby: [in the field] This painting, it depicts them kind of in the center of the image. They're kind of standing up straight, holding their guns, looking off to the distance. They all kind of look like action figures a little bit. The way that they're standing and looking off to the side. It feels—

Jennifer: Very formal. Yeah, very formal type.

Gaby: [in the field] It puts them at the center of the story. Yeah. And it feels a bit stereotypical to what we know of Lewis and Clark or kind of what's depicted in in history books, at least when I was growing up. It reminds me of what I learned in high school.

Jennifer: And this image is used in a lot of history books. It's been requested over and over from us to provide an image for this. So you probably have seen this exact image in your history books.

Gaby: [in the field] That is good to know. [both laughing] And not surprising at all.

[pensive music begins to play]

Daniel: This is not the painting that Gaby went to Helena to see. This is the painting that everyone expects. Lewis and Clark, as painted by Edgar Paxon, wearing fur hats and fringed buckskin jackets, with their guide Sacagawea pointing at the horizon. Edgar Paxson didn't break the mold here. This is how Lewis and Clark are usually depicted, and it's probably the image you have in your head right now. But Gaby was touring the Capitol building to see something different, a much larger mural by the artist Charlie Russell, that depicts Lewis and Clark as they're meeting the Salish or Flathead people.

Gaby: [in the field] And then through here is the, the Charlie Rose mural. Okay. Okay. So we are—Jennifer is opening the doors, unlocking them, [keys jingling] and we are about to enter the chamber.

Gaby: This version is a totally different point of view. It's not what I was expecting, and it's definitely not the history book painting I felt like I'd seen before. [music building, drumbeat gaining momentum] It's a single freeze frame of a pivotal moment, and it turns my whole understanding of the expedition on his head.

[door opening]

Gaby: [in the field] Wow. Wow.

[Headwaters season 3 theme begins to play, with the strumming of a string instrument, a flute, and drumbeats]

Daniel: Welcome to Headwaters, a podcast about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else.

[theme plays and finishes]

Daniel: We are calling this season Becoming. It is by no means a complete history, but rather a collection of stories exploring how this place became what it is. This episode is about understanding history by finding different perspectives. Specifically, it's about one of the single most important moments in American history: the Lewis and Clark Expedition. These were the first representatives of the new American government to set eyes on what is now Glacier National Park. Lewis and Clark are celebrated yet controversial, memorable and misremembered. Either way, their names still echo through the park today. The main mountain range through the park, that's called the Lewis Range. Montana's State Flower, the bitterroot, it has the Latin name Lewisia. So does Montana's State Fish, the cutthroat trout. And of course, you can't forget the Clark's nutcrackers. [laughing] And we can blame Lewis for confusingly naming one of Glacier's most iconic flowers, beargrass, which is neither a grass nor eaten by bears.

Gaby: [laughing, to Daniel] This will all be very helpful for my Lewis and Clark Junior Ranger book.

Daniel: Well, personally, I think there's no better way to get an introduction to a park site than a Junior Ranger book.

Gaby: Our story starts and ends at the Montana State Capitol. But I made three different stops on my journey there. Three different attempts to understand this expedition and this history. And my first stop was becoming a Junior Ranger.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: Junior Ranger Activity Journal. Two explorers look into the distance.

Gaby: These are clips from videos that describe the booklet and make it accessible. It covers the basics, like how far the expedition went…

Junior Ranger Audio Description: 4900 miles.

Gaby: How long it took…

Junior Ranger Audio Description: Three years between 1803 and 1806.

Gaby: And whose homelands they crossed.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: Territories of 65 plus tribes.

Daniel: The Lewis and Clark Expedition, which is also called the Corps of Discovery, was a special military unit of the American Army. It was created by Thomas Jefferson to explore the brand new Louisiana Purchase. But he also wanted to see how the country could make money out in the American West.

Gaby: The booklet uses hand-drawn maps to remind me of the route they took.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: The route winds along the Ohio River, southwest from Pittsburgh to Saint Louis.

Gaby: A long and winding path to the West Coast.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: The route continues west along the Columbia River to Astoria and the ocean.

Daniel: On both the way out to the Pacific and on the way back, the Corps of Discovery traveled extensively through Montana. On their journey back, part of the Corps took a detour up the Marias River to just outside what is now Glacier National Park.

[pensive, sparse music plays softly]

Gaby: That ends up being one of the most fateful moments on the expedition. They have a violent encounter with a group of young Blackfeet men that results in two of the native boys being killed.

Daniel: That was in the summer of 1806, and it was the first military conflict between the U.S. and a Plains Indian tribe.

Gaby: The Junior Ranger book does a good job getting you to think about these kinds of encounters and their interactions with native groups more broadly. On one page, it asks the reader to think about the Lewis and Clark expedition like a stranger barging into someone else's house.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: How do you show respect when visiting someone's home?

Gaby: And while we're just sharing the audio descriptions, the Junior Ranger book has full color illustrations that help bring it to life. It was a much more diverse expedition than I'd remembered. There was Pierre Cruzatte, a one-eyed, fiddle-playing, French and Omaha guide. And then there was a man named York.

Junior Ranger Audio Description: Credited as the first African-American to cross the continent, tribes sometimes cooperated with the expedition just so they could meet him, though he was enslaved, the body servant to William Clark.

Gaby: Another way these stories are brought to life is through living history. Hasan Davis, a performer who contributed to the jury in your book, gives programs, as you mark.

Hasan Davis: My presentation of York brings audiences into the triumph and the tragedy, the pride and the pain of being a part of, but separate from, what some would argue was the greatest American expedition ever mounted.

Gaby: This booklet does a remarkable job presenting different sides of a story I'd only really heard from one point of view. Such a good job, in fact, that the woman behind it won, the Freeman Tilden award, one of the highest honors the National Park Service gives out.

Caiti Campbell: [on the phone] How do you do justice to this very complicated story that is rooted in colonialism, exploitation, slavery, destruction? Those things are part of this story.

Gaby: This is Caiti.

Caiti: Well hi, I'm Caiti, Caiti Campbell, and I am an interpretive specialist for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Gaby: [to Caiti] So what does the Corps of Discovery mean to American history and and why, why do you think it matters?

Caiti: Yeah, it's it's absolutely pivotal. It's almost hard to think of a more pivotal moment. And it's one that's interestingly kind of misremembered. So most people think of the expedition as Lewis Clark, as, you know, Sacajawea or Sacagawea in a canoe exploring unknown wilderness. But there was already a huge network of trade and complex politics already in place among the tribes of the West, among each other, and also with French traders and British traders. And additionally, at this watershed moment in history, you've got this moment in time where you have the young United States, you know, coming up with and starting its diplomacy with all of these tribes of the West.

[thoughtful music plays softly]

Gaby: [to Caiti] Were they on a diplomatic mission, do you think?

Caiti: I mean, this question is at the heart of the whole legacy of this expedition. Right. There are so many different perspectives on this. And the, the expedition's legacy is remembered so differently, and especially if you're from a tribe. So in a way, I think they thought that they were doing diplomacy, and yet they would use words from Thomas Jefferson that said that “we are your new white father.” That is how Thomas Jefferson, you know, wanted it to go out to tribes.

Gaby: With so many points of view on the same story. It makes me wonder, how does the National Park Service and those of us who work for and visit park sites, how do we fit into this?

Gaby: [to Caiti] What role do you think the National Park Service plays in interpreting history?

Caiti: I love the idea that when you come to the actual place and when you stand in that place, that learning about history, culture, nature just becomes so much more profoundly meaningful when you are doing it with your two feet on the ground in that place. I just think that that's kind of the point of the National Park Service—by saving that place for us to come to really think about what is so important. Think about some of these big themes of our history.

Gaby: [to Caiti] It feels like almost everyone has a different perspective and a different way that they approach studying this history. How and why do you think perspective is important with unpacking this history?

Caiti: Yeah. Yeah. The way I the way I think about it is the more angles you examine, the more perspectives you hear, the closer you get to the truth. And at times, we won't ever get a crystal clear picture of an event of something that may have happened. But any time that we can include additional perspectives, it's, it's like a puzzle. And it, it…it just completes the picture. And I believe that's true even when the perspectives or especially when the perspectives are opposing. Mm hmm. And that's a really long answer to your question. But that question, like I said, is the heart, you know, is at the heart of what this Lewis and Clark Expeditions legacy means. It's complicated.

[drumbeat plays, marking a transition]

Gaby: It's no surprise that an expedition that traveled over 4000 miles crossed paths with so many different people and points of view. But as I've researched the Corps of Discovery, those paths kept converging on one name: Charlie Russell, the painter behind the giant mural at the Capitol.

Daniel: Today, Russell is considered one of the most famous Western artists that has ever lived, and he painted mainly romantic scenes of the Old West.

Gaby: I hadn't heard of him really until I moved here. But when his name kept popping up in my research, I was excited to see it show up on the schedule for campground talks here in the park.

Mary Jane Bradbury: When he was a 16 year old boy in 1880, and he wanted to come west, he wanted to see the West that was passing. Because in 1880 it was. The buffalo herds were almost gone. The railroads, the development, the mining, everything was changing. So he got here just in time to see the last little bit of what he grew up listening to stories about and what he'd read. And of course, he read the Lewis and Clark journals until they were in tatters because he just loved that that era of the mountain men.

Gaby: That's Mary Jane.

Mary Jane: My name is Mary Jane Bradbury, and I am a storyteller.

Gaby: She gives a program on the life and legacy of Charlie Russell, but she does it through the eyes of his wife, Nancy.

Mary Jane: And I like to tell it from her perspective. But in order for me to do that, we all have to use our imaginations. You use your imagination, and we'll both just pretend Nancy's going to walk out of the forest and step right up here and tell us her story.

Daniel: Living history is the art of portraying historical figures by dressing in their clothes, talking the way they might have talked, and giving a performance in character.

Gaby: To be honest, I wasn't that familiar with living history, and at first glance I thought it sounded a little corny. But then I met Mary Jane.

Mary Jane: When I put the clothes on, I get the strut going. I get the, you know, voice going… [in a southern accent] I mean you don't get my way now because I'm Nancy Russell and you will pay for this painting because this is what it's worth and there will be no more Charlie Russell art, so you want it, you pay for it!

Gaby: [laughing, to Mary Jane] I love that!

Daniel: Okay, Mary Jane Bradbury. She's kind of a character herself. I think I usually associate living history with more Revolutionary War, Civil War reenactments. The Park Service does a lot of those.

Gaby: But Mary Jane uses her outfit, her accent, and her strength to tell a more personal story.

Mary Jane: I asked Charlie one time if he ever thought he'd run out of ideas for paintings, and he said a man couldn't live enough lifetimes to run out of all the ideas that he had for stories in his art. And if he ever lost the use of his hands, he'd learn to paint with his toes, because he had to paint not only what was in his mind, but what was in his heart.

Gaby: And Mary Jane shared that while Charlie was a talented artist, he wasn't much of a businessman.

Mary Jane: Charlie was blessed with a great amount of talent, but not a lot of ambition. So lucky for Charlie, at a very critical moment in his life, he met Nancy Cooper, who became his wife. Together, they could create the legacy of art and stories that we have now that is a remarkable chronicle of the West.

Gaby: Charlie would make paintings, and Nancy, his fiery, no nonsense wife, would get people to buy them. She'd travel all over the country to sell his art New York, Los Angeles…

Daniel: And here in Glacier too. Charlie and Nancy started coming here before Glacier was even a park, and they loved it so much they ended up building a cabin on Lake McDonald. They named it the Bullhead Lodge, and it was a really big part of their lives.

Gaby: Glacier was a special place for them.

Daniel: After the park was established, Lake McDonald Lodge was eager to capitalize on having the Russells as neighbors. So they set up a special gallery where Nancy could wheel and deal and sell Charlie's art to wealthy tourists. The two of them were amazing storytellers and would give captivating, impromptu performances to tourists in the lobby. Charlie would even join in on visitor pack trips as the official storyteller.

Gaby: It sounds like they really loved this place. And people here really love them back. Mary Jane always pulls a huge audience to this talk.

Mary Jane: I love telling the stories from the first person perspective, the historic portrayal. That brings alive the history that we've been through and gives us a little bit of an insight as to where we are now and hopefully where we're going next.

Gaby: What I love about this approach is that you get to see the people behind the paintings—the man with a vision, the woman with a plan, and the couple that spent summers in Glacier for decades. And it's easy to imagine why the people building the Montana state capitol hired Russell to paint its largest mural.

Mary Jane: When the Capitol was built, they wanted a mural. They had asked a number of Montana artists to contribute. Of course Eastern artists were all the rage in those days. You know, if you really wanted something of high notoriety, you would hire a big Eastern artist. And Charlie said, "Fine, if you want angels and cherubs flitting through the skies, go ahead and hire an Eastern artist. But if you want history, hire me." And so they did.

[drumbeat plays, marking a transition]

Daniel: Hey Gaby, uh, tell us about living history and meeting Mary Jane Bradbury. Like, what did you like about it?

Gaby: It was really cool. I thought the way Mary Jane Bradbury captured Nancy Russell and shared her experience with us was amazing. I'm somehow relating to this person hundreds of years ago.

Daniel: I think it's neat that you're learning about one person, Charlie Russell, but you're doing it through someone else who knew him. And their—from their point of view, like Nancy, his wife.

Gaby: Exactly.

Peri Sasnett: Often history is kind of presented as just one thing, a set of facts in a textbook, but… I think that's a good reminder that you can learn a lot from different people's interpretations. All history is someone's interpretation.

Daniel: Yeah.

Gaby: Peri, and the way you're describing this, I'm imagining my family and I looking at a piece of art, and we are all looking at the same thing. But somehow we are taking away different meanings, different interpretations.

Peri: And so often we study history through art. You know, my high school history textbook was full of old paintings.

Daniel: What I'm hearing you to say is that there's a lot of power in understanding the past through not just different perspectives, but using art, whether it's a painting or a living history performance that an actor's doing, there's a lot of value in understanding history through that art because it forces you to see something from one perspective or one point of view.

Peri: Right. I think we're really comfortable with the idea that art can have a lot of different interpretations, but we don't often think of history that way.

[drumbeat plays, marking a transition]

Gaby: I'm finding that history gets a lot more complicated when you start considering multiple perspectives. I just wanted another take on Lewis and Clark, but that led me into a history of Turley Russell, and then that led me to seeing things from his wife, Nancy's point of view. And I'm not done yet.

[warbling vireo sings; a knock on a door; the door opens]

Gaby: [in the field] Hello!

Daniel: [in the field] Hey!

Gaby: Before I see Charlie Russell's painting in the Helena Capitol building, I wanted to get one more person's thoughts. So we stopped at Germaine White's beautiful home on the Flathead Reservation.

Germaine White: Do you guys want a drink of water. Anything? I have both Lacroix and Waterloo.

Gaby: [to Germaine] So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the Charlie Russell painting, because we're going to go see it tomorrow.

Germaine: [emphatically] I love it!

Gaby: [smiling, to Germaine] Why? How so?

Germaine: I think that when you look at it, what you'll see is Salish people. They're on horses. They're dressed in their finery. Front and center. That's like, hero of the story. You know, that central perspective of a painting. And, and then on the side is this little straggler group of folks that kind of look like they're lost. You know, it's it's a direct collision of cultures that is about to occur. And it's really, it's really quite powerful. When Daniel called and I thought, “oh, my gosh, really? I don't know if you want a tribal voice talking about Lewis and Clark,” who I sometimes irreverently call Clueless and Lark. They're revered by so many, and there really has not been until recently, I believe, Indigenous people included in history. Indigenous people are eloquent, but dead. Or dead. Did I mention... Did I mention that.

Gaby: Germaine is now retired, but she started the Cultural Resource Protection Program on the Flathead Reservation and is currently serving as a board member for the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the organization that funds the show. But I'm talking to her because she helped create a book telling the Lewis and Clark story from the Salish perspective.

Gaby: [to Germaine] So I'm curious, like, how did you get involved? Where you kind of contributed slash wrote this book.

Germaine: We wanted to tell a story that that was really framed by, by the voices of our elders. The title of the story is not Lewis and Clark and the Salish People—it's the Salish people and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They entered a homeland that was known and loved and that was fully occupied. As the people watched Lewis and Clark, it appeared that they were aimlessly moving across the landscape, that they really had no sense of the world they were moving through. And for us, our lives in so many ways are deeply connected to the natural world. It appeared that these people were kind of bumbling across the landscape, and those that observed them thought they might be ill. They looked unhealthy. They didn't appear to be moving with purpose and clear direction. You know, they're upside down face people. They have hair on the bottom of their their face, no hair on the top of their face. And who are these strange, unhealthy looking people? And as the people observed them, there was great discussion among the leaders and the people in in the camp. And there were those among the tribe that said we should eliminate them. You know, we were a large population. We were strong and healthy. And they were not. [pensive music plays softly] And there were also those among us that said we need to visit upon them traditional norms of hospitality. That's who we are. The more pitiful they are, the more in need they are. So we need to help them. Those that had said we should help them prevail. So we met them and, you know, we gave them buffalo robes to be warm. We gave them food stores because they had very little we gave them vast stores of goods that we had gathered to make our winter successful. And that really is profoundly important because we came with kindness and generosity and hospitality. It didn't appear that they did. It appeared that they were coming to catalog and inventory resources for appropriation. And I think that really set the template for a lot which was to follow.

Gaby: [to Germaine] Do you think their mission was exploratory and diplomatic or colonial and capitalistic?

Germaine: Can it be one disguised as the other? So, for example, we could have this nice introduction. I could welcome you here. We could, you know, I could offer you a beverage, you know, “La Croix?” [laughing] “Would you like a little sparkling water?” And also, “look at that really nice recorder you have here” and think about how I could have a hostile takeover and acquire that before you leave, regardless of your intent of leaving with it. So Lewis and Clark inventoried, cataloged, moved through, went back, reported to the government.

Gaby: [to Germaine] It's funny that you say that they were like coming in just like taking stock, because I kind of just like imagine them being like, “oh, okay, like there's this, cool, I'm taking notes” and like…

Germaine: Of course they had, you know, the journals were basically an inventory. That's what Jefferson sent them out to do. Their mission was clear. Hmm.

Gaby: [to Germaine] So what do you think, then, that history has gotten, like, incorrect about this feeding.

Germaine: The whole story that this land was known and loved and occupied. Our elders knew the place, not just encyclopedic, but they knew it intimately. Our elders knew the curves of the hills and the lines of the trails as intimately as they knew the lines and curves of their mother's faces. That story has really not been told.

[music builds and finishes]

Gaby: The Corps of Discovery met dozens of tribes on their years-long journey, not just the Salish. And versions of this encounter happened over and over again. And in every case, there's one story we can read in the Lewis and Clark Journals. But there are many others, too—even if they're less well known. Carrying what I've learned from Caiti, Mary Jane, and Germaine, I finally feel ready to see the painting at the Capitol.

Gaby: [in the field] Okay. So we are. Jennifer's opening the doors and unlocking them, [keys jingling] and we are about to enter the chamber. Wow. Wow. Oh, my God. It's huge.

Gaby: This is, no joke, the biggest painting I've ever seen. It's the entire wall of the chamber above where the Speaker of the House sits up on a platform. I'm surrounded by legislative desks, all of which face the painting. I walk up the center aisle and I kind of feel like I'm walking up to an altar.

Gaby: [in the field, laughing] I think I'm overwhelmed.

Gaby: The painting shows a broad Montana valley, and I'm imagining the sun just under the horizon. It's kind of just turning the clouds pink. The center is dominated by Salish people on horseback, their camp of teepee lodges behind them.

Gaby: [in the field] It's hard not to be overwhelmed just staring at this. I can't look away. [laughing]

Jennifer: Yeah and it is in itself just an amazing painting. The way the center of your vision is right here in the front where you see the Salish Indians swirling.

Gaby: [in the field] Kind of feels like there's a frenzy in camp. There's an energy.

Jennifer: There is an energy. Yes. Yeah.

[thoughtful music begins to play, with a dramatic drumbeat echoing the horses’ hooves]

Gaby: Russell's painting is loud and dynamic. I feel like I can almost hear the thunder of horses running through it. It is the exact opposite of the first Lewis and Clark painting I saw here in the Capitol, for one. No one is pointing at the horizon. But more surprising, Lewis and Clark themselves are barely in it. The Salish on horseback are charging toward and past the viewer, but the Corps of Discovery are tiny, off to one side.

Gaby: [in the field] Somehow the emotional and intense energy does not reach them. [laughing]

Jennifer: No. It doesn't.

Gaby: [in the field] They're kind of just standing there and there's not much emotion on that side.

Jennifer: And you can see, you know, the focus in Paxson's painting, of course, is is Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. And here the focus are the Salish Indians.

Gaby: Near the bottom of the frame. There's a dog that I assume belongs to the Salish. And from my perspective, it looks like it's stalking… [haunting violin music begins to play] directly behind the Speaker of the House, watching the politicians of Montana. Without saying a word, the painting comments on the sweep of history about to unfold.

Jennifer: Charlie never talked about it. Hmm. There's no recorded documentation of—that I know of, of what he thought about this painting. So what happens next? That's up to the viewer to decide.

[music continues to play under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Season Three of Headwaters, Becoming, was made by me, Daniel Lombardi, along with Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist, and Gaby Eseverri. Frank Waln wrote and performed our music. Eric Carlson created this season's cover art. Special thanks this episode to Germaine White, Caiti Campbell…

Gaby: Thanks for signing my Junior Ranger book!

Daniel: Jennifer Bottomley O'Looney, and Mary Jane Bradbury.

Gaby: Or should we say Nancy Russell?

Daniel: Making this season is a huge team effort, and we couldn't have done it without Lacy Kowalski. Melissa Sladek, Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, the whole team at the archives, and the Montana Historical Society. Thanks for listening.

[music finishes; a drumbeat begins]

Lacy: Next time, on Headwaters.

Gaby: We visit the 100-year-old cabin of a complicated character to untangle the fur trade in Northern Montana and what it left behind.

Kyle Langley: And at the end of the day, you know, we’re left with kind of a semi-unclear picture of what kind of a guy Joe Kipp was.

Jack Gladstone: What happens when the sun goes down, hell is not our fault, they’re the ones taking the drink, we didn’t make them drink…

[drumbeat finishes]

Gaby: That’s next time on Headwaters.

Gaby: [to Andrew] Hey, Andrew.

Andrew Smith: Hi, Gaby.

Gaby: [to Andrew] So Headwaters is made possible by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Andrew: That's right.

Gaby: [to Andrew] What else are you guys supporting?

Andrew: Another project we're supporting is to add Indigenous languages to interpretive signage in the park. This project's really cool because it's a big collaboration. It's going to involve Glacier National Park, the Department of the Interior, as well as the Blackfeet and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. And the goal is really to add that authentic language back on to a lot of the signage in Glacier.

Gaby: [to Andrew] Yeah, that's really cool. When I spoke to Germaine this summer, she talked about how important place names are.

Andrew: Yeah. and she's a really big part of this project. She believes and we believe that when this language is included, it recognizes the connection these places have to so many Indigenous people. But it also enriches the experience of the person reading it and learning about that connection and just deepens their knowledge of the park.

Gaby: [to Andrew] Yeah, absolutely. I love that. So if people want to learn more about this project, where can they go?

Andrew: They should check out our website, Glacier.org

Lewis and Clark are celebrated yet controversial. If you know what to look for, their names still echo through the park today. We examine their legacy from a variety of perspectives.

Edgar Paxson painting: https://mhsmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/1885CEC9-39C3-4B45-889D-242479808699 Charlie Russell’s painting: https://mhs.mt.gov/education/Capitol/Capitol-Art/House-of-Representatives

See more show notes on our website: https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/headwaters-podcast.htm

Episode 5

Becoming | A Market Place


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Daniel Lombardi: This is a story about the fur trade, about the collision of cultures. An epic crash three hundred years in the making. A collision slow but substantial, with whiplash still cracking to life in the 21st century. It can be understood through the eyes of someone who lived it—someone like Joe Kipp. This is his story. But it's also about history and landscape and about how we judge the past. And it all starts with the search for a missing cabin.

Kyle Langley: So as an archeologist, we look at old maps a lot. They're useful tools. They're kind of snapshots in time. And your eyes are drawn to, to this cabin that's kind of in the middle of nowhere.

Daniel: Kyle Langley is an archeologist here in Glacier National Park. And right now he's getting Peri ready for an adventure.

Peri Sasnett: [to Kyle] Because there's not a lot on those maps. There's lots of mountains and lakes and stuff, but just mountains, lakes and Kipp's cabin.

Kyle: Exactly

Peri: [to Kyle] No other cabins.

Kyle: Exactly. And every time there's been a crew in that area, they've looked for it.

Peri: [to Kyle] And they never found it.

Kyle: They've never found it. I think archeologists, you know, you put an X on a map kind of like that, and I think it's kind of like a siren call for us. You know, we will waste a lot of time looking for these things. [both laugh] But if you're persistent, you know, sometimes it pays off.

Daniel: So they went back to look for the cabin—one more time.

Kyle: We'd budgeted ourselves like an hour, and I think we were already at like three and a half hours or something [Peri laughs] and we're like, you know, we've got to wrap this up, should we give up, just about at home and—

Peri: [to Kyle] It's probably the afternoon, you're supposed to hike all the way back—all the way out

Kyle: You know, at some point, if you don't leave, you're going to be hiking out in the dark, in grizzly country. [both laugh] So, but, just happened to take a peek in the right batch of trees and found the remnants of a forge, like a old portable forge. And that was pretty much we knew right then and there that was where Kipp's Cabin was.

Daniel: Peri and Kyle are united in their fascination with Joe Kipp, a complicated character that lived in Glacier in the late 1800s. And a bit of a trickster, perhaps. And Peri thinks understanding Joe Kipp could be the key to understanding Glacier during the fur trade era. And Kyle, for his part, he's obsessed enough that he named his dog Kipp.

Kyle: Being lovers of Glacier, just like everyone, we wanted to name our dog something to do with Glacier. But if you go to the dog park anywhere in the Flathead and you call for like a Bowman or a Kintla, you're going to get like six dogs. [both laughing] So we wanted something a little more unique.

Daniel: The archeologists now have the location of Kipp's cabin marked on a map, but they haven't surveyed the site. They know the facts of his life, but they don't really know who he was.

Kyle: It's tough because we can't ever know them directly. I mean, he did interact with an astonishing number of historical figures who did keep records, who all wrote about him. But what you lack is kind of a full understanding of who he was as a person. He's kind of—he kind of fits in that intersection of fact and myth. And at the end of the day, you know, 120 years later, we're left with a kind of a semi-unclear picture of what kind of a guy Joe Kipp was. It's part of the draw of archeology in general is the physical objects and the places are things that you can connect to, whereas stories always leave you wondering.

Daniel: Welcome to Headwaters, [Headwaters season 3 theme begins to play] a show about how this one place in the Rocky Mountains is connected everywhere else.

[Headwaters season 3 theme plays, with the strumming of a string instrument, a flute, and drumbeats, then finishes]

Daniel: This is Season Three: Becoming. It's a collection of stories of how the American West became what it is today. I'm Daniel.

Peri: And I'm Peri.

Daniel: All right, Peri. Today we're talking about the fur trade. Tell me what we need to know to get started.

Peri: Well, our main character here is Joe Kipp. He was born around 1850 and died in 1913. So his life spans this really dramatic time in the Rocky Mountains and in the fur trade. He is of mixed descent—he's half white and half Mandan—and he makes a living doing pretty much everything a person could at this time.

Daniel: And so, Peri, you would argue that he's still relevant today?

Peri: Yeah, for sure. Joe Kipp is one of the most important figures in Glacier's past, in my opinion, but one whose name you almost never hear.

Daniel: But he does come up, you know, in some, some dark moments of Montana's history as well. And I feel like his role, it's not always clear.

Peri: Definitely. One example is in the negotiations over the Ceded Strip, which was Blackfeet land and is now the east side of Glacier National Park. You can learn more about that in the Two Medicine episode from Season One.

Daniel: Yeah, and that's still a sensitive topic today. So tell me about Joe Kipp's involvement in these negotiations.

Peri: Well, on the one hand, he probably stood to profit if the land was sold to the government and opened up for mining and tourism. But on the other hand, he was married to a Blackfeet woman, and he lived most of his adult life on the Blackfeet reservation, and he was really involved in that community. So it's hard to say from here whose side he may have been on in those negotiations.

Peri: [narrating] Throughout this story, I've really kind of struggled with our ability to look back and make moral judgments about people from the past. My hope was that diving into this story and finding a tangible connection with Joe Kipp would help me sort through this. And it definitely ended up changing how I see this place.

Music: [clip of John Wayne speaking plays over a catchy beat] There's right and there's wrong. You’ve gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living; do the other, and you may be walking around, but you're dead as a beaver hat.

[sounds of footsteps]

Peri: It's a warm summer morning, and Michael, Gaby and I have joined Kyle and Brent, the archeologists, on a backpacking trip to finally survey Joe Kipp's cabin. You can tell these two spend too much time in the backcountry together eating dehydrated meals because they refer to normal food as rehydrated food.


Peri: [in the field] What would you be most excited to find?

Kyle: You're looking for a skillet, right?

Peri: [in the field; laughing] I'd love one! I've been told I can't take one home, so.

Peri: I'm kind of obsessed with cast iron cookware. I don't know whether it's their history, their beauty, that they last forever, or that I just like to cook in them. But I adore old cast irons. And if I get to touch one artifact—one thing of Joe Kipp's—I hope it's a skillet. The archeologists are very fun, but they are also very fit. My strategy, whenever I need a break or a rehydrated snack, is to ask questions about Joe Kipp. Kyle and Brent get on a roll telling stories, and I get to catch my breath.

Brent Rowley: Yeah. I mean, Joe Kipp was one of the most influential people in the latter half of the 19th century in the Glacier National Park region. But he was kind of all over the place, and to actually tie one location to him is really important. I mean, he had an influence on so many locations, but to actually have sort of a place that defines him as a person.

Peri: [to Brent and Kyle] And so to you, why is he the most important person?

Brent: I mean, he was kind of involved in all the pivotal events that happened in this region, but in kind of his own way. He was involved in the bison trade, you know, he was running whiskey across the Canadian border and had influence on even the border getting established. He was the guide for so many people, and he guided Grinnell through the park. I mean, he was, you know, involved with all these people.

Kyle: I think when you compare him to other historical figures in the park's history, I mean, Glacier has a lot of big name folks. And I think what Joe Kipp's contribution was, is he's kind of exemplary of what it meant to just make a living and exist at that time. And in so doing, I think he kind of encapsulates what it what it meant to be, you know, someone in the 1800s just kind of making your making your way in the world.

Peri: [in the field] Yeah, it's kind of like, you know, seeing history through this one person's choices.

Kyle: Yeah. He's not exactly the common man by any means. He was definitely like, you know, out there trying to make a name for himself in his own way. But I think he's definitely way more of the like, a representative of the common man's experience. He just happened to have like eight common man's experiences, like, all in one lifetime. [all laugh]

Brent: Yeah, that's for sure.

[a beat plays, marking a transition]

Daniel: Hey Peri, I think we need to do a little Fur Trade 101 here.

Peri: [laughing] Okay.

Daniel: What are they actually trading furs, I guess, but what are they trading them for?

Peri: So what Europeans are training to get these furs are, for the most part, guns. High quality British rifles. At some points, alcohol is a big part of the trade, too, along with other manufactured goods and supplies, including cast iron cookware. Joe Kipp's father, James Kipp, is working in this trade in the early to mid 1800s, and he's focused on beaver furs, which are going to make hats.

Daniel: Hats... like Davy Crockett's?

Peri: [laughing] I think that's a raccoon? Picture men in the 1700s, 1800s in like black top hats, the men in Jane Austen movies, or on Bridgerton, or Napoleon's hat—all made of beaver fur.

Daniel: Gotcha. The raw material is beaver fur, but the end product looks basically like felt.

Peri: Yeah, they don't really resemble the original creature… but they're hugely popular and there's a big demand for those furs. But eventually, fashions change and railroads and steamships make it possible to transport much larger cargo, especially compared to a canoe. So bison hides, which are also called bison robes, become the more desirable product.

Daniel: Okay. So how does Joe Kipp fit into all of this?

Peri: Well, his father is working for the American Fur Company, a competitor to the Hudson's Bay Company that probably you've heard of. And he's living in villages with Mandan people for several years. And like a lot of white men in the fur trade, he marries an Indigenous woman. It's sort of a strategic alliance between the tribe and the traders. And so Joe, their son, is of mixed descent, which is sometimes called métis, and he grows up in this fur trade world.

Daniel: So then Joe Kipp grows up... Does he do the same thing as his father?

Peri: No, not really. He's more of a freelancer. He's kind of a middleman in the bison trade. He sets up these trading posts for a few years at a time near one native group or another, and they would bring in buffalo robes and other animal furs and exchange them for trade goods, supplies and alcohol. And he'd turn around and sell them to bigger companies. There's actually a Charlie Russell painting called Joe Kipp's Trading Post. You should look it up sometime.

Daniel: Mmm okay. So what do you think Kyle meant when he said that Joe Kipp had eight common man's experiences?

Peri: Well, he just did so many things. Our story here is about the fur trade, but things are changing so rapidly in the late 1800s. And Joe Kipp is involved in everything. After the end of the bison in the 1880s, he dabbles in prospecting, which is what his cabin is for, and he gets involved in guiding people around this area too, as tourism starts to grow. He hunted and trapped wolves; he was involved in politics on the reservation. Later in life, he owned a general store, a ranch and a stagecoach business.

Daniel: So he did everything.

Peri: Everything.

Daniel: And I think you told me that at one point he was scouting for the Army and involved in the Baker massacre, right?

Peri: Yeah. That's a whole other story, and a pretty terrible one. He said that he tried to prevent it, but there are some moments in his history that it's hard to know what to make of.

Daniel: Well, what do people say about Kipp? Like, what did they have to say about his character, who he was?

Peri: That's kind of hard to say, too. I mean, his obituary talks about his kindness and generosity to those in need, both white and native. It says, "though during his lifetime, he made great sums of money, the most of it went for charity, and he died by no means a rich man." And another account says his funeral was attended by "the largest crowd ever assembled on such an occasion on the reservation."

Daniel: Do you think everyone's obituary says something nice about them, though? [both laugh]

Peri: I mean, yes, probably. And the author, James Schultz, is known to tell a few tall tales. So in the end, there are a lot of stories out there about Joe Kipp, and it's hard to know where the truth really lies.

[beat plays, marking a transition]

Rosalyn LaPier: So my name is Rosalyn LaPier and I'm a member of the Blackfeet tribe, but I'm also Métis. My family has been in what is now Montana for many generations, including my Métis side as well. And I am a historian, an environmental historian.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] You know, as a kid, it's just—history is this set of facts and dates and you learn it. And the more that I've engaged with it, the more it's like, oh, this is like it's a practice. It's something that's constructed. It's something that's built and retold.

Rosalyn: The way historians think about history, history is interpretation, right? You know, there's four of us sitting in the room right now. Imagine that there is a car accident that happens in the middle. But because we're all sitting in a separate part of the room, what we actually see is going to be different. You know, one of us is going to say, "oh, it was this person's fault" and somebody else is going to say, "oh, no, wait, no, it was this other person's fault." I mean, that's what history is. Right?

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Right.

Rosalyn: And what historians try to do is we acknowledge that the accident happened. [laughing]

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Right.

Rosalyn: So that's the fact or the event or... but let's try and find all the different interpretations of about that particular fact, because it often happens that we only tell one side. We only tell one person's story.

Peri: The history of the fur trade has dark moments, moments that turn Rosalyn stern, but most of the time she's funny and lighthearted. Off mic, we bonded over playing the fiddle and our love of fun dog names.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] And do you want to introduce your dog as well?

Rosalyn: And I brought my dog with me today. This is Poka-immoyii-tapi, which means Child of Sasquatch. [Peri laughs] But we just call her Immoyii, which means furry.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Very fluffy. [both laugh] What…what does it mean to be Métis? Like capital-M Métis.

Rosalyn: So métis is a word that grew out of the fur trade that occurred in what is now Canada. So métis means, you know, mixed, and the Métis develop to have their own identity. They had their own language, their own religious practice, their own cultural practices, and so they became their own distinct ethnic group.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Yeah, because you could see it as, “oh, it's half French and half Indigenous,” but really it's become its own thing.

Rosalyn: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it was half and half back in the 1600s. [both laughing] Maybe the early 1700s. But that was, you know, like 400 years ago. Yeah.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] How did Métis people interact with the fur trade?

Rosalyn: So either hunting, either processing, sometimes being the middlemen and connecting with trading companies. It is, you know, men, it's women, it's entire families that are working these different roles.

Peri: I can't really say whether Joe Kipp would have identified as Capital M, culturally Métis, but he certainly used every part of his upbringing and background to try and make a living. The fur trade ties through his father, his knowledge of Indigenous languages and cultures from his mother's side, and his ties to the Blackfeet community through his wife and children. In addition to wondering about métis people, I also wanted Roslyn to help walk me through the bigger picture of the fair trade and its context.

Rosalyn: So the difference between the fur trade and what had occurred previous to that is just the scale.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Okay.

Rosalyn: So the idea of hunting more or harvesting more so that you could take that extra surplus and then trade for somebody or barter with somebody. Buying and selling, not new at all. You could argue that trade networks could be very capitalistic. But what is different is it's not a corporation that is is buying what you're selling. So it wasn't until the fur trade that that level of globalism gets introduced to this area, they ultimately end up bartering for money. And having money is different than saying I will trade corn for wild rice.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] So that's a new introduction.

Rosalyn: That's a new introduction. Also, the concept of credit and debit is a new concept. So they're not trading one object for another object. And some people just didn't trade. That's kind of one of the kind of missing part of the story. Again, it wasn't like this... all of a sudden, people are like, “oh my god, I need, you know, a copper bowl!” [both laugh] You know? It just it was like this—people were just like, “yeah, I don't need that copper bowl.” So for the Blackfeet, one of the things that we know about Blackfeet society historically is that women owned everything. That changed over time when the Americans introduced the concept of men owning everything.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Here's the patriarchy. You're welcome. [both laughing]

Rosalyn: Exactly. It was... It was a cultural value, I guess, that men not own anything. That it would impact their freedom or slow them down.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Mmmm right.

Rosalyn: Whereas women own everything, the whole household. Remember, women were already—there was already hunting, they're already processing the hides. They owned all of that. So one of the things that kind of gets introduced also as part of this process of colonialism and capitalism is the idea that men, quote, unquote, own what they hunt. Hmm. And that—that changed really slowly over time. It didn't happen overnight. It was a real, real slow kind of cultural change.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Early on, this is a colonial enterprise, but it doesn't seem like settler colonialism? Like they're like we want these furs, but like we don't want the land.

Rosalyn: Yes, so no that's a good interpretation of what happened. No, I think that in the beginning, people are just interested in resource extraction. People are not interested in living here. That changes over time. And you got to remember, over generations, right? So like what Grandpa would have done versus what Mom, you know, down to the kid. By the time the kid is doing it, it's a different economic system. It's not an overnight thing that happens where capitalism gets introduced and boom. There it is.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] It arrives, it's here.

Rosalyn: Yeah, but it's something that evolves over time. Because one of the things we know from the historic record is that when fur traders first come here, they had to adapt to the system that existed here, right.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Cause they were coming into these Indigenous places and Indigenous systems of everything.

Rosalyn: Yes.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Life, etiquette...

Rosalyn: Yes. We often think of contact, right, cultural contact as like something that happens like a car wreck—immediate and a big bang and, and like things change after that contact. We don't often think of contact between, you know, the Americans and Indigenous groups, or Europeans and Indigenous groups, as like this slow, like process, that happens over decades and generations. [pensive music begins to play] And we see the end result, which looks like a car wreck, but we don't see the beginning, which is not that at all. Right. It's something very different.

[music builds]

Rosalyn: So one of the things that is really different with the way that the Americans and the U.S. government dealt with Indigenous people was that they did not see anything wrong with coming and outright stealing Indigenous land, outright stealing resources and not thinking of it as somebody else's resources or somebody else's place. So when we talk about colonialism or we talk about capitalism, that system is based on a system of thievery. Even at that time, they know they're stealing from Indigenous people. We think of capitalism as benign, right? We think of it just as an economic process.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] Right. The free market. It's this like non-active entity.

Rosalyn: Yes.

Peri: [to Rosalyn] I think we're not—as a culture, we're not very good students of history. History isn't the past. Not only are we making history every day, but also we are living with the repercussions of history from hundreds and thousands of years ago. Every day.

Rosalyn: Yeah. And I think that—I mean, this is one of those things that, you know, will America ever come to terms with this? We will see.

[music ends]

[western tanager begins to sing]

Peri: It's first thing in the morning at our campsite. Everyone is trying to eat their rehydrated, dehydrated breakfast, and I'm pestering Kyle about what we might find at the cabin site today.

Kyle: One thing that'd be really cool to find would be like I was saying, something diagnostic, which is just like something that you can use to, like a time and a place.

Peri: [in the field] Like to firmly say this is older than this or younger than this?

Kyle: Yeah. And one really great thing for that is complete bottle bases. Tin cans and things like that can also sometimes help.

Peri: [in the field] Because we don't know where the actual cabin was.

Brent: Oh yeah, we do.

Peri: [in the field] Or we do, did you find like the footprint?

Brent: We found not the actual footprint, but we found a forge. We have a really good idea of where it was.

Peri: [in the field] Because things like a big forge or a skillet would not have moved over time, whereas rifle casings could be all over.

Brent: Yeah.

Peri: I know we won't find the cabin itself, because it was burned down by Joe Cosley, another glacier trickster—allegedly. So if I want to understand Joe Kipp, it'll have to be by what's left behind. I wonder what things of mine would survive a fire and a century in the woods. My cast irons would…definitely not my fiddle though. It would be an incomplete picture, but it'd be a glimpse of what was important to me.

[a beat plays briefly, marking a transition]

Daniel: So we're talking about the fur trade today, right?

Peri: Yes.

Daniel: But we're talking about it through one person.

Peri: Yeah. Through Joe Kipp's story.

Daniel: Yeah, at least it's tempting for me, is like, okay, I'm trying to understand this piece of history. I'm trying to understand this one person, and I want to understand them through the ethics and the morals of today.

Peri: Yeah I mean, any main character in a story, you're trying to decide how you feel about them.

Daniel: Like is this person, the hero or the anti-hero?

Peri: Right, fit them into an archetype. Like, am I rooting for them? Am I not? How do I feel about this person?

Michael Faist: You do that to humanize history and you put yourself in people's shoes like, “would I do that? How would I feel if I did that?”

Daniel: Sure. Well, tell us about Joe Kipp, Peri.

Peri: So his family is very distinguished on both sides. He comes from a very prominent New York family. And the Kip's Bay neighborhood in Manhattan is named for his family.

Daniel: Wow, okay.

Gaby Eseverri: I have family there.

Peri: What?!

Gaby: Yeah! [both laughing]

Peri: Gaby, the Joe Kipp connections are everywhere! And his mother is the daughter of a Mandan chief named Four Bears, who's also quite a character. I definitely recommend googling him.

Daniel: He's connected to everything with, like, these wild stories every time.

Peri: Every time.

Gaby: Yeah. Did you guys know that he and George Bird Grinnell were good friends?

Daniel: Okay. So, Grinnell… Grinnell helped establish Glacier National Park.

Gaby: Yeah. So after one of his trips, Grinnell goes back home, back to New York City, and one day gets a package. So he goes downstairs, and in the middle of the street are two grizzly bear cubs.

Peri: Loose?!

Daniel: In New York?

Gaby: [laughing] Yeah, that's the package. And he didn't even need to see a note—

Peri: "Delivery for you!"

Gaby: —or any information, he knew. He just knew it was from Joe Kipp.

Peri: "Which one of my friends would mail me bear cubs?"

Michael: Why? Why did he send him bear cubs?

Gaby: That's a great question, Michael. A question we all kind of still have. It's not totally clear, but Joe Kipp had a trading post, and behind one of his trading posts, he had two pet grizzly bear cubs.

Peri: So George Grinnell was like, I’d love some bear cubs.

Daniel: He must have said something. And so then Joe Kipp just mails them to New York.

Gaby: But they were safe. They made it safe, and they ended up at the Central Park Zoo.

Daniel: Okay.

Peri: Maybe Joe Kipp just thought better of having two adult grizzly bears out back of his store.

Gaby: I think maybe he saw that they were growing and growing fast. [laughing]

Daniel: Okay. So he's a kooky character, he's—but he's just involved in everything. He's doing business and he knows the area really well. He can be a cultural bridge with a foot in a bunch of different worlds at once.

Michael: Yeah. So he was not by any means the first person to have good working knowledge of how to navigate this landscape that would eventually become Glacier, but he was one of the first people that started to market it. In this 1896 map of the place that would later become the park—it's beautiful, hand-drawn, and it has Joe Kipp's name in the bottom right as a copyright.

Gaby: Wow.

Peri: And this is one of the first maps of this area, at least that was widely distributed, right? Yeah.

Michael: Certainly one of the first detailed maps of this place. He didn't draw the map himself. It was drawn by somebody else, but it was based on his descriptions of the landscape.

Daniel: Not only is he involved in everything, but he's literally putting Glacier on the map. Yeah.

Peri: Yeah. Another Joe Kipp story, and I think this one's important, is about him smuggling alcohol across the Canadian border because the U.S. is cracking down on alcohol sales to tribes.

Gaby: Hmm.

Peri: So he's trying to get these wagon loads of whiskey across the border, and the U.S. Marshal is chasing him down a hundred miles—hundreds of miles across the plains. And finally, the Marshal catches him and is like, "all right, I got you. Give it up." But Joe Kipp is like, "you know what? It's kind of unclear where the border is. Looks to me like we're in Canada."

Gaby: Oh my God.

Peri: And the Marshal's like, "no, we absolutely are not. We are a few hundred yards shy of the border." And Joe Kipp's like, "well, there's five of us and one of you, we're in Canada." [all laugh] Essentially the Marshal was like, "all right, fair play" and rides off. And when they eventually surveyed the border in that area, they were, in fact, a couple of hundred yards on the U.S. side.

Daniel: Oh of course.

Gaby: Wow.

Michael: It's like a classic Hollywood Western, like standoff.

Peri: Well, so apparently, one of Joe Kipp's lines was, "I stand you off!" And then once they got across the border, he named his trading post Fort Standoff!

Michael: Wow.

Peri: It's a whole thing.

Daniel: Very Hollywood,.

Peri: Very.

Daniel: Hero or anti-hero? I don't know.

Peri: I know. I don't—I don't really know what box to put him in. In a way that makes him a great character because he is pretty ambiguous.

Daniel: He's complicated.

Peri: Definitely.

Music: [clip of John Wayne speaking plays over a catchy beat] There's right and there's wrong. You’ve gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living; do the other, and you may be walking around, but you're dead as a beaver hat.

Peri: Joe Kipp is doing quite the balancing act in this era of rapid change changing cultures, ecology, infrastructure, ways of life. Most of the time, it's impossible to know how he felt about this. But his obituary, written by James Schultz, has a rare quote. After the last bison were killed, Kipp apparently said, "I was born in the bison trade, I expected to die in the bison trade. The bison are gone and I don't know what to do." This cabin is basically his plan B—or one of them anyway. Trying to get by after the end of this system he'd made a life in.

[birds singing]

Michael: Describe where we are.

Peri: [in the field, over the sound of footsteps] In a beautiful subalpine meadow surrounded by subalpine fir and spruce. The morning light's coming up over the ridge. The ground is dewy. My toes are getting wet.

[white crowned sparrow sings]

Peri: I follow Kyle and Brent through patchy meadows and forest up toward the cabin site and we all set our packs down. They get out their trowels, flags to mark artifacts, GPS unit, and other tools of their trade. As we walk into a little clearing in the trees, the first thing we find is...

Kyle: That’s a doorknob. I don't think we recorded that the first time.

Brent: No, we didn't see that last time.

Kyle: So that's kind of cool because that means there's a door somewhere.

Brent: Yep. [both laugh]

Kyle: But so anyway, if you guys start peeking around in the woods, you start seeing all sorts of stuff, I think—

Peri: [in the field] We get to be archeologists for the day?!

Kyle: Yeah. [Peri laughs]

Peri: Turns out I'm not a great archeologist, but luckily I have professionals with me. Historic artifacts are protected though, so even with the pros, everything is left where we found it. Including, of all things, a coffee grinder.

Brent: Whoaaa!

Kyle: A coffee grinder, huh?

Sarah: Maybe.

Peri: [in the field] Oh, yeah. That's totally a burr grinder. Like it looks like a burr grinder.

Brent: Oh a burr—okay. Yeah yeah, I see what you're saying. I thought you said a bird grinder. [everyone laughs loudly] And I was picturing Joe Kipp stuffing like a ptarmigan in there. [laughing]

Peri: And then my personal highlight….

Brent: We found your artifact.

Peri: [in the field] You did? [gasps] A skillet!

Brent: Yeah.

Peri: [in the field] I love it! It's got a heat ring, it's got a gate mark, just like mine. This is why I love cast iron skillets. Because they're just like—I mean, mine hasn't been, like, sitting in the ground for 100 years, but it's like, looks a lot like this.

Brent: Yeah. I mean, maybe a few decades ago, it has still been usable.

Peri: [in the field] I know, mine doesn't have any holes in the bottom, but…

Brent: Yeah.

Kyle: You could become a specialist in cast iron archeology.

Brent: Yeah.

Kyle: I could see an entire master's thesis on it.

Peri: [in the field] I would love that. [both laughing]

Brent: I always think finding stuff like this is cool because, like, it's kind of a really personal connection to someone. Like, he was probably, like, frying up his meat in that, you know, item.

Peri: Later, we'd all spread out around the site, chatting, snacking, and Kyle came and got me.

Kyle: So this is kind of still a guess phase, [raven calling] but there's a line from here out to here. And if you trowel underneath like here, you just find tons of wood, and a lot of the wood's burned. And then I did the same thing over here, and I didn't find that wood or the charcoal. And so there's a possibility this is…

Brent: A cabin.

Kyle: An old cabin wall. [ringing of a trowel scraping on the ground] So if that story of the cabin burning is true, there could be some remnant of an actual like floor.

[pensive music begins to play]

Peri: As Kyle scraped his trowel along the floor I was standing on, and pointed out what looked like one wall of the cabin, I felt surprisingly emotional. I don't know whether to describe it as a thrill or a shiver, but it felt a little bit like time traveling.

Kyle: So then you can kind of say stove here, forge there... You start kind of getting a spatial—

Peri: [in the field] So we're like in the cabin?

Brent: Possibly.

Peri: [in the field] Maybe.

Kyle: So this is… like where I'm standing right now, I mean, very well could have been like an entryway.

Peri: [in the field] You're standing on the doorstep.

Kyle: Standing on the doorstep, yeah.

Peri: It was surreal to be there, standing on the doorstep of Joe Kipp's cabin, after reading and wondering about him for so long. And coming to the cabin did answer some of my questions. Turns out he was a bit of a coffee snob, and we have the same taste in cast iron skillets. It felt like I could reach across that gap in time just a little bit. But there's so much more that I just can't know from this distance. What were his motivations? His hopes, his fears? Was he a good person? And does that even matter?

[music finishes playing; a new more upbeat piece of music plays briefly]

Daniel: On a day that Peri was doing another interview, Gaby and I drove over Going-to-the-Sun Road to talk with Jack Gladstone.

Gaby: [in the field] We recording?

Daniel: [in the field] Yeah.

Jack Gladstone: Hey.

Daniel: [in the field]Hey, Jack.

Gaby: [in the field]Hey, Jack.

Daniel: Jack is a locally famous musician who fuzes history into his songs and I think into everything else in his life, too.

Jack: Coffee. Really good. Coffee. That is fresh in the thermos.

Daniel: He's a big guy, and it's not hard to believe that he won a Rose Bowl playing football for the University of Washington.

Jack: Okay, cups for you.

Daniel: He calls his house the Buffalo Chalet, and he built it himself. Of course.

Gaby: [in the field] It's a Charlie Russell mug. So we're sitting on Jack's porch. Jack just walked out with his guitar.

Jack: Yeah, we're on the porch overlooking Lower Saint Mary's Lake, and we're—we're drinking a blend of deep, dark roast. [Gaby laughing]

Daniel: [in the field] That's good.

Jack: We are blends.

Gaby: [in the field] Yeah.

Jack: I am Jack Gladstone. A cross-blood, Blackfeet Indian, German-American singer-songwriter, cultural interpreter, co-founder of Native American Speaks.

Daniel: We talked to Jack for hours. Sometimes I would ask him about his personal life and he would answer with an obscure piece of history. Then other times I would ask him about history, and he'd answer with an intimate story from his childhood. Mostly we talked about his music, and two songs in particular that illustrate this era of the fur trade with extremely catchy lyrics. We started with his song, Hudson Bay Blues, which is all about the Hudson Bay trading company and the culture of shopping that it introduced to this region.

Gaby: [in the field] So in like two sentences. What is the song about to you?

Jack: The introduction and the intrusion and the full manifest intoxication of the market or commercialism.

Gaby: [in the field] Can you play a little bit of that?

Jack: Oh, sure.

Daniel: [in the field] You notice Gaby knows all that, all your lyrics. [Gaby laughing]

Jack: Oh, I appreciate that.

Music: [Jack playing "Hudson Bay Blues" while playing his guitary] I was riding on my pony hunting bison on the plains when the moccasin telegraph reported something strange, someone built lodges made with stone and logs, they had bushes on their faces and funky looking dogs.

Jack: Pretty much in a hunting gathering society, most everything that you utilize is taken from a relatively local chain.

Music: ["Hudson Bay Blues" continues] When the smoke was over, they said, we've got a gift for you that'll fill your head with the visions make you strong and happy too. Didn't quite know what to think before we drank that rum, firewater...

Jack: When the first white men were perceived by our people, we noticed they had incredible powers. Napi is the trickster. Náápiikoan would translate to trickster men, and the napi-aohkíí is the alcohol. And would convert a person into this trickster man that seemed to be a little bit more full of the seven deadly sins.

Music: ["Hudson Bay Blues" continues] Silver bells, tallow candles, sugar, flour, dark molasses, colored beads, looking glasses, pale ale, gin and brandy, fine wine and hard rock candy. Ride-through service was awful handy! Though. We couldn't stop shopping....

Jack: But I don't take a value judgment. I do recognize the pernicious nature, the potential pernicious nature of the capitalist system, unfettered, unregulated, without a conscience. Don't talk about your freedom if your freedom is collapsing the life support system.

Music: ["Hudson Bay Blues" continues] Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Cowboys and Indians! In the 21st century, K-Mart, Walmart, Target, Shopko, Sam's Club, yes even Costco.com are nothing more than fur trading posts on steroids! Now we get spandex goretex...

Jack: I think the big question is not whether the shopping culture and the fur trade and everything that it brought was positive or negative. The big question is what we do to bring pleasure and economic gain? Is that a sustainable activity?

Music: ["Hudson Bay Blues" continues] We can't stop shopping at the Hudson's Bay Company

Jack: When I introduced Napi, Old Man Napi, he was our Blackfeet inflection of the trickster. The thing about the trickster and the hero is both archetypes are woven into—are baked into the cake. And which one do we become? Well, I think it's both.

Daniel: [in the field] You try not to put too much a value judgment or good or bad on forces of history. In this case, it seems like you've seen the bad brought by Hudson Bay introducing alcohol.

Jack: Geez. You know, I—that was my first, first traumatic experiences in my life was the confusion when my dad came home with the uncles and his buddies and they were drinking or drinking around, and there were, you know, fights and stuff in the middle of the night. You know, and then, you know, what do you do when you're a kid? But that's napi-aohkíí. That's Napi's water.

Daniel: The other song we talked about is called Whoop Up Trail. If Hudson Bay Blues was all about the arrival of commercialism, then Whoop Up Trail is about the aftermath. Joe Kipp, he's not mentioned anywhere in the song, but the bison robe trade, running whiskey up to Canada, literally along the Whoop Up Trail... There are some loud echoes.

Daniel: [in the field] Just for someone who hasn't heard of it, what's the very short, just... what literally was the Whoop Up Trail?

Jack: The Whoop Up Trail was actually 1869, started going big time to 1874. The Whoop Up Trail was an illegally constructed whiskey running trail from Fort Benton, Montana, ultimately to Fort Whoop Up, not far from Lethbridge. They rebuilt exact replica the same way my great-great-grandfather, the Hudson's Bay Company man, built it. And it was unregulated, unconscientious tidal wave of opportunity to drink and to trade off what was of most value, which was the bison as a single resource.

Gaby: [in the field] Hudson Bay Blues is kind of like the causes and introduction of this lifestyle. Whoop trail, it's almost like the effects and the consequences of, of all of this.

Jack: There was a value structure that was based on the market and the United States was growing and there was no limits on... hope. Although one—one people's hope is kind of another, another culture's doom. [starts playing the first chords of “Whoop Up Trail”] I am a child of the Whoop Up Trail. You might be, too.

Music: [Jack plays "Whoop Up Trail"] After the Civil War bloodbath was over, anxious eyes were focused on the West. Gold fields were calling...

Jack: Alcohol not only would get you a good return, but it would reduce your customers' power of reasoning and power of fairness. A buffalo robe that was not tanned or not processed was not value. I guess it would took around a month of tanning that hide in order for it to be valuable. That could be gone with—with another couple of drinks. Everything was melting down.

Music: ["Whoop Up Trail" continues] Looking for the Whoop Up Trail. Went bounding down the Whoop Up Trail. Steamboats switched cargo...

Jack: When I was a little kid, the Whoop Up Trail was still happening, when the party started and wouldn't end. And there was a point, though, when there was violence and somebody was getting hit and somebody was bleeding, and that was the Whoop Up Trail. But not the historical Whoop Up Trail.

Music: ["Whoop Up Trail" continues] U.S. authorities made law for the red man, the whiskey trading scabs were told to move on, to the no law and order land, north of the line, they went...

Jack: No law and order up north of the border, that was the status of the situation. And a stupendously spectacular profit margin. Understanding that essentially if the Indians—if Blackfoot Confederacy extinguishes themself, it's much cheaper.

Music: ["Whoop Up Trail" continues] No law and order up north of the line. We'll sell anything to any man, gold is in the vault. What happens when the sun goes down? Hell it's not our fault. Show me the money. Build me a robe mine...

Jack: Gold is in the vault. What happens when the sun goes down? Hell, it's not our fault. Hell is not our fault. In other words, disclaiming any responsibility. They're the ones that are taking the drink. We didn't make them drink.

Music: ["Whoop Up Trail" continues] The trickster stumbles off in drunken stupor. Lost is the freedom of ten thousand years. A sober reflection in history's glass. Looking down the Whoop Up Trail, we bounded down the Whoop Up, Children of the Whoop Up Trail.

[final chords of Whoop Up Trail ring quietly]

Jack: Good, bad and the ugly there… Morality, whether something is right or wrong gets clouded, maybe for our survival, justifiably so. If your family is hungry, and you're looking for the best deal you can make at that particular time to make sure they get fed.

Daniel: [in the field] Why do you focus on the positive parts?

Jack: This political figure here or that general back there in history? They were human. Of course. I don't demonize them anymore. That's something I could very easily do. You know, it's not a binary anymore. It's a spectrum.

Daniel: [in the field] You're telling a history of this area. You're telling a Blackfeet history, you're telling your family's history, and you're telling your personal history. Like, it seems like they're all kind of the same story.

Jack: That water from the well is what I sip. There's a history behind, behind everything. And that's some of the that's some of the painful, painful parts of doing the work that I do.

Peri: At the end of our field day at Joe Kipp's cabin, we climbed up to a high point to take in the view. We could see the whole valley below us, streams and pools glinting in the evening light. [haunting violin music begins to play] In the other direction, dark smoke was blooming from a wildfire. We sat and talked about history and landscape and what it means to really get to know a place, absorbing both the easy beauty and the difficult shadows of this place.

Brent: I like to call it a fourth dimensional view of the landscape because, you know, with the fourth dimension being time. And so my travel through Glacier is definitely very fourth dimensional where I see, you know, all the, the, the patterning of all these places and how they—how people, you know, deposited leftover materials that represent their cultures and the various time periods they lived in.

Kyle: You know, one thing about Joe Kipp's cabin too, you know, it doesn't stand out on the landscape or anything. So if you were to just look at that area from a distance, you wouldn't notice it. But you can add in this history component, that totally has revolutionized my love of the place beyond just how pretty something is. I just think of how many times we've been in, like, some beautiful place, and we’re both just like staring at the ground. [all laughing]

Brent: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I, like, sometimes forget to look up at the mountains. [laughing]

Peri: [in the field] An occupational hazard.

Brent: Yeah. The archeological sites in general, just.... They tell the story of human history in this place that people think of as only a natural place. But it's actually a place that's been lived in for, you know, well over 10,000 years, a place where families were raised, a place where people hunted for their food, a place where people did religious practices and—all fitting within like, this beautiful natural landscape. But so much of that human history is left out of the story that we tell here.

Peri: I looked out at the same view I had seen before, and this time I thought about all the people who'd come and gone from these valleys, picked berries, made camp here, built a cabin, tried to make a living to feed their families. Instead of seeing this as somewhere remote, somewhere to get away from people, to feel solitude and isolation, I started to see it as a place with layers of human history and culture. Maybe it's not possible to really know Joe Kipp, to understand him as a person or to judge him from this far away. But learning his story and seeing how this history is intertwined with this place—the good, the bad and the ugly—has shown me a new dimension to this landscape.

Kyle: [in studio] Frank Linderman was asking Joe Kipp if he if he could write his story. And I believe Joe Kipp said something to the effect of "No, Frank, if I told you the truth, they'd hang me yet."

Peri: [both laughing] That's a good one!

Kyle: So I think—I think even Kipp admits at that at that moment that his life sort of flits between, you know, ethical and moral and right and wrong. And we like to, in the modern era, [Whoop Up Trail begins to play softly] sort of characterize people as being one thing. And I think Joe Kipp was probably a lot of things.

Music: [studio version of Whoop Up Trail plays] No law and order up north of the line. Show me the money. Build me a robe mine. No law and order, up north of the border, no law and order go north of the line.

Daniel: A quick reminder. We looked at a lot of historic artifacts this episode, and we left them all where we found them. They're protected by law. So if you find any, please do the same.

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park, with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of Headwaters was made by me, Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist, and Gaby Eseverri. Frank Waln wrote and performed our music, and Eric Carlson created this season's cover art. And for this episode, a special thank you to Kyle Langley, Sarah Foster and Jack Gladstone….

Gaby: Thanks for the coffee Jack!

Daniel: Rosalyn LaPier…

Gaby: And her furry dog.

Daniel: Of course Anne Hyde, and all the producers of those dehydrated backpacking meals. We could not have made Season Three without Lacy Kowalski or Melissa Sladek and Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, the Glacier National Park Archives and the Montana Historical Society. Thanks for listening.

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.

Peri: We ask, who built the Great Northern Railway?

Stephen Sadis: It was a fourth transcontinental… it was unnecessary. It was ridiculous

Linda Tamura: My grandfather was one of those. His first job was actually working on a railroad crew in Cut Bank Montana, in Glacier County

Voice actor: Who else but Americans could have laid twelve miles of track in ten hours?

Peri: That’s next time, on Headwaters.

[music finishes playing]

Peri: [to Andrew] Hey, Andrew.

Andrew Smith: Hey, Peri.

Peri: [to Andrew] Welcome back to the studio.

Andrew: Thanks. Nice to be here.

Peri: [to Andrew] So the Conservancy supports Headwaters, but you guys also support a ton of other projects in the park.

Andrew: Yeah. One I'd like to talk to you about today is the Piikuni Lands Service Corps, which is a project where youth from the Blackfeet Reservation and young adults, they get to build some really great job skills in conservation by working on projects in Glacier, in the national forest, a lot of different lands around-- it's a big partnership between a lot of organizations, and I think it's it's really special because we get some great conservation work done. But it also leads to careers in conservation for a lot of these students and young adults. And so it's it's great to see them finding their passion out there.

Peri: [to Andrew] That sounds like a really cool opportunity.

Andrew: Yeah, we're really excited to be part of it.

Peri: [to Andrew] And if people want to learn more, where can they do that?

Andrew: They should check out our website. It's Glacier.org

We biography Joe Kipp and join an archeological adventure in order to understand the fur trade. Then, music helps heal the traumatic legacy of history.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

Jack Gladstone: https://www.jackgladstone.com/ Native America Speaks Program: https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/nas.htm

Episode 6

Becoming | Empire Builders


[bell clanging and train sound approaching]

Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

[train horn sounds]

Daniel Lombardi: Just about every day I hear the rumble of trains throughout West Glacier. Whether I'm inside or out, the sound of trains punctuate a lot of daily life in Glacier.

Michael Faist: And that line, running along the park's southern boundary, has been in service since the steam engine nearly 130 years ago. And anything with that long of a legacy leaves a mark. Tell me this, Daniel. What do you think the most common name for a business is around here?

Daniel: I feel like Glacier being in the name of a lot of things.

Michael: Yes. There's a lot of businesses named Glacier.

Daniel: Glacier cat groomers, Glacier golf, Glacier gas. There's a bunch.

Michael: So that shouldn't be surprising. But close behind are businesses named Great Northern. There's the Great Northern Veterinary Office, Great Northern Concrete, Great Northern Llama Ranch, close to 40 other businesses that share that name in Flathead County alone. So today our local railroad is serviced by Amtrak and BNSF, or Burlington Northern Santa Fe. But it was their predecessor, the Great Northern Railway, that started it all.

Old Film: [audio sounds crackly and tinny; the narrator’s accent is of the early 1900s] Great Northern skirts the southern boundary, of Glacier Park for 57 miles. [ambient music begins to play in the video] This is Great Northern. Not the railroad or the train, but this car and its contents. A rolling inventory of America's wealth.

[Headwaters season 3 theme begins playing; starting with mandolin]

Michael: My question: who built the Great Northern Railway?

[theme continues; a drumbeat, a flute line, and other instruments come in, before the music finishes]

Daniel: History is shaped by great men wielding absolute power, men with vast vaults of money and epic dreams. Executives. Kings. Presidents. Generals. It is these men who bend the world and shape history into new chapters. The rest of us are mere pawns. Or at least that's how one theory goes. [a subtle electronic beat begins] You're listening to Headwaters, a podcast about how Glacier National Park connects to everything else. This is Season Three: Becoming. It's about the people, the profit margins, and the promises that defined the West before a national park tried to do the same. This episode starts with one of history's great men, James J. Hill, the founder of the Great Northern Railway. He cut a literal line across the country through towns, tribes and the edge of what would become Glacier National Park.

Michael: And in the process became one of the most powerful businessmen of his time, even if it didn't start that way.

Daniel: And you've been looking into that history of the Great Northern, both from the bottom up and the top down.

Michael: Yeah, from a lot of different angles. Working here, you hear about Great Northern all the time. You get to hear a lot about all the things they would go on to do to shape the park. But what I've never understood is how did they get here in the first place? Like who built the Great Northern Railway? And how, after eight years of living here, have I never ridden the train?

Daniel: So where do we start?

Michael: We start at the beginning.

Michael: [to Stephen] Assuming I have never heard of him before, who is J.J. Hill? And why should I know his name?

Stephen Sadis: [on the phone] Who is James J. Hill?

[dramatic violin music begins]

Empire Builder Documentary: [movie narrator voice] He was known as the Empire Builder and the Devil's Curse. Streets, towns and counties were named in his honor, along with a persistent and invasive weed. He was mythologized in novels and was the subject of folk songs and union battle cries.

[music fades out]

Michael: I called Stephen Sadis, a producer and filmmaker who just finished a four-part docu-series called The Empire Builder: James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway, which you'll be hearing clips of throughout. At just 17 years old, Hill moved from Ontario, where he was born, to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Within 15 years, he went from a job as an entry level bookkeeper to running a warehouse of his own and operating a steamship company. He had made a name for himself.

Empire Builder Documentary: [different narrators voice each quote, with fiddle music beneath] Local newspapers took note. "This remarkable young man has kept accurate statistics for many years of all the freight coming in." "J.J. Hill is prepared to give shippers the lowest rates ever quoted from here to Eastern Points." "He beats all his competitors and in return gets the bulk of the transportation business. When Mr. Hill starts to accomplish a thing, he does it complete."

Michael: If you needed to ship something or have something shipped to you, he could do it faster and cheaper than the other guy. He was like Amazon, if they used ox carts and steamboats.

Stephen: He had a good reputation. He said what he meant and did what he said and people trusted him.

Michael: [to Stephen] Why did he want—why did he get into the railroad business?

Stephen: You know, I think he had visions of a transportation empire. I mean, it's very clear in early Saint Paul history, when the town got its first locomotive, I mean, he was constantly saying to other people what he would do if he would run the line. I mean, it's to the point where people were like, “Yeah, yeah, Jim, we know you'd do a much better job.”

Michael: Hill had an incredible track record for a young entrepreneur. And yet, when he finally bought a small bankrupt railroad and announced his plans to build it all the way to the West, people called him an idiot.

Daniel: I need to know more. Why?

Michael: Well, there were a few reasons. First of all, honestly, he was late to the game. He wanted to build a transcontinental line through Montana and onto the coast. But that line already existed. The Northern Pacific ran through southern Montana, and the Canadian Pacific, just to the north, ran through Alberta.

Stephen: So it was a fourth transcontinental that would thread a line between these other two, and it was unnecessary. It was ridiculous.

Empire Builder Documentary: [narrator voice with violin music beneath] The New York Times stated that no sane man could think of paralleling these lines without inviting bankruptcy, and dubbed the notion "Hill's Folly."

Daniel: So it sounds like there just wasn't a need, basically. Right.

Michael: Like, the region already has two railroads. Why would it need a third?

Daniel: Yeah.

Michael: But the other reason people called this idea Hill's Folly was the money. Building 3000 miles of railroad isn't cheap, but for a while there, the U.S. government would pay you if you tried.

Empire Builder Documentary: [narrator voice with violin music beneath] Lincoln put his pen to the Pacific Railway Act, authorizing the government to offer loans and land grants to railroad owners for every mile of track laid from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.

Michael: This policy worked. It jumpstarted railroad construction, but it also encouraged railroad companies to game the system, building curvy lines in order to gobble up as much land as possible.

Stephen: I mean, really, the real estate business began with the railroads. At one point, the railroads owned like 6% of all the land in the United States, which is, you know, mammoth.

Michael: By the time Hill was getting started, Congress had caught on. They stopped giving out land or loans to railroad companies. And without this assistance, Hill had to find private funding. He had to convince people that this line, which The New York Times was calling a bad idea, was a worthwhile investment.

Daniel: Okay. So what's different here is that all the other railroad companies, they were getting federal aid.

Michael: Right.

Daniel: But Hill, he had to pay his own way for the Great Northern.

Michael: Exactly. And letters from the Times suggest he found raising money to be the hardest part of the job. Networking, schmoozing, owing favors. But it paid off. He sold investors on the idea that his line could be built better and more efficiently than any other.

Stephen: His mantra was the lowest grade, least curvature, and shortest distance, and everything banked on that.

Michael: What was next was finding a route that would make that possible.

Stephen: As Hill's heading west, he's—he's chosen his route. And it happens that he needs to get through Indian territory.

Empire Builder Documentary: [narrator voice, with sad violin music beneath] Beginning in 1851, the Blackfeet, Gros Ventre, River Crow, and Assiniboine were restricted to reservation land that spread across much of Montana territory. But over the course of 30 years, the reservation had been reduced nine times by treaty and executive order.

Michael: But tribal land was still in Hill's way. He couldn't build through the Fort Berthold or Blackfeet reservations in present day North Dakota and Montana without a right of way. So in 1886, he started putting pressure on Congress and the president to open the land.

Stephen: Hill was working backchannels in order to get that approval to bring his lines through Indian territory.

Empire Builder Documentary: [narrator voice, with sparse guitars strumming beneath] Hill, for his part, was busy writing letters to congressmen. Mr. McGinnis is interested on behalf of his territory in a bill granting right of way to railroads in northern Montana. Any assistance you can render him will be a personal favor to me and to our friends, for which I will be glad at any time to reciprocate. Yours very truly, James J. Hill.

[pensive music begins to play]

Michael: Ultimately, it worked. They passed a bill that granted Hill a right of way, but it wasn't a permission slip through tribal lands. It required tribes already reeling from famine to give up a massive amount of reservation land, an area almost equivalent to the state of South Carolina. Here's Lea Whitford, a former Montana state senator and Blackfeet tribal member that Stephen interviewed to get the Blackfeet perspective on Hill blazing his railroad through Montana.

Lea Whitford: [speaking slowly, emotionally; flute music plays beneath] The 1888 agreement that came, well that was just right after the starvation winter. You have hundreds of people that are dying. You have leaders that have to make some real hard decisions. And what do we have of value? And so you have land. The Blackfeet are open to it because they have no choice.

Empire Builder Documentary: [dramatic narrator voice] The tribes living on the Blackfeet and Fort Berthold reservations accepted the terms drastically reducing their territory by 19.5 million acres.

Michael: While many are quick to celebrate Hill's efforts to privately finance the railroad, the highest price paid for his progress wasn't a financial one.


Michael: In September of the next year, Hill would change the name of his business to the Great Northern Railway. That November, Montana became a state. And the month after that, surveyor John F Stevens, located Marias Pass, the lowest elevation crossing of the continental divide between Canada and New Mexico, and Hill's ticket to the Pacific Coast.

Stephen: That at least ensures Hill that he can get through the Rockies, not without enormous difficulty in construction, but there is a pass that is manageable in its elevation gain. And that sort of is the first piece in the puzzle.

Michael: The section of track that today borders the southern tip of Glacier was the proof Hill needed that his plan would work. By 1891, juggling an incredible amount of materials, manpower and unpredictable terrain, he laid rails over the Rockies, closing the distance on his transcontinental line.

Stephen: You know, you're talking about bringing thousands of railroad ties and tons of rails. It's like those cartoons where Daffy Duck is riding on the locomotive and he's laying down track in front of him. And it's not a whole lot different than that. [train on track noises begin and build] And so you have these 8000 men and 6000 animals, and you have to feed them, and you have to house them, and you have to take care of all sort of maladies that occur and injuries and whatnot. I mean, it's it's—it's like a mobile town that is building this line. It's an amazing achievement.

[train whistle sounds]

Empire Builder Documentary: [narrator voice, guitar music begins to play] On January 6th, 1893, just west of the town of Scenic Washington, the eastern and western sections of the Great Northern Railway were connected. As two superintendents took turns driving home the final spike, revolvers shot into the air [gunshots; cheering] amid the cheers of 200 rail workers. It was a moment that crystallized Hill's longtime dream of a transcontinental railway of his own.

Michael: It is hard to understand today how much Great Northern and railroads like it transformed the country. If you wanted to get from one side of the country to the other in 1800, it took maybe 4 to 6 months, either by arduous wagon trip or by sailing all the way around South America. In 1893, you can make the same trip by rail in less than a week. It's infiltrated our vocabulary in ways that I never really thought about, like "blowing off steam" might seem obvious, that's an expression from steam engines. But sidetracked, backtracked, even switchbacks, which I think of as being a trail thing, that's a train thing. And just the massive power that these lines had to dictate the future of a place. Like when Hill was building into the Flathead Valley, he had the choice to build south towards the first and largest town in the Flathead Valley, which was called Demersville. It had churches, banks, newspapers, over a thousand people. But Hill decided instead to found his own town just to the north, which he named Kalispell. Kalispell is the county seat today, and all that remains of Demersville is a cemetery. Great Northern transformed the landscape as it went and transformed Hill from the son of Irish farmers into one of the richest men alive, earning him the nickname the Empire Builder.

Stephen: You have this transformative technology that is making millionaires every week. I mean, it's not a whole lot different than when the internet emerged. He was enormously wealthy. He was at one time the third and another time the tenth wealthiest man in the country.

Michael: James J. Hill embodied what many people see as the American dream, the promise that you can achieve the impossible if you put in the work. And when we look back at this era of transcontinental railroads, it's often with pride, admiring everything our nation accomplished in spite of all the obstacles. [pensive electronic music begins] Take, for example, a speech in 1969. Secretary of Transportation John Volpe went to speak at a celebration -- the 100th anniversary of the very first transcontinental railroad. Here's what he said.

Voice Actor: [authoritatively, dramatically] Who else but Americans could drill ten tunnels in mountains three feet deep in snow? Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid ten miles of track in 12 hours?

Michael: He either didn't know or didn't share the answer to his own question.

[music ends, setting off the following line dramatically]

Voice Actor: [with echo beneath] Who else but Americans?

[street noise]

Michael: 30 minutes outside of Glacier sits the town of Whitefish, another town that Great Northern put on the map. And early on, it was home to a lot of great northern employees. I went to Whitefish this summer in search of a historic plaque.

Michael: [in the field; church bells clanging in the background] I think that’s it! Right on the corner.

Michael: Not long after the Great Northern Railway announced its plans for a division point in Whitefish. Whitefish had its first church. I don't know about you, but I love reading plaques like this. I've seen them all over the country—sometimes bronze, sometimes silver, always with some interesting context about the place I'm visiting. And yet I somehow didn't know that my own employer manages this program. A guy named Paul oversees the state of Montana.

Paul Lusignan: [on the phone] My name is Paul Lusignan. I'm a historian with the National Register of Historic Places Program within the National Park Service.

Michael: I could tell you that at the time of this recording, there are 63 different national parks. But I didn't know until this year that a small team of Park Service employees helps preserve over 90,000 small sites like this all over the country. What is the National Register program? If you had to describe it.

Paul: It is largely an honorary program, but it's a list of properties, cultural resources that are worthy of preservation.

Michael: Paul said "honorary" because listing something on the register doesn't freeze it in time. You can still make changes to a building, for example, but it helps ensure that federally funded projects minimize their impact on our shared history.

Paul: They have to review whether it will impact historic buildings or historic resources, the same way they have to take into account endangered species or water conservation.

Michael: The Register is a record of sites like this church that have historical significance and helps them share their story.

Michael: [in the field, reading the plaque; church bells clanging and street noise in the background] The committee chose a Romanesque revival style considered less ostentatious, masonry construction, heavily arched windows.

Michael: Nominations are collected by states and tribes who send them to Paul and his boss, who just might have the coolest sounding job title in the National Park Service: the Keeper of the National Register.

Paul: The Keeper has designated authority to me to list properties in the National Register. And this comes back to the good old days when the National Register was actually a book.

Michael: [laughing] A literal book!

Paul: It was a green book in which you opened the cover you wrote in the name of the property and the date of listing, and then you shut the book and it was listed in the National Register.

Michael: But the whole process begins at the ground level. Anyone can identify something of historical value in their community and nominate it for listing. You could if you wanted to. That's how this church in Whitefish wound up on the register. Congregation members led the charge, and that's how I learned about the railroad history preserved in their stained glass windows.

[greetings, church bells, street noise]

Paul Hayden: Good morning.

Michael: [in the field] Morning.

Paul: You coming in here?

Michael: [in the field] I am.

Michael: I was actually invited in for a visit and was greeted by interim pastor Paul Hayden.

Paul: Paul Hayden. Bob's right here.

Bob Paulus: Hello! You're Mike?

Michael: [in the field] Michael, yep.

Michael: And congregation members Bob Paulus and Jesse Fraser.

Michael: [in the field] Where are we right now?

Jessie Fraser: First Presbyterian Church of Whitefish, Whitefish Montana.

Michael: [in the field] Since this is all audio, would you mind describing the windows?

Bob: Describing ‘em?

Michael: [in the field] What do they look like? How tall are they?

Bob: Oh, I don't know the dimensions.

Michael: [in the field] Oh just eyeball it, doesn't need to be exact.

Bob: They're absolutely wonderful, beautiful… I don't know. [laughing]

Jessie: They're Tiffany style.

Bob: There you go.

Paul: 14 feet wide by six feet across.

Jessie: Oh, wow. I knew you came along for a reason. [everyone laughing]

Paul: From a minister’s standpoint, you'll notice that the pews are looking away from the windows, which I am very grateful for. [all laughing] Yeah you know, you're sitting there in church and being distracted—look, it's hard enough to keep people's attention as it is.

Michael: Each pair of windows was donated by local community members during the building's construction in 1921. And reading the dedications is a regular who's who of early Whitefish. There are prominent bankers and early loggers…

Jessie: They all put money in towards these windows. Special.

[pensive music begins to play]

Michael: But the pair of windows that brought me in read, "with gratitude from the Japanese."

Bob: And the Japanese said $705 for two windows.

Michael: More than $8500 today—a small fortune—donated by Japanese men who worked for Great Northern. Men James J. Hill hired to realize his dream. And men I'd never heard of before.

Voice Actor: [echoing] Who else but Americans.

[music ends]

Lucas Hugie: [on the phone] So they would hire whoever would be willing to work for the company, including Irish immigrants or recent immigrants.

Michael: To get some context, I turned to another national park site, Golden Spike National Historical Park.

Lucas: So we're located in Box Elder County in northern Utah, and it's where the first Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10th, 1869.

Michael: This is Lucas.

Lucas: Lucas Hugie. I'm the lead park ranger here at Golden Spike National Historical Park.

Michael: And I called him because the first Transcontinental Railroad, finished years before J.J. Hill joined the railroad business, set a precedent that everyone building out west would follow. They figured out who to hire.

Lucas: So you have people coming into the country, and they're not really anchored to any part of the country yet. And so when they find out that there's a chance to work on the railroad, make decent wages, they're willing to sign on for that.

Michael: Irish, German and Italian immigrants were laying the tracks westward from Iowa alongside Civil War veterans and recently emancipated Black Americans. But the Central Pacific, who was building east from Sacramento, they were having a hard time keeping anyone on the payroll.

Lucas: Every time that there was a gold strike somewhere, this workforce would disappear. These guys would, as soon as they got paid, walk off the job and go try their luck in the gold fields.

Michael: The promise of the gold rush drew thousands of people to California, including some of the first Chinese immigrants to the United States. Thousands of Chinese men emigrated to the U.S., but they weren't provided the same opportunity as other miners. Panic and prejudice among white Americans led to the passage of a foreign miners tax.

Lucas: And if you're a foreigner, specifically a foreigner from China, you actually could be taxed up to $20 a month to stake a gold mining claim.

Michael: Nearly $800 a month today. And so men who had crossed the Pacific in search of a better life instead found themselves stuck working someone else's claim for a fraction of the payout. Meanwhile, Central Pacific is desperate to end labor shortage and decide to hire 50 Chinese workers as a trial run.

Lucas: They ended up being fantastic workers because they didn't walk off the job at the end of the day when there was a gold mining strike.

Michael: Chinese men would soon make up most of the workforce on the Central Pacific, and as it turns out, the railroad also appreciated these workers because they could get away with paying them less.

Lucas: So you're looking at around $26 a month for, for these guys. The Union Pacific provided room and board for their workers. Whereas the Central Pacific, they just kind of let the Chinese fend for themselves. They had to pay for their own board or like wherever they're going to be sleeping. And they also had to pay for their own food.

Michael: As many as 20,000 Chinese laborers went on to help build the first transcontinental railroad. And this hiring practice became a template for other railroads building in the West.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating; Chinese string instruments playing in the background] The railroads needed workers and the Chinese needed jobs.

Michael: That voice, who you might recognize as George Takei, is from a documentary called From the Far East to the Old West, produced by the University of Montana.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating; Chinese string instruments playing in the background] Few people realize that Chinese labor made up most of the workforce on key sections of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Michael: In the face of backbreaking labor and deadly work with explosives, Chinese immigrant laborers were reliable and most importantly, in the railroad’s eyes, they were cheap. Which brings us back to Great Northern. Hill had recruited a lot of Scandinavian and German immigrants to help build his main line. But after the initial phase of construction, those employees either began to quit or ask for more money. This is where the other Western railroads turned to Chinese labor. But by the time Hill arrived in the West, the practice of hiring cheap Chinese workers, often in the place of white laborers who demanded higher pay, had driven loud and public anti-Chinese racism.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating, with other voices reading the quotes with crowd noise in the background; Chinese string instruments playing in the background] One especially lengthy and venomous commentary in the Missoula Gazette argued, "Our government erred in never allowing that race a foothold on our soil.” “They have, in Missoula as elsewhere, usurped places which could be filled by respectable men. And the time has come when measures should be taken to rid ourselves of this past, lest it destroy us. Resolved!"

Michael: This sentiment led to the passage of more anti-Chinese legislation and the first significant law restricting immigration to the United States.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating; Chinese string instruments playing in the background] The most far reaching was the 1882 Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration by Chinese laborers and their families.

Michael: Hill, arriving after the passage of the Exclusion Act, had to look elsewhere.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating; string instruments plucking in the background] But those railroads still wanted cheap labor with their supply of Chinese laborers cut off. The railroad barons once again looked across the Pacific to fill their needs, this time to Japan.

Linda Tamura: [on the phone] And actually the Japanese government was encouraging young Japanese men to go overseas to gain jobs.

Michael: That voice is Linda Tamura.

Linda: I'm Linda Tamura. I'm a proud orchard kid from Hood River, Oregon. I'm also a former elementary teacher and professor emerita of education at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Michael: Who I called to ask about Issei.

Michael: [to Linda] You know, for people who've never heard the term before. Could you describe what you say means?

Linda: Sure. They say we're the first generation of Japanese immigrants to the United States in Japanese. Ichi means one and sei means generation. So from ichi-sei we have Issei -- the first generation. My grandparents and their contemporaries.

Michael: [to Linda] How did you first learn about early Issei laborers in the U.S.?

Linda: I didn’t learn about Issei laborers from my grandparents or from other Japanese Americans, or even in high school or even college, because I learned about Western civilizations and Western immigrants. But in the early 1980s, my uncle suggested that I ask questions of my grandmother, Asio Nogi. She was in her eighties. Uncle Mam told me, "your grandma lived a really interesting life—came to the United States to marry your grandfather. She's still got a great memory, and she tells great stories. So why don't you talk to her?" Well, I did. My mom translated because Grandma spoke Japanese and I didn't. And Grandma began to tell me a little bit about her life, her immigration to the United States when she was 19 years old. I learned about Grandpa, their labor.

Michael: What began as a conversation with her grandmother turned into a project to document the experience of other Issei laborers—people at the bottom, not the top, of this railroad history.

Linda: My appetite was whetted, I wanted to learn more.

Michael: Linda described Japanese immigration to the U.S. as a push and a pull. And the pull came from U.S. companies like Great Northern—

Linda: And the push came from Japan.

Michael: You could find ads in Japanese newspapers titled How to Succeed in America.

Linda: They told us that Issei laborers could earn twice as much money in the United States as they might have in Japan. Some of the laborers who had gone to the United States came back and they were wearing suits and pretending that they were fairly wealthy. And even some of the young Issei whom I interviewed told me that that tantalized them.

Michael: Japan had maintained a policy of isolation for centuries, but in the 1880s, Japan's new government began allowing its citizens to seek jobs abroad.

Linda: The goal was that they would go to the United States. They would work for 3 to 5 years, earn enough money to come back and live comfortable lives in Japan. They became known as Birds of Passage. Those who are looking for ways to get rich quick.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating; string instruments playing in the background] By 1910, tens of thousands of Japanese had left their homeland seeking opportunities in the United States.

Michael: Great Northern contracted with the Oriental Trading Company, a Japanese owned business based in Seattle, which organized Issei labor contracts and sent thousands of Issei to Montana.

Linda: My grandfather was one of those. When he was 16 years old, his uncle was working in the United States and called him over to join him. Grandpa came over and his first job was actually working on a railroad crew in Cut Bank, Montana in Glacier County.

Michael: Cut Bank is a small town, even today, on the east side of the Rockies, less than 50 miles from Glacier and more than 5000 from Japan.

Linda: He was a hard worker. Even as an elderly man, he was a hard worker. And my grandmother told me that Grandpa's supervisors on the railroad would reward him with overtime labor.

Michael: In 1901, a day's wage for Issei was $1.10, and a day's work could be 15 hours. Not to mention, their contractor, the Oriental Trading Company, would take a ten cent daily commission.

Linda: The work was difficult and the pay was low. But the reason they accepted that was because it turned out it was double what they might have earned in Japan.

Michael: [to Linda] So that wasn't false advertising on the newspaper's part. It was more than they would've made

Linda: It was, right.

Michael: But while the pay was better than what they might have received in Japan, conditions were still terrible.

Linda: One story that I heard over and over was how malnourished they were. They had to pay a stipend for the meals that they were served. And some of them, because they were trying to save money, really almost starved themselves to increase their savings. And the meals were really paltry. Two meals that I heard about a lot were soups. One was miso soup. And that's made from soybean paste. And another was dango jiru, which was dumpling soup.

Michael: I googled it for reference. One serving of miso soup has 40 calories. A banana has 105.

Linda: With all the hard labor working 10 to 15 hour days, they had very little protein. And so apparently when they were able to find a jackrabbit or a cow that had been killed by the train, that was a banquet.

Michael: [to Linda] Oh, my goodness, I bet.

Linda: And apparently sometimes the men were even known to have arranged for a cow to be present on the tracks when a railroad train went by.

Michael: Employees were required to dispose of any animals they came across that had been hit by the train.

Linda: And so the section hands obediently did so. And then at night they'd go back and they'd dig up the carcass and they'd cook it, and then they had a source of protein. But those were the lengths they took to try to nourish themselves, doing hard labor on the railroad front.

Michael: [to Linda] I can't imagine trying to do that on, you know, just soup -- like miso soup alone.

Linda: Right, yeah. What a life.

Michael: Many Issei who came to the US as Birds of Passage, hoping one day to return home started to realize that might never happen.

Linda: So after my grandfather had been here, I think he was 32. He, along with other Issei men, began to realize their dreams of returning to Japan and—and be wealthy men were not to be realized, and that they would end up working longer in the United States, and they might even become residents.

Michael: And so many Issei who had planned to work in the U.S. for 3 to 5 years started planning to spend a life here and wanted to find someone to share it with.

Linda: They often didn't have enough money to go back to Japan to find wives. And so they employed picture brides.

Linda: [excerpt from interview in documentary] The picture bride or shashin hanyome was the practice where a Japanese man in America exchanged photographs and letters with young women and their families in Japan. And through that exchange of letters and photographs and agreements by the families, they were formally married.

Linda: And my grandmother was a picture bride when she came to the United States in 1916, 16 years after my grandfather had arrived.

Michael: Not all Issei worked on railroads. Many worked on farms or in lumber mills. But no matter the job, they all faced the reality of life in a new place.

Linda: They were young. Often they found that they were living in secluded areas. There were a lot of people who lived nearby, and certainly not a lot who spoke their language. Life was disappointing for them, although they weren't always ready to admit that easily.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating with string music in the background; an actor reads the quote] December 1905 Henry Katsuji Hasitani, who worked for the Northern Pacific near Missoula, wrote in his diary, "all I have done so far is to survive as nothing more than a humble worker, like pigs and cows. Is my youth being wasted? No. I have dreams. I have hopes. Life is nothing if you don't try to better yourself."

Linda: They had high dreams and high hopes, but often they were shattered.

Michael: On top of the hard work, low pay, and isolation, Issei began to face discrimination from white Americans. Just like the Chinese before them.

Linda: Apparently there were Issei who were working for the railroad, living in a house. There were six of them. [Ominous electric guitar music builds] And one night there were shots that rang through their windows and rioters stood outside for an hour and yelled and cursed at them. The Issei men piled up mattresses to try to protect themselves.

Michael: It was a scare tactic, a gunpowder threat to leave town.

[music ends]

Linda: The next day they left and that was the goal. Apparently the rioters were farmers who during their offseason were hired by the railroad as section hands and they were concerned that their livelihoods might be in danger. That was the kind of incident that occurred along the West Coast and very likely in Montana as well, that other workers were concerned about the competition from Issei, who were willing to work long hours, take on jobs that others might not have relished and were willing to work for less pay because they considered the pay adequate. But yes, discrimination was—was an issue for the Issei laborers.

Michael: An opinion piece in the Kalispell Bee, the newspaper in the early 1900s. Argued that these Japanese laborers weren't buying enough local goods, they were a drain on the local economy and used all sorts of racist terms along the way. And then, you know, the next week in the paper, the Oriental Trading Company would reply like, we buy everything locally except for miso soup, which isn't made here. And in looking through all these accounts, at no point did it seem like Great Northern ever stepped in and tried to advocate for its employees. Here's Stephen Sadis again.

Stephen: Yeah, I don't think there was any grander plan for Hill in how to, you know, keep the peace or acclimate an ethnic group into a community. I think he was looking at bottom lines and what's the—the most inexpensive way I can build my line.

Michael: This discrimination wasn't unique to Asian immigrants. Irish, Italian, Greek laborers, Slavic laborers, among others, were met with racial slurs, politically charged vitriol in communities and in local papers. This wasn't an outlier, but a clear and consistent pattern. But U.S. legislation uniquely targeted immigrants from Asian countries.

Linda: There was a concern about the yellow peril, that, Chinese at first, and then Japanese, would be threatening the white race.

Michael: Understanding what had happened with the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese government, facing pressure from the United States, signed the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907.

Linda: The Gentlemen's Agreement restricted Japanese immigration only to family members of those who were already in the United States.

Michael: No more Issei could immigrate to the U.S., and the ones who were already here continued to face prejudice.

Far East to Old West Documentary: [George Takei narrating with string music in the background] Asians still couldn't become citizens unless they were born here. And in 1923, anti-Japanese legislators passed a Montana law that said If you couldn't become a citizen, you couldn't own land.

Michael: But while policies and prejudice would continue to make life difficult for Issei, others embraced their Japanese neighbors.

Elizabeth Peck (voice actor): I'll tell you what I do with my time when I'm not cooking meals at 12:00 in the morning and washing socks.

Michael: This is a letter written by Elizabeth Peck, a Whitefish woman who in the 1920s was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Whitefish, and it's being read for us by a voice actor.

Elizabeth: I took, for my part of the work in the church, the Japanese. [soft string music plays in the background] We have 14 families and 50 single men. They work for the railroad, most of them. I teach them to talk English, read and write it. And if I do say it, I've accomplished it. I never hoped to do so well when I started.

Michael: Elizabeth wasn't a wealthy woman or a philanthropist. Here's Jessie Fraser, one of the congregation members who met me at the church.

Jessie: She was very poor. She had two boys. She—her husband died when the kids were very young. So she lived in a tar paper shack thing out someplace.

Elizabeth: I have three classes at the house and then I go twice a week to their homes. That is the ones that have children and can't come to me.

Jessie: And the Japanese would give her gifts to get her food. You know, gifts of food, chicken and eggs and things like that. Because she just—and thank you for doing what she was doing.

Elizabeth: One month I helped one man to buy a house, helped to bury one man that was drowned, and helped two babies into the world.

Michael: And even though these events took place over 100 years ago, this kindness is still visible.

Elizabeth: We built a new church this year, cost $40,000, and I asked for a donation of the Japanese men, said it would be nice if they could give a window. Well, they sent in a check for $705, bought two windows. And when the windows came, one of them said, for Mrs. Elizabeth D. Peck, from the Japanese. What an honor to live up to.

Michael: The Japanese families and men of Whitefish collected $705, over $8,000 today, and donated two pairs of windows to the church. One pair was dedicated to Elizabeth Peck and the other simply says, "with gratitude from the Japanese." Because of Great Northern, Whitefish was home to a thriving Japanese community—a community that included railroad laborers, but also the owners of a candy store, a successful laundromat, and what many accounts described as the best restaurant in town. A community that was asked to put on a firework display for the 4th of July 1909, which one newspaper called the finest pyrotechnic display the county had ever seen. A community that largely isn't here anymore. Those businesses have closed. Those Issei have passed away. And their children, for the most part, have moved on. This history isn't easy to find.

Linda: It's important for us to understand what they contributed, how they contributed, and the sacrifices that they made in order to help themselves. But even more so, to help our country. They were important contributors to the United States of America, even though they weren't treated fairly during their times.

Michael: When I asked Linda why it's so hard to track down these stories, she pointed me to her grandmother.

Linda: It came to me that Grandma didn't want to consider herself important enough to be interviewed by someone. She told me, "I'm just a poor old woman. I've not done anything significant in my life. Now, if you want to interview someone important, go talk to Eleanor Roosevelt. Now, there's a woman who should be interviewed." But she said “there's nothing that I've done in my life that's important. You shouldn't ask me questions.” That would signify what every Issei told me. They wanted to focus on the group. And I would think that might have a lot to do with why you're having difficulty with stories, too.

Michael: Mmhmm.

Linda: And I think there are other reasons, though. They spoke Japanese, they wrote in Japanese. Any documents I found, any photos with inscriptions needed to be translated by those who spoke old Japanese. And there aren't that many—that many anymore now. In many ways, I think they don't want to harbor on the difficulties of the past. Now that they were finally getting along with others, their neighbors, they didn't want to bring up difficulties. [pensive music begins to play] So they really chose not to speak about the past. They wanted to leave it there. They wanted to move on and focus on positive. Unfortunately, yeah, there's a lot that we've lost, but hopefully there will be photos and documents that will help us to uncover more of those stories.

[music ends]

Michael: Linda highlighting how much of this history we've lost—it made me grateful for the National Register of Historic Places, a tool that helps communities preserve and share the history they have left. I ran this by Paul Lusignan, the historian from the Register program.

Michael: [to Paul] and just thinking through this story, I learned about the history of these Japanese railroad laborers through the Register listing for this church in Whitefish. And it got me thinking that, you know, when I come to Glacier, a million acres, this grand place, you kind of implicitly expect to hear the stories of like grand people, too. And that the register seems to me like a way of preserving the stories that might not fit into that expectation to you. How does the Register complement the other parts of the National Park Service in pursuit of our mission?

Paul Lusignan: I think you hit the nail on the head. I mean, it allows for kind of different perspectives and looking at the full story. You know, there's only so many times you can mention that Theodore Roosevelt came out here and stayed for a while. It's like, okay, if the Park Service is supposed to be conveying a preservation and conservation ethic, well, what types of things are we conserving, protecting and recognizing? What was it like to be a worker there? Who did they displace when they developed the park? There's nothing wrong with the big ingrained resources. They're great and they deserve to be preserved, but they don't tell the full story. And that's where I think that the Register program helps augment that and can augment that. And that's again, it's not the only tool, but it is a good preservation tool.

Michael: One example is the First Presbyterian Church of Whitefish. As it approached 100 years old, the building was showing its age.

[wistful music begins to build]

Jessie: It literally was falling down. And you could see I mean, we’re outside—you look up there and you could literally see the bricks separating from the wall, you know, like it's going to come down.

Michael: One suggestion was to sell the valuable downtown real estate and move the congregation to a new and improved building. But they decided instead to repair—in large part because of the building's history. Little things that don't show up on your property value, but they do show up on your National Register listing.

Jessie: Because it's a historical church.

Michael: And so one of the few pieces left of this Montana Issei community is protected. Not only are the windows still there, but people like Jessie will welcome you in and share their story.

[music ends]

[an electronic beat begins, with an excerpt from the early 1900s promo video we heard at the beginning of the episode. The lyrics say "The railroad is many things. The Empire Builder."]

Michael: To end this story, I wanted to do something that I've never done before.

Gaby Eseverri: [in the field] Are you excited?

Michael: [in the field] I'm excited, I've never ridden the train before. Unless you count the one at my zoo growing up. But that was like a small fake train.

Michael: I was joined by Gaby.

Gaby: There it is!

[train whistle, and bell clanging as it arrives]

Michael: After spending the entire summer digging into the history of this railway, I thought it would be fitting to actually ride it.

Gaby: There aren’t too many people here.

Railroad worker: Last name guys?

Michael: Faist and Eseverri.

Railroad worker: I got you. You guys are good to go. Great.

Gaby: All righty. Thank you so much.

Railroad worker: You bet.

Michael: [in the field] I’m not the tallest person in the world, but I can stretch my legs out completely before it hits the other seat.

Gaby: Yeah. It’s comfortable.

Michael: In this episode, I set out to answer the question, who built the Great Northern Railway, and looked at the story from the top down and bottom up. If I'm being honest, you could probably guess which version of this you're likely to hear if you come to the park. James J. Hill is on the greatest hits of ranger-led program topics: a larger than life figure and a remarkable success story. I never knew about this other piece of this history.

[haunting violin music begins to play]

Michael: [in the field] Like 15% of the people I would say in this car are sleeping, which is why I’m talking quietly

Gaby: [both laughing] We’re trying not to be too annoying

Michael: The National Park Service is famous for big parks like Glacier—grand landscapes full of powerful people. But those parks are outnumbered by the over 90,000 sites that tell the rest of America's story. [an electronic beat joins the violin music] Places identified by a community, not by an act of Congress. Smaller stories that might not need a full staff of park rangers, but that are no less worthy of preserving. And that's comforting to me.

Gaby: Okay. We made it to the lounge car.

Michael: [in the field] We did.

Gaby: Yeah. This is cool, there’s more windows here.

Michael: [in the field] It's got skylights, wraparound windows. People are working on their laptops, reading books, eating a breakfast burger. I thought that was a bold choice. [both laugh]

Michael: In the end, I think it's taught me that however small I might feel in a place like this, however insignificant my life may seem when stacked against these great men of history, we all lead lives worthy of remembering.

Gaby: Are we train people now?

Michael: [in the field] I think I'm a train person now

Michael: The people who bend history to their will—and those of us along for the ride.

[music continues, then fades lower under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of headquarters was made by Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist and Gary Eseverri. Frank Waln wrote and performed our music, and Eric Carlson created this season's cover art. Season Three absolutely would not exist without Lacy Kowalski, Melissa Sladek, Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, and the whole team at the Park Archives. We relied on a lot of great resources from the Montana Historical Society too. Special thanks this episode to Steven Sadis, Lucas Hugie, Paul Lusignan and Linda Tamura, and thanks as well to everyone with the First Presbyterian Church of Whitefish, but especially Bob, Paul, and Jessie. Great Northern Filmworks for permission to share excerpts from their series Empire Builder: James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway. Filmmaker Pat Murdo and the University of Montana's Mansfield Center for permission to share clips from their documentary, From the Far East to the Old West. And lastly, of course, thank you to everyone at Amtrak for helping Michael fulfill a years-long dream of getting to ride a train.

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.

Michael: We follow in the footsteps of some of the first Black Americans in these mountains. To find out how they got here. And uncover what happened to their history.

Carolyn: It matters who tells the story. This is the question of representation but it’s also a question of history.

Ahern Report: There were several places on the trail where a misstep meant certain death.

Shelton: Will this place remember me, will it remember my shadow cast on the earth, will it remember the sound of my horse, will that be remembered?

Michael: That's next time on Headwaters.

[music ends]

Michael: So Headwaters is made possible by the Glacier Conservancy, right Andrew? But you also fund a lot of other projects going on in the park. Do you have any examples?

Andrew: Yeah, a really cool one is the Ranger led education programing that's going to be happening has been happening.

Michael: Yeah, well, I know what that is because I've worked in that position. What is what are the Ranger led activities?

Andrew: Yeah so students can come in, visit Glacier National Park and go on a field trip with a ranger, which is a really special experience for them. But we also are going to be offering classroom visits. So Rangers will come to local schools and teach them about the park, as well as expanding our distance learning. So students all around the country from every state can get to experience a little glimpse of Glacier National Park, which I think is pretty cool opportunity for them.

Michael: No, definitely. You get one day Rangers leading students up to Avalanche Lake. Later in the winter, you're giving snowshoe programs or you're talking to students in Puerto Rico with the green screen. It's you know, it's a really cool program. So if you want to learn more about that project and others that the Conservancy funds, where can they go to find that information?

Andrew: Check out our website. It's easy to remember: glacier.org

The Great Northern Railway changed Northwest Montana forever. Who else but Americans could have built it?

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

The Empire Builder Documentary: https://greatnorthernfilmworks.com/

Episode 7

Becoming | Forgotten Soldiers


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Shelton Johnson: [slowly, poetically, with a slight southern accent] My name is Elizy Bowman, Sergeant Troop K, Ninth Cavalry. Today, the sun come up and it come up strong, burning through the treetops, [wind whooshes in the background throughout] and it lit up the world around me. And I saw the trail ahead of me, and I'm riding like we always do. And there was just the wind. Just the sound of the wind in the sky, in the sound of my horse and me [horse hoofbeats on the ground] breathing as we moved along the trail. And I started thinking that this is what freedom must feel like. Never felt freedom when I was a sharecropper growing up in South Carolina. [birds singing] Never knew about freedom when my mother and my daddy had been enslaved. Freedom was this wind. Freedom was this rain. Freedom was being pushed up into the sky by these mountains beneath my feet and the rain coming down. That was freedom. I couldn't find it in South Carolina. I couldn't find it where I enlisted in Nebraska. But now I got it. And I don't know if I could ever let it go. How do you let go of freedom when you hold it for the first time?

[Headwaters season 3 theme begins playing; starting with mandolin]

Daniel Lombardi: Welcome to Headwaters, a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else.

[theme continues; a drumbeat, a flute line, and other instruments come in, before the music finishes]

Daniel: We're calling this season "Becoming." It's not a complete history, but a series of stories about how Glacier National Park became what it is today. [slow drumbeat playing as Daniel speaks] Landscape and history are inseparable. No history can be understood apart from the place in which it happens. And like landscapes, histories can erode, stories can disintegrate or be buried under the sediment of those that follow. This episode is about a story that has been poorly preserved and deeply buried, why that happened and why it matters. It is the story of the first Black Park Rangers and how so much of their history has been overlaid by the grains of a thousand others.

[beat finishes]

Daniel: Peri. This episode is about the Buffalo Soldiers here in Glacier.

Peri Sasnett Yes.

Daniel: Get us started.

Peri: So when I think of the Buffalo Soldiers, I think of our park service uniforms. Mm. You guys all have one, right.

Daniel: In my closet.

Michael Faist Of course, it's pretty iconic—not very breathable, but, [Peri laughs] you know, the gray shirt, green pants and sweater, and then the big flat hat.

Peri: Well, did you know that those are based on the hats worn by the Buffalo Soldiers?

Daniel: No! And just to spell that out. Buffalo Soldiers were regiments of African-American soldiers in the Army.

Peri: Right. And they were essentially the first park rangers in the years before the Park Service was formed. And we still wear their hats.

Michael: Huh, I didn't know that.

Daniel: So give us the background. How did these black regiments of Army soldiers come about?

Peri: Well, basically, segregation. After the Civil War, the army created regiments for black soldiers to serve in, and they had to be separate from the ones that white soldiers served in.

Daniel: But still, I suppose they were led by white officers, right?

Peri: Yeah. Although there is a famous exception, Charles B Young. He was a West Point grad who was acting superintendent of Sequoia National Park in 1903. And he's the first black superintendent of a park.

Daniel: Hmm. So they're—they're soldiers in the army, but they're working in the national parks because the National Park Service, it doesn't exist yet.

Peri: Right. And so there are national parks, you know, Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite,

All, together: Glacier.

Peri: But there are no park rangers yet. And that doesn't happen until 1916 when the NPS is formed.

Michael: So like, what were they doing in parks at the time?

Peri: Well, they were doing a lot of similar things to what park rangers do now. They built roads and trails. They did firefighting work. They kept out vandals and poachers, all that kind of stuff.

Daniel: But outside of those park ranger duties, I'm sure they had other missions, right?

Peri: Right. But back in those early days, this is post-Civil War. The racial climate back East isn't great. So for the most part, they were sent on assignments out west.

Michael: Okay. So the thought was like less people, less prejudice, I guess.

Peri: Right. Yeah, for the most part. But that doesn't mean it wasn't complicated. And so in addition to being proto-park rangers, a lot of their assignments were in the Indian Wars in the late 1800s. So they're fighting against indigenous people who are resisting being confined to reservations.

Michael: Hmm. So, I mean, there's just a lot more to this story than meets the eye.

Peri: Right. They also did peacetime and exploratory missions, too, including spending some time here in Glacier.

Michael: Really?

Peri: Yeah, they were here in 1910 fighting fires during the Big Burn. [drumbeat begins] And they were also part of a couple early expeditions before this was even a park, including the Ahern expedition.

[drumbeat ends]

Peri: One of the best surviving accounts of this expedition is from GE Culver, the geologists they brought along who starts his report by describing the group.

Culver Report: [a voice actor reads these excerpts in a formal, deep, gravelly voice] The party consisted of two mountaineers, two prospectors, two Indian guides, a squad of soldiers, black as Ebony and the writer. All were mounted and well-armed. 30 days rations were carried.

Daniel So, Culver. This guy is your—your main source for this story. He was the team's scientist, and he kept a record of the trip that you're looking at.

Peri: Yeah, he recorded kind of the broad strokes of the adventure, but it's like 2 pages of adventure and 15 pages of geology. But through his writing and his sketches of the mountains, you can start to reconstruct where they went and why. I had an actor read some excerpts from the report.

Culver Report: The object of the expedition was to find, if possible, a pass over the main range, farther north than any then known, to map the course of the streams and the principal Indian trails.

Peri: So roughly they went up the east side trying to find a past over the mountains. They tried Many Glacier with no luck, and then kept trying further north.

Daniel: I'm not surprised they had trouble finding a pass in the mountains here. They're glacially carved, they're famously steep.

Peri: Yeah. So this expedition of about 15 people travels several hundred miles across the park and in a big loop around northwest Montana over 57 days.

Daniel: Yeah, I don't think I've ever backpacked more than maybe a couple of nights at a time.

Peri: Yeah, me neither. So while it would have been quite an adventure to retrace their whole journey, I decided to just follow their footsteps where they crossed the continental divide—probably the most challenging day of their trip. And today it's called Ahern Pass.

[footsteps; yellow-rumped warblers and swainson’s thrushes singing]

Peri: [in the field, out of breath] It takes a solid day of hiking to get to Ahern pass, if not a couple days. And I'm heading out with Michael and Gaby to see it for myself. [birds continue to sing] If you want to figure out what you don't know, go hiking without any cell service. As soon as you can't look something up, you realize how little you understand. And as I hike, I'm realizing how little I know about the soldiers themselves. Why aren't there any firsthand accounts from them? What did they think of this place?

[bird sounds and footsteps fade out]

Shelton Johnson: My name is Shelton Johnson, and I currently work as the community engagement specialist for Yosemite National Park.

Peri: Shelton is one of the most renowned and respected rangers in the Park Service. He appeared in Ken Burns's National Parks documentary, and he's one of the foremost experts on this history. He's studied, portrayed and written about Buffalo Soldiers for decades, including the first person narrative that began this story, which was a clip from his podcast series, A Buffalo Soldier Speaks.

Peri: [to Shelton] And so based on your research, can you can you speculate like what their experience was like? Like, what did they think of the landscape? What did they—

Shelton: No I think that they felt what most people feel, it's a universal sentiment, if you will, to be impressed by a landscape that is literally overwhelming. That happened in Yosemite, it happened in Yellowstone, it certainly would have happened in Glacier National Park, because the landscape itself sparks that sense of wonder. And I think that's a human trait that is universal.

[wind whooshing]

Culver Report: The morning when we looked out of our tents, the fog was slowly drifting away and glimpses of the lofty peaks could be had through rifts in the fog. The effect was quite striking.

Peri: This was one of the earliest mapping expeditions of the region, long before the park existed. They climbed peaks, made camp and spent weeks in this rugged mountain ecosystem. It's the sort of trip that people take today to get away from it all, to escape everyday life.

Shelton: The difference would be that they lived and operated in a virulently racist time period. When you're part of an expedition, there's a certain level of interdependence and respect that has to be there in order for it to function properly, for—in order for everyone to benefit from that association.

Peri: If you've ever been camping or backpacking with a group, you can understand this sort of teamwork. [fire crackling in the background] You figure out who carries what, who sets up the tent, who cooks the food.

Culver Report: [fire crackling continues; sounds of fat sizzling in a pan] A few ducks, grouse and ptarmigan paid our cookhouse a visit, as did numerous fine trout of large game. We secured one big horn and six mountain goats. The young of the latter are very fine eating -- the old bucks taste of musk.

[subtle, pensive music begins to play]

Shelton: So and as you get to know people, you see beyond to a great degree, ethnicity, you see beyond gender. But be that as it may, they were still, quote unquote, colored soldiers of that time.

Peri: America's prejudices followed them everywhere, even into the wilderness.

Shelton: If you did something that was done very well, you did that in spite of your race. If you failed at a task, you failed at that task because of your race. But race was always part of that dynamic. You were viewed fully through the lens of race and through the lens of class. And there was no—really, there wasn't an escape from it. At any point.

Peri: At one point, the group reached a dead end, a high-walled mountain basin where they met a group of Stoney Indians, also called the Nakoda People. Ahern loaned their chief his rifle and the chief gave them directions. [music ends] And this wasn't the first time they'd encountered Indigenous people on the expedition. By one account they shared a third of their rations along the way with Blackfeet people. But elsewhere, regiments of Buffalo Soldiers had been fighting wars against tribal nations, most famously in the Southwest, fighting the Apache.

Peri: [to Shelton] I have often wondered what the Buffalo Soldiers thought of interacting with the Indigenous people. Would they have felt like a solidarity with another oppressed people?

[same spare, pensive music from before begins again]

Shelton: When you read a lot of the colored newspapers of that time period, there was certainly a sentiment that why should we aid and abet the theft of a land from another group of people who are not that dissimilar from ourselves? Dissimilar certainly in terms of culture, but in terms of the racial attitudes of the time, they were all cast into the same box. But at the same time, there were African-Americans who felt that by enlisting in the United States Army and potentially sacrificing their life, it was almost like we have done this for you, for this nation. And so it was an investment, an investment in the future by—by potentially sacrificing yourself for a nation that did not recognize the fullness of your humanity, perhaps the fullness of that humanity would be recognized for your children.

[music ends]

Peri: While this expedition was a peaceful one, it was still dangerous. Following the advice of the Stoney Indians, the party set out to climb the rocky mountain pass ahead of them: Ahern Pass. Here's Lieutenant Ahern's report from that day.

Ahern's Report: [out of breath, sounds weary; horse footsteps and the sounds of men talking in the background; wind whooshing] August 22nd. As I led the pack train out this morning, I felt extremely anxious, as there were several places on the trail where a misstep meant certain death. At one place, we climbed a narrow and very steep rock, 15 feet high, in which we had to cut steps. We led our most troublesome animals over this. My feelings were indescribable when I started up this rock, not knowing what the horse would do. The ledge was about 18 inches wide. On the lower side was a fall of 1900 feet.

Peri: I can only imagine riding a horse through this kind of terrain. But Shelton doesn't have to. He's done reenactments of Buffalo Soldier patrols in Yosemite, on horseback, in full uniform with saddles and gear of the period.

Peri: [to Shelton] Why did you choose to-- to wear the uniform, to ride on horseback? Why was that important to you? And what did you learn from it?

Shelton: I chose that pathway because I wanted to not just see the history from the outside looking in the way that you look through a window at a world that's that there's a partition between you and that world. I wanted to put myself into the history, and the best way to do that would be to do what they did, and to wear the uniform that they wore, to ride a saddle that they might have ridden. And when you're on a horse and you look straight down, all you see is the horse. The horse is blocking the view of the ground beneath your feet. And when you're 12 feet above the ground and you look over, you just see an abyss, if you're going on the trail along a canyon wall. You can talk about it, but it's better if you live it. And if you live it, then you really feel it. And if you feel it, then that's you. You've become the past that you're interpreting. And that's what I wanted. That's why I did that. And it did deepen my—my experience and deepened my perception of this entire history.

[music begins to play, starting with strings plucking]

Peri: To deepen my experience and perception of this history, I have to live it. I wanted to go to Ahern Pass.

[a drumbeat layers over it, then an excerpt from an old scratchy interview with the words “the Indians called us Buffalo boys.” Music ends]

[footsteps, white-crowned sparrow singing]

Peri: [in the field, out of breath] Hello.

Michael: Hi. Where are we?

Peri: [in the field, out of breath] We're almost at Ahern Pass. Very class. But not quite.

Michael: Well, how are you feeling right now?

Peri: [in the field, out of breath] Tired. Hot. Bit out of breath. [birds singing] Pretty excited about the view.

Peri: It's been a long hike, but since I'm being recorded, I'm trying to act like I'm not too out of breath.

Michael: Look around. What do you see?

[wind in the background]

Peri: [in the field] I see a snow field, this flat, grassy pass... [gasps] Sheep! [laughing] There's like, oh my God there's like a dozen of them! Are those little baby sheeps? [gasps] I love them.

Peri: We finally made it to Ahern Pass. The mountains on either side are towering and impenetrable, but the pass itself is a low point between them. A small meadow full of wildflowers and tiny trees with a view down to Helen Lake and the plains beyond. There's even a trail up here now on the west side, but that's not the side the Buffalo Soldiers came up.

Michael: How steep do you think it is down to Helen?

Peri: [in the field] I don't know. Let's take a peek over the edge if we can…not fall off of it.

[white-crowned sparrow sings; rocks start to clatter underfoot

Peri: Their route? Basically a cliff.

[rocks clattering; loud wind noise rumbles in the background]

Peri: [in the field] This is very steep. Aaaaah! Michael! Don't get so close to the edge.

Gaby Eseverri: Oh, my God. Oh!

Peri: I know!

Gaby: No way. [laughing]

[raven caws, wind continues blowing]

Peri: I— [laughing] I'm flabbergasted at trying to take up here. This is absurd.

Gaby: That's a lot steeper than I expected.

[swelling string music begins]

Peri: [in the field] Yes. I thought there would be these sort of grassy green slopes with beargrass, and that can be tough to traverse. And there was maybe one rock ledge that they had to climb over or something, and that's what they cut steps into. But this is just a vertical cliff.

[a beat layers into the music]

Michael: It's major bighorn habitat.

Peri: Glaciers carved this valley, leaving behind a steep rock wall below the pass. It's perfect for cliff dwelling bighorn sheep, but a terrifying place to take a horse. The slope rises sharply from the lake, turning into a network of ledges covered in crumbling rock that clatters loose at the slightest nudge. Ahern Glacier looms to the north, and the landscape feels alive—the geology and active force.

Peri: [in the field] We're looking down at Helen Lake, and I see Elizabeth Lake in the distance and—

Ahern's Report: Ahern Pass is 2000 feet above the lake at its foot and the summit wall on either side of the pass was estimated to be at least 1500 feet more. The entire force had worked two days in making a trail from the foot of the tall a slope to the summit of the pass. The ascent is very steep and was made with difficulty.

Peri: [in the field, with wind in the background] I did not imagine it would look like this.

[calmer, more pensive music begins to play]

Gaby: Well knowing that they had horses and stuff, I definitely imagined it to be a bit more gradual. Yeah.

Peri: [in the field] Like if I looked at this like could I get down this or up this, I'd be like, “um, I don't know if I really want to do that. I would definitely need a helmet.”

Gaby: I don't know that this is the most hopeful way to get across.

Peri: [in the field] No, I'd be like, maybe let's try Canada instead. [both laughing] How about Logan Pass? [more reflectively] It definitely gives me a newfound respect for what they were doing here and their skill to navigate a place like this.

[foosteps; white-crowned sparrows singing]

Peri: [in the field] Because they still had hundreds of miles of journeying left in this expedition. But I think this was probably the toughest point.

Gaby: It makes me feel like really reflective because this was... 1890? 1890.

[birds twittering]

Peri: [in the field] Yeah. 20 years before the park was even established. So in a way, their presence probably hastened or contributed to the eventual formation of the park. But yeah, it was 132 years ago. And so, I mean, it's pretty cool to know that they walked right through this spot.

[wind whooshing; raven caws]

Peri: Visiting Ahern Pass was the first time I felt close to this story that so far I've only read about. Retracing their steps feels like another way of reaching out, in the same way that Shelton has tried to understand the Buffalo Soldiers by writing and performing from their perspective.

[wind whooshing; pensive music begins to play]

Shelton: [reading as Elizy Bowman; his Buffalo Soldier character from the opening of the episode] But around here I noticed these rocks got a tendency to remember everything that's ever happened to them. This place got a tendency to remember everything that has ever happened to it... [music fades out]

Peri: [in the field] It's easy to think of the backcountry here as a place where, you know, you go to get away from people. But like—I don't know, it's been really cool to think about all the people that have been here before me and all the stories that this landscape contains.

Shelton: [reading as Elizy Bowman; music resumes and swells] And we call that an echo. We call that something over your shoulder that makes you pull back and look quick to see if you can catch it. But nothing that ever comes through this place is ever forgotten. And you ain't got to lie down in the bedroll for too many nights before you realize that it's all being remembered and it's all being held on.... [music ends]

Peri: In a way it feels... less lonely to be out here, when you think of all the other people who've—who've come here before me.

[wind whooshes; raven caws]

Shelton: [reading as Elizy Bowman; music resumes] So I'm wondering this. Will this place remember me? Will it remember my shadow cast on the earth? Will it remember the sound of my horse as it moved through that canyon? Will that be remembered?

[music ends as we hear the sounds of winds and ravens]

Peri: Every place has a history, and history has a place too. But most people have never been to Ahern Pass, and most people don't know this story. If history can be eroded, some rocks are harder than others, more resistant to wearing away. Some layers of history become bedrock—common knowledge that we all share. Or they crystallize into something easily found, like when a place is named for a person: like George Patrick Ahern, the expedition leader. A peak, a creek, a glacier and, of course, a pass are all named for him, the white leader of this diverse group that mapped this section of the park. His story might not be common knowledge, but his biography isn't hard to find either.

Peri: [to Shelton] Can you tell that story and talk about, you know, how you talked about expanding the frame?

Shelton: Yeah. And that's the photograph of—of Theodore Roosevelt next to John Muir in May of 1903 at Glacier Point. And then I discovered through my research that in 1903, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks were protected by the Ninth Regiment of Cavalry, one of the Buffalo Soldier regiments. And so since the official escort for Theodore Roosevelt at that time for President Roosevelt were these African-American troops that belonged to the Ninth Cavalry—they're there! And yet there's no there's no photographic evidence of them being there. And so when I give my performance and I share that story, I talk about how a soldier might be standing there and being within 10 or 15 feet of the president. And they get kind of moved, "Oh no, no, could you guys move back. Could you move over there? You're in the picture." The picture is a focus on Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. The picture is not supposed to capture the African-American soldiers who are there, who are actually protecting the park all summer long. And so the question then becomes, who also throughout history, who are the folks that have been pushed away to the boundaries, to the frontier of that light that tries to capture a moment in time? And frequently it's women. And frequently, it's people of color. And that's how history is lost.

Peri: [to Shelton] What I like about kind of how you tell the story is that you don't need to rewrite history. You're expanding the frame. You're expanding our understanding of what happened in these moments that we think we already know about.

Shelton: Yeah, that's what it really is. It's—if you look at it from the point of view of a tapestry, the threads, those colorful threads of ethnicity were always there. It's just that the perception that we have of that tapestry has literally been put into black and white, and the black part's not there, the red part's not there. The all these other colors that were always present weren't there. [music begins to play] And if that became an established the template for our perception of who was in the West at that time, then we we've been gifted with a distortion.

[repetition of the music and sample of “the Indians called us Buffalo boys” to mark transition]

Peri: I was also curious about some of the structural reasons that this kind of distortion might happen again and again. I reached out to Anthony Wood, a historian who has focused on Black history in Montana. I started by asking him why stories about people of color like the Buffalo Soldiers, and especially the ones on this expedition can be so hard to find in history.

Peri: [to Anthony] And because that's one of the things I've been wondering about with the Buffalo Soldiers is like, we don't really have many of those primary sources. So it’s like, what existed in the first place and what is preserved over time or not?

Anthony Wood: Mm hmm. So in this particular case, I'm fairly confident saying there is a high, high likelihood that everyone involved was probably literate. There are obviously a handful of black soldiers from these divisions that were very eloquent writers and really and more so excellent storytellers. But those are those are stories that certainly were existing. The primary sources, the letters of this is what we did today, even if they were short, certainly existed at one point, probably on a fairly large scale.

Peri: [to Anthony] So then what affects whether those are preserved over time or not? Like whether we have those today?

Anthony: Right well, there's—there's the very practical matter of whether or not families, a lot of working class, you know, people did not keep papers in the same way that wealthier upper class people did. But it's also probably something else. I think that by the time you get into the 20th century, the narratives, the stories that have been taken up and carried about what types of people went out and, you know, "conquered the untamable wilderness" and so on. And the, the role that soldiers often played in this is a very racialized one, and it's predominantly the figure of a white, hyper masculine, you know, man who's, who's going out and is—

Peri: [to Anthony] The mountain man

Anthony: The mountain man.

Peri: [to Anthony] And so you're kind of saying that, like, if people had these letters, maybe they were their parents or their grandparents from when they were in the Buffalo Soldiers out in the West. That wouldn't seem like it would fit into the narrative. It wouldn't seem like something important that maybe they should preserve that it wasn't part of that history.

Anthony: Right, yeah.

Peri: So one way that some histories erode away is when the keepers of those stories don't recognize their importance. Sometimes, because the stories don't fit into the dominant narrative. Anthony has studied the Black community of historic Helena, Montana. But since there are so few firsthand accounts from early Black Montanans, he's often looked to other sources, like Black-owned newspapers.

Anthony: In my case, I spent a lot of time working with and relying on the three Black newspapers in town, two of which were incredibly useful. But they also gave a window into a type of social history, the everyday lives, which I'm also really fascinated with, that just does not exist anywhere else outside of one person's perspective and, you know, maybe a journal or a diary. And that's these the sections of the paper that are like the community notes, or the they sometimes in Butte, the Butte newspaper, they call them the dope book, [Peri laughs] or they just do funny, sometimes serious, sometimes just newsy briefs. You know, this person when hiking today, you know, they caught this many fish or they, you know, this person went over and had, you know, lunch in Helena.

Peri: But these black newspapers were only in print for a limited amount of time.

Anthony: One year, you know, it’s eight months in 1894, one year in 1902, and then from 1906 to 1912.

Peri: [to Anthony] Wow, that's very limited.

Anthony: It narrows my scope to what I study, certainly.

Peri: So for all the rest of those years outside the handful that those black newspapers operated, often the sources you end up with are from white writers, white journalists—white expedition leaders.

Anthony: If you were to read them and try and reconstruct what life looks like for a daily Black Montanan, those sources just simply can't speak to it. The topography of, of the source world, it's not neutral. It's—it's has, you know, real and perceptible biases to it.

Peri: Anthony uses landscape as a way to explain these aspects of studying history, especially the ideas of sedimentation and erosion.

Anthony: Landscape is the dominant metaphor for the study of race in the United States. We think about, we say the racial landscape, and it's just an assumed metaphor.

Peri: [to Anthony] So how does that fit for you into the historical record? How do you apply those terms?

Anthony: So the way I apply the idea of erosion and sedimentation is to focus on the way that stories are told or not told. A story that is, you know, left aside and not told, we can think about it as being eroded. It sets us into certain ways of thinking about the past and about thinking about what really matters, you know, who really belongs, who's really at home in this place. Is this something that exists because it fits the pattern or fits the channel where the water is flowing most easily?

Peri: Every time we tell our national story, some things are being added, while others are being forgotten—covered over by other stories, fresher in our memories, ones we choose to tell instead.

Anthony: Erosion can take place in multiple speeds and durations. It can be fast and enormous, like a flood that just rips everything out and you get, you know, the scablands of Eastern Shore, Washington

Peri: [to Anthony] Like a building is demolished

Anthony: Or it can be slow and glacial. And it can just take a very long time and you can just an imperceptible change over such a long a generation or more.

Peri: [to Anthony] Like a story that's not told, that's not passed on and slowly forgotten.

Anthony: Yeah. And the way I'm experiencing this landscape right now is both as something that is in the past and changing in the present. And the way that is changing in the present is because of the past.

Peri: When I looked out from Ahern Pass, I saw U-shaped valleys carved by glaciers during the last ice age. But the glaciers followed those paths because rivers and streams already flowed there. Today the glaciers are gone, but Ahern Creek flows down the valley those glaciers left behind. Everything in geology, and I'd argue in history, is shaped by what came before.

Anthony: It's happening in the moment that you're studying it. It's happening, you know, in the 1890s. Then it happens again.

Peri: [to Anthony] It’s like the sands are always shifting. Yeah.

Anthony: So how do you study that?

Peri: [to Anthony] I'm a geologist, so I love it.

Anthony: I'm glad that. Yeah. I wonder if that was why...

Peri: [to Anthony] I love thinking about geology this way too. It's like people think about geology as something that happened in the past, but it's still happening all the time.

Anthony: Exactly.

[a drumbeat plays, marking a transition]

Peri: So many of these choices happened in the past -- what sources or places that people and institutions choose to preserve, which stories are told or not told. So what are the consequences of forgetting them?

Shelton: The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. That's the—that's the William Faulkner quote that I've often used, it lives on into the present. And that is one of the problems that we have today is that we do not fully see the challenges and the inequities that exist in the past, which is why so many people do not understand the anger that exists today that you see and hear in the newspapers among people of color, among African-Americans in particular, but also among Native Americans, is rooted in the inequities of the past. But the past isn't—it's still here. It's still happening today. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a modern day Black Lives Matter movement. It's rooted in the perception that what happened in the past is continuing into the present.

Peri: And these choices about how we represent history not only affect how we view the past and understand the present, but they're still being made every day.

Peri: [to Shelton] You've spent probably the better part of your career telling these stories, specifically the Buffalo Soldier story, these stories that we don't otherwise get to hear. Yes. Why is that? Why have you devoted your career to that?

Shelton: Well, because of the cultural perception that is literally held by African-Americans today. African-Americans in general feel that, “oh, national parks, that's not something that we do. That's something white folks do. We don't do that.” And they have that—they have that perception because of what we just talked about, because they've not read in a history book about the role of African-Americans in the trans-Mississippi West going all the way back to Lewis and Clark. I mean, that is that is our Odyssey. That's our Homer and that's our Virgil. It starts out with Lewis and Clark in 1803. The fact that there was a person of color that was part of that expedition, specifically an enslaved person, Clark's manservant, who became invaluable to the success of that expedition—that's something that should be shared at every classroom and every school in the United States, because then all children would grow up with this vision that is inclusive rather than a vision that is exclusive.

Carolyn Finney: It matters who tells the story. This is the question of representation, but it's also a question of history.

Peri: This is Dr. Carolyn Finney.

Carolyn: I call myself a storyteller, in part because I stand at the intersection of the arts, education, and lived experience to talk about issues of race, place, belonging, the environment, justice—all the good stuff and a few things that are hard.

Peri: I wanted to talk to one more person to bring this story into the present day. For eight years, Carolyn served on the National Park System Advisory Board, and she's the author of the book Black Faces White Spaces. There's a quote in her book that says, "the power of representation lies in its ability to shape today's reality through the reality of the past." Dr. Finney explained that if you exclude the histories of certain people from national parks, then you're less likely to see those people in national parks.

Carolyn: And so I can't talk about the past without talking about the present. There could be 100 reasons within, you know, for reasons why the Buffalo Soldier story took so long to come to light.

Peri: [to Carolyn] Yeah. Yeah.

Carolyn: Part of it is going to be Jim Crow. Part of it is going to be we're living in a country where and I'm only talking about Black folks here, that Black folks weren't seen as fully human, you know, until sometime in the last 50 years. You know, but not just Black people. All kinds of people from all walks of life have been challenged in terms of their skin color, their gender, you know, where they live, how much money they have in their pockets, their religious beliefs. I mean, we're still doing that today, and that's going to matter. So I—when I look at the history of Buffalo Soldiers or any group of people and wonder why it's taken this long for them to get there, I understand, you know, the first question I ask is, well, who was doing the telling? Mm hmm. Representation is important. If you leave a whole lot of stuff out, then I'm only getting part of the story. Mm hmm. And somewhere that means I am only partially who I can become.

Peri: [to Carolyn] What do you think the role of national parks and public lands is in interpreting history and in exploring this relationship of people to place and landscape and land and environment?

Carolyn: Well, you know, public lands? For whom? That's why I say, that's really, you know—and I always tell people, it's not like you crossed over into a public land and suddenly there was no racism.

Peri: [to Carolyn] Mm hmm.

Carolyn: And people carry those beliefs with them, whether they work in a park or are visiting a park or not, right? The public lands are for everyone is a really nice sentiment. [sighs, chuckles]

Peri: [to Carolyn] Yeah.

[haunting violin music begins to play]

Carolyn: Who—who are you talking about? You know, who's claiming that? Where is that? You know, I think I understand the common good, the idea of land being for the public, this is for all of us. And I think it sits on a complicated history of blood, you know, sweat and tears for real. You know, and I think the only way that public lands can really serve us all is that we engage that blood, sweat and tears as part of the story. This is where our redemption lies. For me, the beauty of public lands is that we can actually find redemption and who we've been and who we are right now. The public lands give us that opportunity.

Peri: To keep these histories from eroding, we need to do the work of preserving them.

Shelton: You know, I think when I look at the Buffalo Soldier story from the inside out, what becomes obvious to me, what becomes perceivable to me is that there are so many stories involving women, involving other people of color, other communities that are not told or not heeded. And those stories can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves and how we see our own country.

[music begins to play]

Peri: [to Carolyn] I think in parks like this, the history is often left out of the landscape. A big, beautiful park like glacier that people think of for the mountains and the rivers and the bears. All of those things are part of the story and so are people. And so are the history.

Carolyn: Yes. Yeah.

Shelton: Those all those stories need to be told because we are not the America we think we are. We're still on the road to becoming the nation that we think we already are. We're not there yet. And people who feel that we are there yet do not understand the fullness of our history.

Carolyn: That should actually that in and of itself should make us recognize and revere the idea of public lands so much more. Not avoid the telling of that history because it you know, it's not a pretty telling. That should make—it cost people something for us to be able to call a piece of land public. And we as a public have a responsibility and an accountability to that idea of public lands. That's the conversation I want to have around public lands.

[haunting violin music begins again]

Shelton: And that is what's powerful about telling these stories. It makes American history reveals American history to be much deeper than we give it credit for being. And the anything that results in a deepening of light, a deepening of sound, a deepening of color, which results in a clearer vision of who we are as human beings, who we are as Americans.

[music builds, then fades to play softly under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of headquarters was made by Daniel Lombardi, Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist and Gary Eseverri. Frank Waln wrote and performed our music, and Eric Carlson created this season's cover art. Extra special thanks this episode to Shelton Johnson, Carolyn Finney, Anthony Wood, Daniel Brewster and the Black Park Ranger Experience. Also thank you to Ed Whittle, Tim Stephenson, and Frank Gerard. We could not have made season three without Lacy Kowalski, Melissa Sladek, Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, and the Glacier National Park Archives team, and we relied on so many great resources from the Montana Historical Society, so thanks to them too. Thanks for listening.

[drumbeat begins]

Lacy Next time on Headwaters:

Peri: The history of homesteading and allotment in northwest Montana.

Jim Muhn: Everybody thinks it’s so simple, but it gets so complicated.

Lois Walker: There were strong personalities, and they disagreed about a lot of stuff, but in the winter, you get along.

Sam Resurrection (read by Frank Waln): To William Howard Taft, June 1910. There is 1,353 Flathead that don’t want to be open.

Peri: That’s next time, on Headwaters.

[music ends]

Peri: So Andrew.

Andrew Smith: Yes.

Peri: Headwaters couldn't happen without the support of the Glacier Conservancy. But you guys also help with so many other projects in the park.

Andrew: Yeah. One I wanted to talk about today is the project to build an accessible trail around Swiftcurrent Lake. Swiftcurrent Lake is right in front of the Many Glacier Hotel—it's probably one of the most popular trails in the Many Glacier valley.

Peri: I've hiked it many times!

Andrew: Yeah it's really beautiful. And we're working on a long term partnership over the next few years with the MCC, the Montana Conservation Corps, to make a wheelchair accessible trail all the way around so that people with mobility impairments can enjoy that lake and that beautiful area just like the rest of us.

Peri: That sounds like a great project.

Andrew: Yeah, we think the national parks should be available to everyone, so we're really excited to make it happen.

Peri: And if people want to learn more, how can they do that?

Andrew: They should visit our website, and they can find us at glacier.org

Why doesn’t anyone remember the first rangers? We trace a Buffalo Soldiers expedition across the park and ask how history becomes preserved.

Yosemite’s A Buffalo Soldier Speaks Podcast: https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/historyculture/buffspodcast16-30.htm

Learn about African Americans in the National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/africanamericanheritage/index.htm

See more show notes on our website: https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/headwaters-podcast.htm

Episode 8

Becoming | Landowners


Lacy Kowalski: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

[car noise]

Michael Faist: [talking to himself] Nachos, restaurant and bar, 500 feet. Home ranch bottoms.

Daniel Lombardi: This August, on a hot summer day, Michael and Peri went on a field trip.

Flannery Freund: Oh cool. Hey guys!

Michael: [to Flannery] Hello! We were able to borrow some of your time today…

Flannery: Yeah.

Daniel: They drove up to the North Fork to meet Flannery.

Flannery: My name is Flannery Freund, and I co-own the Home Ranch Bottoms, a bar and restaurant here in the North Fork.

Daniel: Flannery used to work as a ranger in Polebridge, Glacier's remote northwest entrance. But she's also part of the tight knit, off-grid community that lives just outside the park.

Michael: [to Flannery] What is the community like up here?

Flannery: It's small. It's the type of place where you there's different political persuasions, but you help each other change your tires. And you—we're all like surviving up here.

Michael: [to Flannery] So for somebody who's never been to the North Fork before, how would you describe it?

Flannery: You know, I feel like what's kind of cool as you journey up here that the essence of civilization just kind of trickles off of you. The pavement ends and then soon after, the cell phone service ends. I love witnessing people experiencing this place for the first time because it's totally awe-striking. That there's not that many places left without pavement, without cell phone service.

Michael: [to Flannery] When did you come to the North Fork?

Flannery: I arrived... Well, the first time I came here was October of 2008. I went camping up at Quartz Lake and it happened to be ten degrees that night. I definitely was intrigued. [both laugh] And then I moved here full time in May of 2009.

Michael: [to Flannery] All right. That next year.

Flannery: That next year. Yep. Knew nothing about the community. Knew nothing about how special and intact this place was. Except that you feel that innately, that's something else that, like, you know, this place is wild.

Daniel: As a resident and president of the North Fork Preservation Association, Flannery works to preserve this area's rugged history. And as a baker, she makes a mean huckleberry peach pie, sharing a slice of North Fork life with those who pass through.

Michael: [to Flannery] Pie is your jam here. Why pie?

Flannery: I have to bake. We're a bar with a baking problem. [both laugh] And pie is charming. Pie is Montana. Pie has homestead vibes. You know, that's... That's why pie.

[Headwaters season 3 theme begins playing; starting with mandolin, then a drumbeat, a flute line, and other instruments layer in before the music finishes]

Daniel: What is the magnetic force that pulls people through history? Is it the dream of power and profit? Or is history moved by other, more benevolent forces, like the basic human longing for community, or dreams of leaving behind a better world for future generations? Welcome to Headwaters, a show about how Glacier National Park is connected to everything else. You're listening to Season Three. This episode is about the impact of homesteading on Northwest Montana, an era when incompatible dreams clashed like the opposing ends of a magnet. The promise of a new frontier and a promise left empty—a million acres set aside by the government only to be sold off to eager buyers.

Michael: We're setting out to understand homesteading as a policy, and more personally, as seen through the eyes of early Montanans. But let's start with the Homestead Act.

Jim Muhn: Everybody thinks it's so simple, but it gets so complicated.

Michael: This is Jim Muhn.

Jim: Former land law historian with the Bureau of Land Management.

Michael: Jim said homesteading starts with a concept called the public domain, which is basically a term for lands owned by the U.S. government.

Jim: National land to be disposed of in the national interest.

Michael: In the 1800s, the young United States was looking to expand, adding to the public domain through acquisitions like the Louisiana Purchase. Some would use the term Manifest Destiny to describe this era, arguing that the United States was divinely destined to expand. Others, even at the time, pushed back against that, labeling it as conquest. But the government's motives, at least initially, for these acquisitions, were practical.

Jim: Well, the national government understood that there was this pioneer spirit, that the country was always going to keep expanding. So they understood that. But their main concern when the public domain was first created was: they needed money.

Michael: France and Spain helped fund the Revolutionary War, and the U.S. government still needed to settle the debt.

Jim: They decided that the best thing to do would be to sell the public domain. And when they did that, they weren't really concerned about the average settler. They sold to land speculators or other moneyed interests. They sold large parcels of land.

Michael: [to Jim] Gotcha.

Jim: But this is like a big piggy bank that you can use to develop the country from there.

Michael: From there, for our story anyway, two things happened. The first was that people didn't care if land on the frontier was available for them to buy. They were settling on it anyway—squatting essentially—and not paying a dime. And the second was that for many politicians, their dream of a successful America was a country filled with small, privately owned farms.

Jim: I think the agrarian ideal for America can be traced back to people like Thomas Jefferson. They felt that the farmer was the average American.

Michael: Even the units that we use to measure land, like acres, are rooted in agriculture. Acres were invented in the Middle Ages to describe the area one farmer could plow in one day with a team of oxen.

Jim: I mean, you can only have so many shopkeepers. But you needed lots of farmers.

Michael: Finally, an idea was hatched that claimed to answer both of these things at once. If the government offered everyday people parcels of land for free (ish), they could fill the west with farms and curtail unlawful settlement. Two birds; one stone. But it wasn't without its opponents.

Jim: One of the underlying issues there is slavery. If you populate Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas with small farmers, the place for slave holdings is kind of disappearing.

Michael: The fact that small farms wouldn't require slaves meant that some saw homesteading as a way to keep slavery out of the frontier and expand the power of free states. Slaveholding senators opposed the idea as if it were an existential threat. But by the time the Civil War began, there were a lot of empty seats on Capitol Hill. And the Homestead Act was passed.

Jim: It was passed May 20th, 1862, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln.

Michael: All of a sudden, if you were an American head of household, you could get 160 acres of your own and a shot at a new life, all for the low price of a $10 filing fee and a whole lot of work.

Jim: Your intent is to make this parcel of land your home, to the exclusion of any other. Mm hmm. They asked you to be there for five years.

Michael: [to Jim] That’s a long time.

Jim: It is a fairly long time. But I think they were looking to see that people were committed. And they also required cultivation.

Michael: You had to improve the land as you lived there, which basically meant agriculture, growing crops, raising livestock. But if you did all that, the land is yours. If you didn't want to wait the whole five years, you could commute and pay Uncle Sam the minimum price per acre. But that's the bones of the system. And the system worked. The Homestead Act drew thousands of dreamers out West, thanks to the Great Northern Railway. Hopeful homesteaders could finally reach this corner of Montana in the 1890s. And that is the very zoomed-out policy perspective on how homesteading came to Montana. If you were baking a pie, like modern day homesteader Flannery, this would be the crust—the foundation for everything that came next.

[the hum of kitchen equipment fades in]

Peri Sasnett: [to Michael] Have you witnessed a pie being made?

Michael: [to Peri] Yes….

Michael: I actually had a chance to bake a pie with Flannery

Michael: [to Peri] …but I've witnessed a lot more pies getting eaten. That's usually where I'm involved in the process.

Michael: But while the crust is important, in my opinion, the most interesting part of the pie is what goes into that crust.

[sparse, upbeat electronic music begins]

Flannery: Let's get all of your ingredients. When you bake, it's called mise en place. Got to get everything in order.

Michael: The filling that gives it its flavor and character.

Flannery: So you got your lemon. How about your granulated sugar? Perfect. How about….

Michael: So what did homesteading look like through the eyes of someone who settled here?

[music finishes, marking a transition]

Michael: [to Lois] Never quite known how to refer to Polebridge “town”… you said “village” as well….

Lois Walker: Yeah. I don't think you can call it a town. I mean….

Michael: To answer that, I met with Lois Walker.

Lois: You can probably introduce me as the historian for the North Fork community or North Fork historian.

Michael: Lois understands the human side of the Homestead era in the North Fork as well, or better, than anyone.

Lois: I started by going back to the old newspapers. Any mention of the North Fork gets scanned and clipped. It's like working a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, and you just start putting all those pieces together and, you know, pretty soon you got a picture.

Michael: And I came to ask specifically about Bill Adair, one of the North Fork's most prominent homesteaders. Could you describe what he looked like?

Lois: Tall, thin, wiry. Often had a pipe in his mouth. [laughs] He was born in Missouri in 1866, but his family moved to Minneapolis when he was about 11. He had different jobs there, but he was just entranced by the trains. Trains were new, and the Great Northern was building the tracks across the northern tier. So he went to work for the railroad, and he worked his way up from being a coal boy to being an engineer.

Michael: Part of the job included a trip out West, delivering Kalispell's very first steam engine in 1892. And the trip must have left quite the impression because three years later he left his job, and he and his new wife, Jessie, moved all the way to Kalispell. He got a job at a mercantile store in Belton, the town that's now West Glacier, or the west entrance of the park, but he noticed what was going on in the North Fork.

Lois: I think he saw he saw what was happening. He saw the road punched through to the oil fields. He saw all the settlers starting to come. And he thought, hmm, all these people, they need equipment, they need supplies, they need food. And why should they have to come all the way to Belton? Hmm.

Michael: He jumped on this opportunity and decided to start a business in the North Fork.

Lois: So he leased some land—he didn't own it—he leased land at Sullivan Meadow and built a small store.

Michael: In 1904, Bill Adair opened his first store. And when you look through what he sold, you could learn a lot about what life was like for homesteaders at that time.

Lois: Here we have his ledger, his business ledger from 1904 to 1907. [sounds of papers crinkling and flipping] And it tells you who his customers were. He would have a page per customer and then all the things that they could acquire at his store in the park.

Michael: I mean, there's photos of this tiny log cabin store. And yet the amount of things he managed to fit in there and sell to folks is incredible.

Lois: In the back of this ledger is a list of things to buy. You know, “I've got to go to town. What's on my list?” I think this is about 1905. Coal oil, because everyone needed it for their lanterns, tea, bacon, maple syrup, cigars… [list of items fades and continues softly as Lois continues talking] I mean, he was providing services to the oil camps, to the Forest Service and the Rangers, to the road camps, to the fire camps, plus all of the homesteaders. Apricots—everyone loved dried apricots for some reason. Soap, a case of lunch beans, a grub hoe. He had to get all that stuff and get it to his store. Hanging lamps, matches. How did he get it the 22 miles up to Sullivan meadow? That all had to be done by wagon. He paid men to do freighting for him. A washing machine, spades and pitchforks, ammunition—he carried all the ammunition, fishing supplies. He's got you. Carnation canned milk was very popular. Garden seeds, writing tablets, laundry soap, anything that you needed, chances are he carried.

Michael: On top of that, he and his wife, Jessie, also managed to run essentially like a homestead hotel.

Lois: People would stop in. A bed for the night was $0.25. Meals were $0.35 or $0.50. Two meals and a bed was a dollar. A beer was $0.50, whiskey was $0.75 a pint. But he also sold it by the quart, the half gallon, and the gallon. You could easily run up a bill for $5 for, you know, bed and board and three beers and feed for your horse and—you name it, he sold it.

Michael: [to Lois] He was Costco, a hardware store, a hotel, a bar, a quarter horse…

Lois: He knew his onions. [chuckles]

Michael: [to Lois] The index you made at the beginning, this is a who's who, like every name I looked at was a name I recognized.

Lois: There's all the stuff that Ruder, now Jack Ruder—

Michael: [to Lois] Jack Ruder got a lotta beer. [both laugh loudly]

Lois: Yeah, that he did! Yeah so beer beer beer beer beer beer. Six plus one beer, five beers!

Michael: There's a mountain in the park named after Jack Ruder. So you could read in here receipts of what people bought. But these ledgers are also a record of the people that made up this small community.

Michael: [to Jim] What sort of people were taking the government up on this offer, and why?

Jim: So you have a lot of would-be farmers or farmers that are just looking for new opportunities. A lot of immigrants, you know, they're looking for a new start. Other people, they're looking for adventure… “oh, hey, this sounds like fun.”

Lois: You had to be strong to come up here. And people came from all over, some from the Midwest. You'll see people from Missouri, Nebraska, that area, and then from the northern tier, of course, from Minnesota and North Dakota, all different personalities.

Michael: These folks went all in on the North Fork—just as I accidentally poured all of our peach huckleberry filling into our pie crust.

[sounds of fruit plopping into a pie]

Flannery: What’s that?

Michael: [to Flannery] I maybe added all of it and shouldn't have.

Flannery: Uh oh

Michael: [to Flannery] I mean, I definitely added all of it. And shouldn't have.

[all laugh]

Flannery: You really committed fully.

Michael: [to Flannery] I heard add your filling, and I added it!

Michael: But I scooped up the excess, egg-washed the top crust, and slid it into the oven.

[sound of oven closing]

Flannery: That does it! You got it at 400 for the first, like 20 minutes. Beautiful.

Michael: So you have settlers coming here from all over, but the path for them to get to patent and actually earn their land was rarely easy.

Michael: [to Jim] What were common obstacles to actually getting to patent?

Jim: I think for a lot of people it was the money involved. You still had to buy food. You still had to buy things to put in your cabin to keep you warm in the winter. And you had to buy the materials to build the cabin. I think winters were hard on people.

Michael: Most people who visit see Glacier in the summer when it's nice and warm. But winters here are long, cold and snowy.

Lois: You were on your own in the winter. This is it. You're from—from the middle of October until April. You weren't going to town unless you snowshoed or, you know, the people weren't even taking horses and sleighs until a little bit later.

Michael: Even today, 100 years later, life in the North Fork is tough. I asked Flannery about this while our pie was in the oven.

Flannery: Just… everything is difficult. Your proximity to supplies, your proximity to services. You know, if something breaks, you can't just call the plumber. And so that can be mind boggling.

Lois: By October, they had to have laid in everything they were going to need for the winter barrels of flour and sugar and cornmeal, and everything you were going to need.

Michael: And Bill had to have the supplies not only for himself, but for everyone else as they stocked up.

Lois: How did he do that? How did he know to have the quantities? How did he get the stuff shipped to his store so that it was there so that people can buy it?

Michael: I asked Jim, who spent his career studying this history, if he would have considered homesteading himself.

Michael: [to Jim] Would you have been a homesteader?

Jim: [laughs] Probably not.

Michael: At its heart, it seems like homesteading takes a certain sort of person.

Flannery: Everything you do here is purposeful. Nothing is easy. And I like that. And I tried leaving here once, and I moved to Livingston for a few years, which I love so much. I missed the difficulty. You know, flipping on a light switch and flushing a toilet were way too easy, and it was got boring. for a while here we were taking showers outside with a five gallon bag hanging off of a tree in February.

Michael: [to Flannery] Oh, my gosh.

Flannery: [emphatically] And it was exhilarating!

Michael: Looking back at the past, it can seem like everything is the result of these sweeping governmental policies. But dreamers like Bill Adair and Flannery choosing a challenging way of life show that there are other forces at play.

Lois: There were strong personalities, there is no doubt about that. And they disagreed about a lot of stuff. But in the winter, you get along. Because today I pull you out of the ditch. Tomorrow you pull me out of the ditch. You know, you have to cooperate. You just have to whether you agree with them or not.

[pensive music begins to build]

Michael: Walking away from everything you knew to homestead in the North Fork required more than a business plan. It required a high tolerance for challenges, a community spirit, and a dream of something bigger than yourself. But in 1910, an entirely new obstacle appeared for these homesteaders—the creation of Glacier National Park. [music ends] A million acres that suddenly included homesteaders living on the east side of the river. For several years, the future of homesteading in the North Fork was uncertain—would the people already settled inside the park be allowed to stay, or would they have to move across the river outside of the park?

Lois: At the time the park became the park, there were, I think, 44 homesteads that had been filed on the east side of the river.

Michael: Ultimately, Glacier decided to allow the existing homesteads to remain, but they closed the door to newcomers and made life more difficult for those already here.

Lois: “What do you mean? We can't hunt? What do you mean, we can't trap? Why aren't you maintaining the road?” “No, it's not a county road. It's in the park.” And you see a lot of grousing among, you know, some of the early, early people.

[sparse, ambiguous music begins to play]

Michael: In 1912, all of the affected homesteaders signed a petition requesting that the North Fork valley be excluded from the park. It said, [slightly fuzzy] "we submit that it is more important to furnish homes to a land hungry people than to lock up the land as a rich man's playground." But the petition didn't work. The park's first superintendent, William Logan, shot back with this message.

Superintendent Logan (voice actor—gravelly, authoritative, antagonistic): Instead of giving up land there, I think we should take steps to obtain more. In fact, get rid of every settler on the North Fork in the Flathead River.

Michael: Logan's antagonism set the tone for how the park would approach landowners for years to come.

Lois: Some people had already left, but others, I think, saw the handwriting on the wall and said, let's go over to the to the west side.

Michael: Including Bill and Jesse Adair, who left the mercantile store they'd run for ten years and moved across the river outside of Glacier's boundary.

Lois: He was there from 1904 until 1914. But as we said, the park became the park in 1910. So in 1912, he filed on his own homestead on this side of the river. 160 acres, built himself a cabin.

Michael: And just like any other homesteader, he had to move there. He had to build things, grow crops, raise livestock. And he did. And he got his patent, five years later.

Lois: In 1917, he had 22 acres under cultivation. He was growing hay, potatoes, timothy...

Michael: [to Flannery] If he was just plopped down on the seat next to you, what would you want to ask Bill Adair?

Flannery: Ooooh! Well, A, the first thing I'd want to know is how he got those cabbages so big. He was famous for his cabbages! He grew—I mean, there's a picture at the Merc, him holding a cabbage the size of his torso. And he was a big guy!

Lois: ...a hundred chickens and one milk cow. When did he have time to do that?

Michael: And while he was at it, he built the most iconic building in the North Fork, the Polebridge Mercantile. Flannery actually used to own the mercantile and was repairing the second floor when she discovered that it was a kit home.

Flannery: They said that the mercantile was a kit, like from Sears, that Adair had ordered that came on the train to Belton.

Michael: The iconic false front building was shipped in pieces and assembled on site.

Flannery: And that's why mercantiles all kind of have a similar look throughout the West, you know.

Michael: Although when Bill ran it, it wasn't called the Polebridge Mercantile, because the town of Polebridge didn't exist. The bridge made out of poles hadn't been built yet.

Lois: Right, Polebridge didn't exist. So sometimes they would just call it Adair, the town of Adair. And then it was called the Polebridge Store. It wasn't until Karen Feather bought it in 1975, painted it red, started calling it the Polebridge Mercantile. They cut the lettering out, out of plywood, painted it white, put the lettering up there.

Michael: [to Lois] Bill was this kind of commercial hub. But I'm sure as a result of that, he was a community hub, too.

Lois: Oh, yeah. Dances. Dances. He started having dances when he was on the park side. And then when he opened up the store over here, there was a dance on the 4th of July. How sturdy must that store be to handle 150 people dancing? Upstairs?! [both laughing] I mean, I'm impressed. I know the store was used for elections. It was a polling place. He had, for a while he had the only radio in town, so people would gather at the Merc to listen to the radio. And when you own that store, the store may have open hours, but they're available 24 hours a day. If you needed help, you went to the store. He called the sheriff. He called the doctor. Whoever needed you know, they were, it—it was, it was a hub of the community.

Michael: The Homestead Act was a promise, 160 acres and a shot at a new life. And in in the North Fork, about two thirds of the people who filed on a homesteading claim got to patent and succeeded. And when you look at the people who succeeded, you start to get a picture of what it takes to be a homesteader.

Flannery: You guys might notice that the opportunity to make a living up here in the middle of nowhere, it… it's pretty sparse, right? Like, there's not that many—if you want to, if you're choosing to live here, you have to get creative.

Michael: [to Flannery] We're curious, like, do you see yourself as an entrepreneur or as a business owner as a homesteader?

Flannery: I hadn't ever really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I've thought of myself as a risk taker and an adventure seeker. But I am an entrepreneur, actually. And so that's a new discovery to me.

Michael: Bill Adair and his wife Jessie brought their backgrounds and their talents and turned them into good lives.

Lois: He worked in the mercantile business in Belton for three years, and then he was ten years in the park, and he was almost 30 years over here. He was in the business for a long time. He knew it well. [music begins to play] He had to have had an amazing amount of patience, and a good sense of humor, and an ability to read character in people. He was an amazing fellow.

Michael: To me, it seems like this is the Homestead Act’s ideal outcome. They started a successful business, raised crops and animals, and held together a community. That's still alive today.

[music ends]

Flannery: And I smell it. It's really ready now.

[oven opens]

Michael: Gosh, look at it. It's so cute!

Flannery: It felt…questionable when we first saw it [both laughing] and now it looks really, really good.

Michael: [sound of slicing a pie] Took some of the crust down with it, but it's really good. [chews, laughs] It's not scalding my mouth. Mm hmm.

Flannery: You can rival any homesteader with this pie.

Michael: Making this pie with Flannery -- a dessert practically designed to be shared with others -- I can't help but feel like a little bit of Bill Adair lives on, too.

Michael: [to Flannery] Like you were saying, why pie? Like it's easy to sell whole or to share with other people. It feels like a little slice of community to, like, bake a pie that, you know you're never going to eat yourself. To share it with somebody else.

Flannery: Aww!

Peri: A slice of community! [laughs]

Michael: [to Flannery] So thank you, for the crust and all the assistance

Flannery: Yeah, you got it!

[short music interlude to mark a transition]

Michael: The Homestead era is full of resourceful people making the most of what they have. And as I looked through this time, I found something that embodies this attitude really well: quilts.

[sounds of cars]

Michael: [in the field] “If you're having a fabric emergency, please call. We'll do our best to assist you.”

[door opening, bells chiming]

Peri: I wonder what constitutes a fabric emergency.

Michael: Like the patchwork of ownership on a homesteading map. I'm seeing how beautiful it can be to stitch together such different pieces into a whole new thing.

Angela Johnson: And so my grandmother made quilts with flour sacks because they were, you know, reusing them.

Michael: And I also learned about Indigenous quilting.

Angela: I'm Angela Johnson, one of the owners of the Native Life Store in Browning, Montana.

Lisa Longtime Sleeping: I'm Lisa Longtime Sleeping, Angela's partner, and I run the daily managing of the store.

Michael: After visiting the North Fork, Peri and I drove east to the Blackfeet reservation. And while Native Life Store is kind of nondescript on the outside, the moment you walk in, you are greeted by every color of the rainbow and more.

Lisa: [laughing] And our tribe, we like bright colors. We kind of say we're like magpies, anything shiny. And so when you walk in, you see lots of bright colors and you see things that reflect who we are.

Michael: Bolts of fabric are neatly organized on shelves throughout the room. And then there's the quilts themselves. The one that caught my eye was still in progress, laid out on a massive long arm sewing machine that featured a variety of different prints.

Lisa: We wanted native prints. We wanted wildlife because we are right here next to Glacier National Park. And wildlife is such a big part of our culture and, and then Western because they kind of mix together.

Michael: For Lisa and Angela, the store was born out of a desire to meet the needs of their community.

Lisa: We always made dance outfits and our own clothes, and in making our kids’ dance outfits, we couldn't find what we needed.

Angela: We were traveling to Great Falls and Kalispell and—

Lisa: Yeah, and it just seemed crazy that it's such an important part of our culture as far as the dance regalia and everything, that we didn't have a place here in town.

Michael: Today, people come to the store not just for fabric emergencies, but to learn quilting from Lisa.

Lisa: Well, the first step is picking out your fabric, which can be the most stressful. [laughs]

Michael: Their most popular class is how to make star quilts—distinctly Indigenous quilts featuring a large eight-pointed star with colors and patterns radiating from the center.

Michael: [to Lisa and Angels] What made the star kind of so central to this quilting practice across different communities? Why star quilts?

Angela: Well, if you look at, well, Indigenous communities, star stories are very common among Indigenous cultures.

Lisa: It's a meaningful symbol.

Michael: This design is really striking. A seemingly simple shape made up of a dizzying number of different colors and fabrics. And they are as beautiful to behold as they are challenging to create.

Lisa: And the pattern is very—it's very difficult. I've had different people take my class saying “I have done the Lone Star pattern, and I was just terrible and it was so hard.” Then they have done my class and went, “I can't believe how easy that was, and how relaxing it was!”

Angela: Lisa is a very good teacher though. [both laugh]

Michael: And star quilts are more than just something to keep you warm. They have cultural meaning.

Lisa: It's an honor to receive one. You're being honored. Not just a nice gift or, you know, something to keep you warm. We give those away, too. But I mean, if it's—you're honoring someone's life.

Angela: Weddings, graduations and babies, it's my thing, because otherwise everybody wants you to make them a star quilt. And they're not easy.

Lisa: No, no. [both laugh]

Michael: It's one thing that Lisa reminds her students of, is that these quilts don't need to be perfect. They're not going to be flawless, but they're going to be yours.

Lisa: None of us are perfect. We all have imperfections. But when you look at the whole picture, all you see is beauty. And so when you see your whole quilt, all you're going to see is this beautiful quilt that you made, you know? So it reflects who we are as human beings, too. So it's okay to have those little flaws.

Michael: What I like about quilts is that they reflect not just the personality of the people making them, but the larger cultural forces that surround them, like the hardships that led quilters to use flour sacks. And when you look back at the Homestead era and Indigenous communities, like those on the Blackfeet and Flathead reservations, well, the heartwarming history of homesteading gets a lot more complicated.

Julie Cajune: I understood that the reservation was opened up to homesteading as a kid, you know, and as a young person. But I didn't know the political history.

Michael: I visited the Flathead reservation, an hour south of Glacier, on the other side of the park from the quilt store, to meet with Julie Cajune.

Julie: Julie Cajune, and I'm a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Michael: And Joe McDonald.

Joe McDonald: I'm Joe McDonald, born and raised here on the reservation. President Emeritus of Salish Kootenai College.

Michael: Julie showed me a map of the Flathead Reservation, and it's a mess of different colors. Purple, green, orange—honestly, looked a lot like a quilt. Those colors represent different statuses of land ownership: tribal, state and private.

Michael: [to Julie] What introduced you to the history of what we're going to talk about today? How did you come to understand that story?

Julie: Well, I understood it socially before I understood it politically. And so as a young person growing up, you knew that you lived around a lot of non-Indian people, even though this was a reservation, that was designated reserved homeland from our aboriginal homelands. That was to be a permanent tribal homeland for the exclusive use of said Indians. That's what the treaty says.

Michael: This part of the story begins in 1855, as the Kootenai, Salish, and Qlispé, or Pend d'Oreille people, met with representatives from the U.S. government. They were offered a treaty which said: if you give up 12 million acres of your traditional territory, we'll set aside 1.2 million acres for you to call home. With little choice, the tribes accepted the treaty and relocated to the Flathead Reservation.

Michael: [to Julie] It essentially outlines a suite of promises. One of them was the establishment, quote unquote, of a permanent tribal homeland.

Julie: For the exclusive use and benefit of said Indian tribes. And it goes on further to say, “no white men shall live there.”

Michael: [to Julie] That's in the treaty.

Julie: In the treaty, unless he is employed by the Indian agency.

Joe: Well, the treaty is very clear that, you know, they would survey the land, and the land that was set aside for the reservation would be theirs. Theirs forever as long as the water runs, the grass grows green, the sun shines—you know they give it all that nature assurances. So that's what they had, was going to be their land.

Michael: [to Julie] What happened next? Once you know, the Kootenai, Pend d'Oreille, Qlispé and, you know, Salish are all here.

Julie: So it was difficult, you know, because if you think of subsistence living, you know, you're, you're going where there's game.

Michael: Adjusting to life on the reservation was difficult, especially because the government intended to keep tribal members on reservation as much as possible.

Julie: And at one time, there was a pass system, where you had to get a pass to leave the reservation. But people were still wanting to hunt in usual and accustomed places. And the treaty guaranteed us that right.

Michael: Early Christian missionaries to the reservation, in an effort to stop wide-ranging buffalo hunts and other traditional practices, taught farming among other skills of domestic life.

Joe: The church taught them how to farm, and they taught them how to build houses, you know, the horse-drawn farm machinery, and raise cattle and that kind of stuff, because the Christians wanted them to stick around, they didn't want them to go off on his buffalo hunts. A buffalo hunt was a big deal. It was a summer vacation for kids and everybody. They would take the whole camp.

Michael: Despite treaty rights, which clearly state the right to hunt and gather off reservation, there was even a 1903 law that prohibited tribal members from leaving the reservation while armed.

Julie: People realized that they were going to have to adapt. And Native people have been very good at adapting. So people started engaging in agriculture, you know, by necessity.

Michael: But as all of this is happening, the number of homestead claims throughout the West has continued to climb, and many politicians and newspapers began to fear that available land in the West was disappearing.

Voice Actor: “The capacity of the western part of the United States to provide new homes for settlers is rapidly diminishing. In fact, in general terms, it can be said that there are no more chances for home seekers who do not possess capital.” The Missoulian 1901.

Michael: Which is when some politicians set their sights on reservation land. Here's Jim Muhn again.

Jim: It was bad news, and that's because people are saying, “Oh, all the good agricultural land is almost gone. They've got it. We want it. We'll take it.”

Michael: This idea that land was running out was gaining national momentum in the late 1800s, alongside another narrative: that if tribal nations wanted to succeed and assimilate into society, they too needed to become farmers. Both of these ideas echoed through the halls of Congress until they became a chorus.

Julie: Were people already eyeing our homeland? You know, I think people were already eyeing all of tribal homelands.

Michael: For the sake of our story, this momentum resulted in two bills, a nationwide law called the General Allotment Act, and more locally, one called the Flathead Allotment Act. And our local law began with a Montana congressman named Joe Dixon.

Joe: As far as the Indians are concerned, he's really a rascal. He got elected to Congress as a representative because he was going to open this reservation and the Crow Reservation to homesteading.

Julie: Senator Dixon was very instrumental in getting the Allotment Act passed, and he was working with business people, politicians, to get the Flathead Allotment Act passed.

Michael: Allotment as a policy was designed to take reservations, which had been held in common by members of a tribe, and divide them up into small, privately owned parcels called allotments. The supposed goal of this was to encourage Native families to take up agriculture. But as we've learned, they were already farming.

Joe: They had fences, and they had gardens, and they had cattle, and, and horses, and they were quite successful. And they wanted to stay there.

Julie: There were a lot of tribal members who were doing really well. And so the Flathead Allotment Act, which was passed in 1904—it wasn't, you know, the acculturation act of making us farmers and ranchers. It was really to get our land. And, you know, in the Flathead Allotment Act, it's not just allotting land to Indians. You have to read the whole thing. Then the land that's not allotted is surplus. And then that land is going to be surveyed and classified for homesteaders—against the vocal and written opposition of the tribe.

Michael: After the Flathead Allotment Act passed in 1904, the news spread among tribal members, and many felt betrayed. Some took action and turned to politics, including a Salish man named Sam Resurrection. Frustrated and confused by the ruling, he wrote letters to Washington, D.C. for years, seeking answers.

Sam Resurrection (read by Frank Waln): To Theodore Roosevelt, January 1908. [ominous electric guitar music beings to play] “I thought I would drop you a line and tell you what we all think about our reservation. He gave us this place to stop, and we all thought that this reservation belongs to us. Why is it that the whites want to take it away from us?”

Michael: And he did this through the help of a translator as he couldn't read or write in English.

Sam Resurrection (read by Frank Waln): To William Howard Taft, June 1910. “They told us we were to have our land til we all Indians die. There is 1,353 Flathead that don't want to be open.”

Joe: He was pretty effective, you know, voicing what people were thinking.

Michael: Chief Charlo, a famous chief of the Bitterroot Salish, went to Washington, D.C. in 1905 to protest the opening of the reservation, a trip that was covered by local newspapers.

Voice Actors: “He says he will not believe nor consent to it until he is told face to face by the president.” “The fact is Charlo does not want the reservation opened at all and will do all in his power to prevent its being opened.” The Missoulian 1905.

Julie: People were intellectually and politically engaged, and were negotiating political and cultural systems that were very much outside our experience.

Michael: [to Julie] And language.

Julie: And language. You know, the agency of our leaders and tribal members was pretty remarkable, you know, to protest what was happening, both in writing and by travel, but then to have your protests fall on deaf ears. And so it didn't matter.

Michael: And so in 1908, it began. [music ends] And it began with a census to identify tribal members living on the reservation before issuing each one an allotment.

Joe: “You get this section, you get that section,” and you're allotment—you might be on a real nice section. You might be next to a creek, might border a lake. You also might be out in a clay flat with no sign of anything around. [chuckles] So there's all this all these different allotments.

Michael: And after each tribal member got their standard issue 80 acre allotments, there was a lot of land left over.

Julie: If there's land left over, which of course, there was a lot of, and I think it was over 400,000 acres….

Michael: It was classified as surplus to be sold to homesteaders.

Julie: In just in the first public sale of land, and that was over 400,000 acres of reservation land that went into in, you know, non-Indian hands.

[music begins]

Michael: After the surveys, there was no delay in putting out the call to aspiring homesteaders.

Julie: All of the advertisements, you know, “Uncle Sam has a home for you. You know, a fortune on the Flathead Reservation awaits you.” You know.

Michael: From what I could find, one of the largest ad campaigns came from the Great Northern Railway. Here's a newspaper ad they ran.

Voice Actor: Indian land open for settlers under homestead laws. Flathead Reservation, Montana. Send for illustrated book, describing the country and giving details about when, where, and how to register. Enclose $0.04 for postage.

Julie: So all of these advertisements went out, you know, and you end up with this little mini-land rush of homesteaders here. Who were people who probably didn't have anything. Who were extremely poor. Did—did they know that they were depriving Indian people of land? How knowledgeable were they? How literate were they? Did they know? I don't know.

Michael: The Flathead Reservation was opened to homesteaders in April of 1910, a month before Glacier National Park was established. As homesteaders began to arrive, it became clear that the surveyors who drew these lines did so hastily and with little care for existing homes. Take, for example, the story of Chief Charlo. He opposed the opening of the reservation until he passed away in January of 1910, but his wife was still alive and living in their house.

Joe: His wife was there when they did the survey for the allotment. The line went right through her house. [chuckling] It was two allotments, but she didn't own the allotment that her house was on. A part of it was on another allotment. And so then the non-Indian that got the allotment, part of it was her house, and here's this 80 year old woman, [chuckling] gonna force her to move? I don't know what they did. They must have maybe stalled out and let her live there till she died.

Michael: And while many of these new homesteaders were eager to start their lives here, some saw an opportunity to exploit the system and take advantage of their Indigenous neighbors.

Julie: One of the things that happened here that we didn't mention were white men marrying Indian women for their allotments. And there used to be a saying here, “he married her for her 80. He married her for her 80 acres.”

Michael: Another tactic was something called forced allotment. The Allotment Act specified that tribally-owned land would transfer from trust status where it is tax free to fee status, where it would become both taxable and available for sale.

Joe: So after 25 years, you could sell your allotment. And so they got in what they called the forced allotment period when sales were forced on them.

Michael: Part of this was through taxes issued to people who couldn't afford them, and when you defaulted, they'd claim your land to settle the debt. But there was also Joe Dixon, the guy Joe McDonald called a rascal, who pushed through this Allotment Act in the first place. During this period, he helped establish mercantiles on the reservation, which sold expensive goods and services to tribal members.

Joe: And then let them run up their bills and then they would get after him for payment. They didn't have any money and they said, "Well, you have this allotment, you can sign your allotment over to me and clear up the bill." And so they did that. Also the mortician—I got records of where my granddad signed over some lots in St Ignatius to pay for his seven-year-old son's burial. So it was really a treacherous thing.

Michael: Allotment as a practice ended for good in 1934 with the Indian Reorganization Act. But by that time, the damage had been done.

Joe: Up to that point the land was the tribe's. And you used the whole land. You traveled, you camped wherever you wanted to. And then with allotment period came the you know, this is your little square. It really harmed social interaction with Indian people. And also the way they looked at things that—this is mine, instead of this is ours. It was 1.2 million acres counting all the mountains and foothills and all of that. And so by 1940, the tribe only owned 35% of the acreage. 65% was in other ownership.

Julie: So we are now—Indian people are the minority population on our own reservation.

Michael: And this didn't just happen on the Flathead Reservation. If you include every reservation in the country, the allotment era took more than 90 million acres out of tribal hands, an area roughly the size of the state of Montana. [music begins to play] Allotment policies were born from the ideology of the Homestead era: that land of your own was the key to a successful life. But something that was offered to homesteaders was forced on tribes. Allotment divided often community-run reservations into privately-owned parcels, where it was now subject to taxes, and surplus land went up for sale. The impacts of this are complex and far reaching, but if you cut to the heart of the hurt caused by these policies, it wasn't your new neighbors to blame. It was the new narrative about the value of land—and where, and who, you were supposed to be. A narrative sold to you in your own best interest, before your land was sold to somebody else. This era affected every tribe differently. Allotment didn't necessarily mean that your reservation would be opened to homesteaders. The Blackfeet reservation wasn't—yet the tribe still lost thousands of acres due to taxes they couldn't afford, [sad piano music begins to play] or to white store owners who, as one account described, accepted 250 acres in exchange for $30 worth of groceries. My visit to the Native Life Store in Browning, the quilting shop, helped show that allotment was just one of many ways that tribal nations were pressured to conform to white societal norms.

Michael: [to Angela and Lisa] Quilting in Indigenous communities—like how did that... What's the origins of quilting as a cultural tradition?

Angela: Well, I mean, mission schools and people bringing quilting to Indigenous people...

Michael: Farming wasn't the only practice pressed on to tribal members. Quilting as a domestic skill was taught in boarding schools to Indigenous girls around the country, often at the cost of their traditional arts.

Angela: With us, we made clothing and blankets out of buffalo hides. As, you know, the mission schools came in and we were placed on reservations and we lost our ability to hunt and gather and collect those hides… Out of necessity, because people didn't have access to hides anymore, they started quilting. And most quilting in the US and a lot of places was just like patchwork quilts and squares, real simple quilts.

Michael: But Lisa and Angela's star quilts today, they're anything but simple. Historically, many have dismissed quilting as a practical homemaking skill, but in their hands it is plain to see that it is an art.

Angela: And then it evolved. And then Natives sort of took to the star quilt because of their connection with star stories and the symbolic meaning of stars.

Lisa: Being taught in in boarding schools and whatnot, it was very practical. This is not a practical quilt. But yet we still, [both laughing] this is the one we still chose

Angela: This is the gold standard of quilts in Indian Country for sure.

Michael: You come across so many examples of tribal nations being forced to suppress their own identity, only to clearly, consistently, and often cleverly refuse.

Michael: [to Lisa and Angela] So I don't know, are quilts like a symbol of Indigenous resistance?

Lisa: I think the star quilt is for sure

Angela: I would say yes, because, you know, most native Indigenous cultures, they adapt things to their needs. That's kind of who we've always shown to be as a people. This is just one of the examples of it.

Michael: In the case of the Flathead Reservation, that adaptability has meant buying back reservation land, finding ways to confront and overcome the circumstances.

Julie: The tribe started buying land back immediately. I think the largest purchases were made, the most acreage purchased was in the 1950s. But of course, they're buying land back at the current price. The last I heard officially, it was, you know, we're over 60%. We were under 40. We have bought a lot of land back. But the tribes are buying it at a—at a pretty high price. [wistful violin music begins] You know, after all of these hundreds of years at efforts to assimilate us, I think that we still remain distinct and unique as Native people, even in modernity.

Michael: As a policy, the Homestead Act offered hope. And like a magnet, the promise of a better life to thousands of people out west. And allotment shows that some powerful and politically-minded people realized they could take that magnet and abuse it for their own self-interest. But at the personal level, the same traits that helped settlers succeed on homestead claims helped tribes survive the homestead era. Lives and communities built through determination, adaptability and kindness.

Angela: I don't own a quilt that I've made. I've gifted every single one of them. So we've really built a family with our customers.

Lisa: I am a firm believer that culture shouldn't have a price on it, so that only someone with money can afford to learn it and to have that.

Michael: [to Lisa and Angela] Holding together a lot more than just pieces of fabric here.

Lisa: Exactly. Exactly.

[music continues to build, then plays softly under the credits]

Daniel: Headwaters is a production of Glacier National Park with support from our partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy. This season of Headwaters was made by me—Daniel Lombardi—Peri Sasnett, Michael Faist and Gaby Eseverri. We could not have made Season Three without Lacy Kowalski or Melissa Sladek and Sierra Mandelko, Brent Rowley, Darren Lewis, the Glacier National Park Archives, and the Montana Historical Society. Special thanks this episode to Flannery Freund for opening up her front (and oven) doors to us, Jim Muhn, Lois Walker, Angela Johnson and Lisa Longtime Sleeping for solving all our fabric emergencies, Julie Cajune, Joe McDonald, and the series of history books he helps edit, titled "Documents of Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and Kootenai Indian History." These books proved an invaluable resource in understanding this story. Thanks for listening.

[drumbeat begins]

Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.

Michael: The corporation that made Glacier National Park a destination. And the people who did the advertising.

Bill Schustrom: He didn’t want to get in trouble with the federal government.

Ray Djuff: Well all of that was malarkey. There was no truth to any of it.

Bill: All you want is to make money from the mountains.

Darnell Rides At The Door: His ability to capture a person’s features is phenomenal. And to see this original? It brought tears to my eyes.

Renee Bear Medicine: You realize that—these are our people.

Michael: That's next time on Headwaters.

[music ends]

Michael: [to Andrew] Headwaters is possible because of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Andrew Smith: That's right.

Michael: [to Andrew] But you also fund a lot of other projects. What are some examples?

Andrew: Yeah, the NPS Academy is a project we're really excited about right now. This is an internship opportunity that is available to people from lots of diverse backgrounds that are kind of underrepresented in the National Park Service. And it's a really special internship because in addition to the experience they get working here, they get seminars on how to build career skills, how to write their resume, all sorts of extra job training to set them up for success in the Park Service.

Michael: [to Andrew] That's awesome. What a life-changing opportunity.

Andrew: Yeah, and they get to work in a bunch of different divisions across Glacier. So there's, as you know, a lot of different jobs in a national park. [Michael laughs] So we're excited to bring some new perspectives into the Park Service.

Michael: [to Andrew] That's awesome. Well, if you want to learn about that project and the other ones that you work on, where can you go?

Andrew: Check out our website, it's at glacier.org

Michael: [to Andrew] Great. Well, thanks Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks Michael.

The twin stories of homesteading and allotment explored through baking and quilting analogies. How Euro-Americans came to settle inside the Glacier National Park and inside the Flathead Reservation.

Glacier Conservancy: https://glacier.org/headwaters Frank Waln music: https://www.instagram.com/frankwaln/ Eric Carlson art: https://www.instagram.com/esccarlson/ Behind the scenes pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSxSe2J

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