Lacy: Headwaters is brought to you by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Michael: Nachos, restaurant and bar. 500 feet. Home ranch bottoms.
Daniel: This August, on a hot summer day, Michael and Peri went on a field trip.
Flannery: Hey guys.
Michael: Were able to borrow some of your time today
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: 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: 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: 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. And then I moved here full time in May of 2009.
Michael: 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: Pie is your jam here? Why, pie?
Flannery: I have to bake. We're a bar with a baking problem. And pie is charming. Pie is Montana. Pie has homestead vibes. You know, that's... That's why pie.
Daniel: What is the magnetic force that pulls people through history? Is that 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: 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.
Jim: But this is like a big piggy bank that you can use to develop the country from there.
Michael: 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 claim 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 with 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 and a long time. 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.
Peri: Have you witnessed a pie being made?
Michael: Yes. I actually had a chance to bake a pie with Flannery, but I've witnessed a lot more pies getting eaten. That's usually where I'm involved in the process. But while the crust is important, in my opinion, the most interesting part of the pie is what goes into that crust.
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? Never quite known how to refer to Polebridge... Town, you said village as well.
Lois: 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. 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. 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. 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 the 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: Costco, a hardware store, a hotel, a bar, a quarter horse
Lois: He knew his onions.
Michael: The index you made at the beginning, this is a who's who. And every time I looked at was a name I recognized.
Lois: There's all the stuff that Ruder. Now, Jack Ruder
Michael: Got a lotta beer.
Lois: [Laughs] Yeah, that he did! He said, yeah. 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. 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 or 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.
Michael: [plopping sounds] I maybe added all of it and shouldn't have. I mean, I definitely added all of it and shouldn't have.
Flannery: You really committed fully.
Michael: I heard add your filling and I added it. But I scooped up the excess, egg washed the top crust, and slid it into the oven.
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. 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.
Michael: 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. Would you have been a homesteader?
Jim: 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: Oh, my gosh.
Flannery: 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.
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, 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. Know 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.
Michael: In 1912, all of the affected homesteaders signed a petition requesting that the North Fork valley be excluded from the park. It said, "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): 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: If he was just plopped down on the seat next to you, what would you want to ask Bill Adair?
Michael: 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: 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? 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: 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. 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 Acts ideal outcome. They started a successful business, raised crops and animals, and held together a community. That's still alive today.
Flannery: And I smell it. It's really ready now.
Michael: Gosh, look at it. It's so cute.
Flannery: It felt questionable when we first saw it and now it looks really, really good.
Michael: [spatula sounds] Took some of my crust down with it, but it's really good. 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: 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. Oh, share it with somebody else.
Peri: A slice of community!
Michael: So thank you for the crust and all the assistance
Flannery: Yeah, you got it!
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. If you're having a fabric emergency. Please call. We'll do our best to assist you.
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: 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 and one of the owners of the Native Life Store in Browning, Montana.
Lisa: 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: 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.
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. 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.
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. And they're not easy.
Lisa: No, no.
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: 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 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: I'm Joe McDonald, born and raised here on the reservation. President Emeritus of Salish Community 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. 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: 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: 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. There's forever as long as the water runs, the grass grows green, the sun shines -- they generally give it all that nature assurances. So that's what they had was going to be their land.
Michael: 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 a 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 raised cattle and that kind of stuff, because the Christians wanted them to stick around, they didn't want 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: You 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. 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 1353 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 Actor: 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 in 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. 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 a lot more than you might be on a real life 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. 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.
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. Yeah. 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. It was two allotments, but she didn't own it 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, 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. Well, 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. 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, 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: Quilting in Indigenous communities -- 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, 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. 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. 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: Holding together a lot more than just pieces of fabric here.
Lisa: Exactly. Exactly.
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.
Lacy: Next time on Headwaters.
Michael: The corporation that made Glacier National Park a destination. And the people who did the advertising.
Bill: He didn't want to get in trouble with the federal government.
Ray: 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: His ability to capture a person's features is phenomenal. And to see this original? It brought it brought me back tears to my eyes.
Renee: You realize that these are our people.
Michael: That's next time on Headwaters.
Michael: Headwaters is possible because of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Andrew: That's right.
Michael: 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: 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. So we're excited to bring some new perspectives into the Park Service.
Michael: 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: Great. Well, thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thanks, Michael.