Author: George Bird Grinnell
Blackfeet Indian Stories
by George Bird Grinnell
Here are the great stories of the Blackfeet, recorded by the famous conservationist and ethnologist, George Bird Grinnell, who became a tribal member in 1885. The Nizitapi, or Real People, as they call each other, were people of the buffalo. They originated on the plains of today’s southern Alberta, western Saskatchewan, and central Montana. Famed frontier artist George Catlin called the Blackfeet “the most powerful tribe of Indians on the continent.” Like many native people, the Blackfeet have stories and legends that originated centuries ago, perhaps thousands of years ago, and were passed down from generation to generation through an oral tradition.
Early explorers heard the stories directly from the Blackfeet and wrote them down. One of these writers was George Bird Grinnell, the famous conservationist and ethnologist who became a tribal member in 1885. Grinnell visited the Blackfeet in Montana almost annually for more than 40 years. He coined the phrase, “Crown of the Continent” for the nearby mountains and helped create Glacier National Park. He wrote numerous acclaimed books on Indian culture. The timeless legends and tales he recorded in “Blackfeet Indian Stories” make it one of his most enduring and entertaining books.
George Bird Grinnell was an American historian, naturalist, and writer. Grinnell was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Yale in 1870. Grinnell has been recognized for his influence on public opinion and legislation which ultimately led to the preservation of the American bison.
Grinnell had extensive contact with the terrain, animals and Native Americans of the northern plains. As a graduate student, he accompanied Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 Black Hills expedition as a naturalist but declined a similar appointment to the ill-fated 1876 Little Big Horn expedition. In 1875, Colonel William Ludlow, who had also been on Custer's gold exploration effort, approached him to serve as naturalist and mineralogist on an expedition to Montana and the newly established Yellowstone Park. The expedition reports included an attachment by Grinnell, documenting the poaching of buffalo, deer, elk and antelope for hides. His experience in Yellowstone led to the publication of the first of many magazine articles dealing with conservation, the protection of the buffalo, and the American west.
In 1885, Grinnell discovered the glacier in Montana that now bears his name and he was later influential in establishing Glacier National Park in 1910. Grinnell was prominent in movements focusing on preservation of wildlife and conservation in the American west. For many years, he wrote and published articles and personally lobbied for congressional support for the endangered American buffalo. In 1887, Grinnell was a founding member, with Theodore Roosevelt, of the Boone and Crockett Club, dedicated to the restoration of America's wildlands. Grinnell also organized the first Audubon Society. Grinnell was editor of "Forest and Stream Magazine" from 1876 to 1911 and contributed many articles and essays to magazines and professional publications.
Classic book about Blackfeet is back in print
“Blackfeet Indian Stories,” an early collection of the legends, lore, and history of the Blackfeet by Glacier National Park explorer George Bird Grinnell, has been republished by Riverbend Publishing of Helena.
First published in 1913, the classic book features the entertaining Na’Pi (Old Man) stories of mischief and trickery, plus historical legends such as the hero Kut-o-yis’ who got rid of the bad things, the stories of Cold Maker and Thunder, how the earth was created, the camp of ghosts, and the secret societies of the Blackfeet. Grinnell also included a brief history of the Blackfeet.
An ardent conservationist and ethnologist, Grinnell visited the Blackfeet in Montana almost annually for more than 40 years, beginning in 1885 when he became a tribal member. Grinnell coined the phrase “Crown of the Continent” for the nearby mountains and helped create Glacier National Park. He wrote numerous acclaimed books on Indian culture. The timeless legends and tales he recorded in “Blackfeet Indian Stories” make it one of his most enduring and entertaining books. The 144-page paperback sells for $10.95 and is available at bookstores or by calling the publisher at 1-866-787-2363.