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Kip a ta ki (Old Woman)

Great-grandma: ca. 1850-1950

by Hugh Welch
Awa chopsi pono Ka me ta (Horse Crazy)

My Grandmother (Great-grandmother) was born some time in the late 1840's. She worked as a House Girl (servant) for the wife of the Factor of Ft. Benton, Montana when she was a little girl. She saw the first Steam Boat come up the Missouri River to the fort (Ft. Benton Montana). Two years later she made an overnight ride (horseback) to warn of an impending Indian attack. This journey covered over 100 miles, using two horses, from Ft. Benton to Shonkin and back. Years later (aproximately two years) she married Henry "Butch" Henkel, a Civil War Veteran who came to Ft. Benton to trap beaver and hunt buffalo, but also to set up a butcher shop at Ft. Benton.

They had five children before moving to the newly established Blackfoot Reservation in Northen Montana, ca. the 1880's. There they established a ranch in the St.Marys/Babb area where they raised their children. Grandma and all her children were enrolled as Blackfoot, taking their allottments of 400 acres each, in the Babb area.

My great-grandmother's Indian name was "Stove Woman" as she cooked on a stove (fed travelers in the Babb area as a half-way house for stages and such). Later in life she was referred to as Kip a ta ki (Blackfoot for "Old Woman" or "Old Lady". This is not a derogatory name, but a name of respect for an Elder)

Grandma's Stories

These stories were told to me when I was 2-9 years old circa 1937-46 and put down 50 some odd years later to the best of my recollection):

Grandma's Mother was called "Black Bear Woman":

earning the name by holding a Black Bear by the tongue until the braves came and killed it. The story goes like this:

They were picking berries and a Black Bear attacked the girls who were picking. The bear charged her and she somehow grabbed the tongue of the bear apparently disabling him somewhat. The men seeing the comotion arrived and killed the bear giving her the hide, thus name of Black Bear Woman - as told to me and told to her by her Mother.

How the Blackfoot Obtained the Spotted Horses (Pintos)

Two young men, who hadn't earned their place in council, needed to do something daring to gain this distinction by proving themselves. They left the camp early in the Spring, going South and not returning until just before the Sun Dance. They arrived at Two Medicine Lake, riding on two pinto horses, a stallion and a mare, both having wooden saddles with big horns and a lot of silver on them. The bridles, as well as the boys, had big hats (sombreros) with silver and other decorations of ribbons, never seen before by any of the Blackfoot.

Their story, as related to me from Grandma via her mother:

They left the camp and followed the mountains (Rocky Mountains) until they started seeing these people with big hats working in fields and others herding cattle and horses. They planned to steal some horses and try to get back home with them as soon as possible as they were two full moons from home. Their opportunity finally came after watching for five Suns, that only two men were herding the horses: one on a fine spotted Stallion. Both had fancy saddles. The boys dispached the two guards and took their clothes and started driving the horse herd North, over the trail they had come down on. It proved to be too hard to drive horses in the mountains, so they went out on the plains.

Ultimately they had to flee from other hunting parties and lost most of the horses. Deciding to keep the spotted stallion and spotted mare with the saddles and two other mares to lead, they went back to the mountain trail they had come down on. Riding by night and hiding by day they made it to the Yellowstone where they met a Crow raiding party. They had to flee for their lives abandoning the two other mares to slow up the raiding party so they could get away. One boy was wounded and the stallion also had a slight bullet wound. The boys offered their big hats to the Sun at the Sun Dance for their good luck and were considered Braves by the council.

Indian Girl Makes Overnite Ride to Warn Settlers

Grandma had been at the fort for a little over two years when word was recieved that a band of Indians were on the "War Path". They were expected to pass through the Ft. Benton area. The Factor gave Grandma one of his "Race Horses" and told her to leave at dark to warn her Family at Shonkin, aproximately 50 miles away at the North edge of the Highwood Mountains. She was to warn as many settlers as she could on the way. Since she had travelled the area before, and being an Indian girl, they felt she would have the best chance. She could speak English and French, so she could communicate the warning to the settlers.

She left following the North bank of the Missouri River, warning three families, until she came to the stream that came out of the Highwoods. She crossed the Missouri and followed it to two other families, coming into view of her families place, around midnight. Before she could reach there her horse fell and died. She had to walk and run the rest of the way to Cobell's. After a short rest and food Cobell gave her a horse to travel on and warn the other settlers on the South bank of the Missouri. On her way back, which she did arriving in view of the fort at sunup. She had to lead her horse as he was played out. Grandma didn't want to lose another horse. The attack didn't materalize, but the Factor gave her one of his best horses and another to Cobell for the one Grandma "spent" on her return to the fort. She was much more accepted at the fort after this experience.

As the Teepee Turns
(An Indian soap opera, based on a true story)

Two boys who grew up together and fell in love with a girl from another enemy tribe.

Eagle Shoe and Shadow Boy grew up together in the same lodge and shared adventures together into Manhood. While out hunting, a long way from home they encountered another youth about their age who was hurt from a buffalo goring his horse and injuring him. Athough he was an enemy (Cree), there was no honor in counting coup or killing him so they agreed to take him back to his band, which was camped somewhere around the Cypress Hills.(Blackfoot Hunting Grounds).

Upon entering the enemy camp with their companion, who was a son of an important warrior in the band, they were given good treatment and invited to many lodges to feast and tell stories. In one lodge there was a young lady of great beauty, who caught the eye of both boys. She seemed interested also.

After visiting for many days and being well treated, the boys were requested to return to their own band with a message that the Crees wanted a peace treaty and sent gifts back with the boys.

Upon returning to their own band they relayed the message to the band council with the gifts sent. The band council agreed to talk to the Cree's and sent the boys back with gifts to show their good intent. At the Cree camp they were well recieved as friends and invited to stay for as long as they wanted, but one had to return to the Blackfoot to make a time for the peace treaty meeting and to let them know that the boys were alright and had been well-treated by the Crees. Since both wanted to stay to be around the girl (Shadow in the Night), they shot arrows to see who would return. Shadow Boy lost and returned to the Blackfoot with the messages and gifts.

Shadow Boy told his father about the Cree girl and his liking for her and also that Eagle Shoe liked her too. His father told him this story:

While returning home from stealing horses from the Crows they ran onto a band of Crees (their enemies) and the great warrior Shadow was their leader. Shadow was defending this little clump of brush where his wife was giving birth to a son. Shadow was killed and the woman died in child-birth, but the baby lived. He brought the baby home to be raised as his own and felt Shadow in the Night might be a relative. It wouldn't be possible for them to marry. He (Shadow Boy) wasn't Blackfoot but Cree. His father thought the band they visited might be the same band Shadow (his father) was from and thus were his relatives. Upon returning to the Cree band it was revealed that he did have relatives there and Shadow in the Night was his older sister. By Eagle Shoe and Shadow in the Night being married the two enemy bands made peace.

Many names have been misinterpreted such as The Cree Chief "Stone Child" came out "Rocky Boy" and a whole Reservation was named after him in this name!

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.