In 1961 I came to Browning Montana to teach English. Many adventures later, in 1990, I returned to teach English, this time in Heart Butte, a more remote, more old-timey, and much smaller community on the same Blackfeet Reservation.

These are my stories. Today I live in Valier, Montana, and write all day every day. Some of these people are dead. Some have disappeared. Their grandchildren live all around here.

Saturday, August 10, 2013



Whom do you call bad?  --Those who always want to put to shame.
What do you consider most humane?  --To spare someone shame.
What is the seal of liberation?  --No longer being ashamed in front of oneself.


This is a politically incorrect book.  The only people who are "spozed" to write authentically about native Americans are native Americans.  But no Blackfeet could say what I'm going to say without paying an exorbitant price in criticism, lost opportunities or maybe ostracism.  Perhaps no Blackfeet could achieve as much objectivity about some things or have the kind of background that I do, coming from the outside and having no blood ties.  The Blackfeet love their tribe and would want them to look good for outsiders.

The reader must remember always that I am white, that I am tied by marriage (and then divorce) into a prominent white family with local roots back to 1903, and that I am female, all attributes which mean that I have been excluded from some aspects of the community and included in others.  Even my former husband, Bob Scriver, does not want me to tell about some of these things.  He feels it is dangerous, sacreligious, and tempting fate.  Our deepest differences have been about what should be hidden and what should be shared.  Perhaps this is because he was born and brought up in Browning.  

If I have got some things wrong, I am not surprised.  If I have got some things right, then I am grateful.  My goal is to be as honest as possible.  But remember that I'm not telling you everything and that I am disguising some events and people in order to protect them, particularly the students.  If the reader hears criticism of me and of my writing, it should be weighed for what it is and where it comes from.  Maybe it’s right.

No doubt there will be an outcry of criticism.  Ruth Beebe Hill used to visit us every summer when she was writing  Hanta  Yo,   so I watched carefully the attacks on her.  Of course, she claimed to know the Sioux better than the Sioux did, to be absolutely authentic, to be the quintessential expert.  I can't say I felt bad about the fate of her book.  But I did like her idea of translating her whole book into Sioux and then back again to English, as a sort of filter to eliminate European ideas.  I wish I were capable of something so pure.

The most unbreakable taboo on the reservation is never to tell secrets to outsiders.  The definition of "outsiders" is situational.  They might be anthropologists, rival tribes, white men, men of any kind, the other side of a quarrelling family, uninitiated persons, or someone outside of a romantic relationship.  Inside the community, secrets are a powerful economy: one can swap inside information for advantage and one can destroy enemies with misinformation -- or the truth.  From before the whites came, "outsiders" have been kept from knowing certain things for strategic reasons. 

And from the beginning all the outsiders have wanted to become insiders, to know the secrets.  During the first year I taught, my seventh graders were asked by a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University in New York City to fill out a questionnaire.  It came by mail.  The grad student wanted to know all sorts of things the kids considered embarrassing:  "Is your mother married to your father?"  "Do you have any relatives in jail?"  "Do you get drunk?"

"Do we have to tell the truth?" they asked.

"It's up to you.  You're answering this questionnaire, not me," I said.

They wrote, tongue in cheek,  "Well, it's tough to study when I've been awake all night because I share the bed with my aunt and her boyfriends keep making noise and moving around."    "Every single member of my family is in jail, and I can hardly wait until I get there, too."  I didn't know if the grad student had a literature class where they discussed the unreliable narrator.   I was disappointed not to hear what conclusions the grad student drew.  

Bob and I once spent the better part of an hour trying to find out how to paint a ceremonial drum.  We knew it was supposed to be red and black concentric circles but didn't know whether the inner circle was black with an outer circle of red, or vice versa.  All our questions were answered with:  "It depends," or "it could be that way," or "however you want it," until we finally gave up.  Once it was painted, our informant told us we got it wrong, thereby preserving his status as an authority.

Today's popular literature is often one of revelation: secrets told, confessions made, the truth laid bare.  Suppose someone began to write about Blackfeet who really knew the inside stories.  Like who committed the many unsolved murders.  Or which famous white men left bastards behind them.  What would happen?  (It is politically incorrect to ever use the word "bastard."  Maybe more so on the reservation than elsewhere.)  Would it make a difference?  Maybe no one will ever understand no matter how many details they have.  You've got to have been part of it for a long time before you know which secrets are the vital ones.  The truth is more something felt than something known.  

In small, conservative, traditionally Catholic, white-dominated reservation towns, the truth is often considered "nasty," suitable only for the Confessional, and so it becomes secret, and then by reverse definition secrets are assumed to be nasty.  In a world ambivalent about drug and gay cultures-- sometimes tolerant and sometimes persecutorial-- kids especially have learned to keep their business secret from adults.  Today even in the upper middle class families of white America, kids turn to peer groups for explanations and support.  Their parents have few clues about kids' lives.  On the other hand, those same parents may well have secrets from their families, made easy by "business trips" or "retreats."  Certainly the soaps watched across America have plot lines based on this assumption.  Revelation and confrontation go together.  Blackfeet kids are clued to this.

Sneaking around in Montana is entirely different than sneaking around in Manhattan.  Genuine secrecy is rarely achieved.  People often drive long distances and note what they see.  The population is so small that people's vehicles can be recognized.  Some even remember license numbers, which are coded by county.  Like most, I always had a card with the code on it clipped to my sun visor.  (Glacier County's code is "38."  Once I chased a car through the streets of Chicago because they had a Montana 38 plate and I hungered to say "howdy" to them.  They were trying to escape me -- I had an Illinois plate and they must have thought I was going to rob them.  Or on second thought, maybe they recognized me and didn't want me to know they were there.)  Much of what is "unknown" is known, all right, just not admitted.  People can be close-mouthed, especially about their own peer group, however they define it.  But occasionally they redefine their peers.  Then secrets come out.

The dynamics of families that contain drinking, drugs, abuse or incest revolve around secrecy.  "It's our business.  Don't tell nobody.  If you tell, I'll kill you."  Otherwise, authority figures could break up the family or interfere with sources of money.  Anyway, a person needs to preserve some sort of community front and status.   But if those same people join the "Twelve-Step Culture" that is now strong on the reservation, their status and friendships will depend on confession.  The whole standard of belonging will have shifted to telling.

Ancient Blackfeet culture was an organic whole that had developed in adaptation to a specific bison-based economy and nomadic-band sociology.  The Neeseetahpee were regulated by stories rather than rules, governed by personalities rather than books, and always disciplined by the pressing need to survive.  At the same time that the Blackfeet world was foreclosed by disease and immigration, the Jesuits came to convert them -- by whatever means necessary -- to a whole new system.  Their very diet had to change. Their clothes, their hairstyles, their rituals, their houses, their language all had to change abruptly -- enforced by beatings and starvation.  At the same time their human blood ties were collapsed by pandemic deaths, confused by accidental and unacknowledged conceptions, and denied by the new notions of "marriage" which excluded such ancient customs as fraternal polygamy.  They were not just defeated, but shamed.

After that, none could act from that inner feeling of "fittingness" which the Englishmen (on their own cultural terms) called "conscience" and believed was an absolute, culture-transcending guide--but only if it was like an English conscience.   Blackfeet had to choose between what they could preserve of the old ways, what they could guess about the new ways, or what they were told to do by the more powerful whites.  The missionaries themselves, without quite realizing it, gave muddled information, holding themselves to one standard as religious professionals, the local non-Catholic white people to another standard as secular and profane, and the Blackfeet to a third standard as "savages" or as physically grownup children.   Blackfeet learned to be "other-directed," to take their moral cues from others.  

But in fact they were not really allowed to imitate white people.  No one really wanted them to be upstanding, well-fed, look-you-in-the eye people.  An underclass was too convenient, too psychologically rewarding to give up.  What is a missionary without a clientele?

When morality is enforced from outside rather than developing from within, people become invested in secrecy to avoid punishment.  Behavior like drinking was not just discouraged by missionaries, but also forbidden by secular law on the reservation until the veterans came back from World War II.  Yet drinking was a deeply attractive anodyne which some white people advocated as a great good and a legitimate, traditional relief (issuing it to their troops and offering it in religious ceremonies)  and still do to this day.  White men held to a double standard when it came to Indians, selling them any kind of consciousness-altering muck and criticizing them when they became half-crazy from drinking such toxic stuff.  Instead of keeping the warriors numb and happy as the providers hoped, drinking without traditional social structures  led to violence and the throwing off of imposed consciences.

In today's drug-connected world,  alcohol, cocaine, meth or pot are understood as addictions that can only be addressed by confession among equals.  Therefore, the reservation has acquired an intricate web of AA or Alanon groups which link people in the enterprise of reformation by sitting them in circles to talk about what they have done.  In that ironic way Twelve-Step dogma has turned The People back to their traditional ways of self-regulation.   A few white people have joined these circles -- by definition white people with a history of alcoholism or drug abuse or with families dominated by such use.  The frankness of the people in the meeting, protected by a pledge of secrecy towards outsiders, increases investment in the legitimacy of the pattern.  They join in the secrecy because their own confessions are hostages.  Sometimes they are very useful hostages in an economic way.

Social pressure shapes confessions to be like those of the others.  A kind of group conscience forms and soon amounts to a political force.  Certain well-paid jobs can only be held by recovering addicts.  What is meant to be resistance to group pressure forms a new group pressure.  And what was once totally secret-- at least in theory -- is now revealed to a privileged audience which can leak the information in a strategic way without ever checking for factuality.


To a white, Black or even Asian outsider, native Americans may seem all alike, though the outsider likely may be mistaken even about which people are native and which people are not.   Another uninitiated grad student who visited my class was disappointed that there were not more Blackfeet students in it.  But actually only the white-blonde daughter of the principal was totally Caucasian.  He could identify her, but not the others.

When a whole  people are seen as "monolithic" and rather mysterious, a phenomenon takes place that we might call "splitting".  That is, the outsider either angelicizes the people, seeing them as "noble savages" with instinctive mystical connections to nature, or demonizes the people, seeing them as degenerate drunks incapable of self-control.  Outsiders become invested in such stereotypes and are angry if contradicted.  Whole shifts in the history of philosophy are involved.  Nature itself has been seen as Eden sometimes and as Hell Itself other times.

Young people yearn to believe in the truth of the Natural Nobleman so that he or she can identify with them and perhaps dream of escaping to live with them.  But who can be like Disney's Pocohantas?  She's a cartoon.  At the other extreme the small town county commissioner hangs onto the illusion that Indians are not as good as others so he or she can justify looking down on them, perhaps even cheating and excluding them from ordinary entitlements like a purchased meal in a public restaurant.  Audra Pambrun, who was awarded recognition as the National Nurse of the Year, told me once about traveling across the state by bus and not being able to get food for herself or her baby.  When I took a Blackfeet debate team to Havre in 1962, we could not get served except in an "Indian" cafe.  The kids wouldn't let me raise hell.

Because these extreme pictures are so intense, even Native American people are resistant to having their stereotypes challenged, especially by outsiders, and so they collaborate to present to anthropologists, tourists and writers whatever it is they want to see.  The perceiver does not easily waken to the understanding that the shifts are coming from their own inner emotional needs rather than the actual reality.


Not every white family in Montana has a past they can be proud of.  Such embarrassments as bootlegging, horse stealing, claim jumping, insurance swindles, murder, prostitution and so on are often the root of prosperity.  In any small town one hears about the scandals of men who step out on their wives, who cheat each other or the hated government or their bank; the women who secretly drink or entertain male company; the subcultures of gays or druggies or political activists; the "accidental fires" and unsolved murders.  Therefore most whites around a reservation have little interest in total honesty when it comes to history.  They know that an absolutely legal accounting of their very land ownership is dangerous.

On the reservation such activities are even more potent, in part because Native Americans exchange news about white people in the same way that servants exchange news about the gentry upstairs.  White people tend not to notice Indians because they "don't matter."  (In the same way, older low-status white women often know a great deal because high status men see then as having no power or importance and therefore talk openly while the women go about their typing or dusting.)  

On reservations legal jurisdictions are hopelessly confused, law enforcement agencies are drastically underfunded, and the FBI is so unmotivated that murder and rape go uninvestigated and unpunished.  One of my best students from the Sixties, from a large and powerful family, got mixed up with a bad crowd at Indian Days and was beaten so badly that one eye popped out of his head.  The act happened in the Town of Browning, which whites assert to be a pocket of state jurisdiction within the ambiguously tribal/federal jurisdiction of the reservation, but the young aggressors were from a Canadian Reserve where the complexities among tribe, province and country were even less defined.  In the confusion, the assault went unaddressed.  In such situations, people take the law into their own hands.

Rape is hardly seen as a crime by the FBI, especially if it is Indian-on-Indian or among poor people.  In 1995 a group of Blackfeet women petitioned their federal senators to somehow enforce the investigation and punishment of rapes, a demand made necessary because attacks on women are seen by many (both Indian and white) as inevitable and trivial.  News of them travels by gossip, which soon becomes distorted.  Only the rapes of high-status women (which rarely happen) are prosecuted. 

Inversely, drug pushers are only prosecuted if the pusher is low status and inconvenient to the real suppliers, who often enjoy prosperity-based status.  (It makes sense that drug vendors want dependable distributors and that drug vendors would be prosperous.  Success in the criminal world is not so different from conventional success.)  Having a nice house and dressing well are markers for "good" people, because success is conflated with virtue.  "Good" is "lookin' good."  This is a national phenomenon, not peculiar to the reservation.

Newspapers print inaccurate accounts of reservation events and often don't mention them at all.  To a white person in a Montana city, reservation politics hardly seem to matter unless they affect natural resources.   No reporter is eager to drive three hours to get a story in a place where he or she has no contacts.  Anyway, newsprint right now is so expensive that newspapers are skimpy: very little news of any kind trickles in among the advertisements.  People keep police scanners on all day in an attempt to understand what is happening.  It helps to have a friend who works in the emergency room of the hospital.

There is as much graft on reservations as anyone would predict where the biggest sources of money are impersonal institutions and the people are needy.  In the beginning it was white people acting as superintendents and herd bosses who lined their own pockets.  Even the missionaries came away richer.  When the big Flood of '64 swept through the reservation, one priest was trapped in a tree because he had been trying to save his private cattle herd.  Often today it is the local tribal people themselves who bleed the schools, the BIA, the tribe, the Indian Health Service-- never enough to make real trouble but enough to be fired if caught or confronted.  In most cases, enough people know what is going on to blackmail their own share and to be able to threaten disclosure if that becomes convenient.  

The federal government itself has over the years "lost" millions of dollars of tribal assets because of "confused book-keeping."  Let me repeat:  millions of dollars of money belonging to the Native American people have not been embezzled or diverted, but simply LOST through bookkeeping confusion and omission on the part of the federal government, their voluntary protector and trustee on grounds that Native Americans would only lose their money if entrusted with it.  The ironies can be bitter.


On the Res, if one does begin to get close to a guarded truth, a most common defense strategy is uproar: instant escalation to denial, counter-accusations, and protective lies accompanied by outright uncontrollable physical destruction.  Cursing, furniture-throwing, threats, producing weapons, calling on punishers to help --all in the interests of creating so much confusion and fear that whatever might become known will be hidden.  When in 1995 the tribal business council made a deal giving power to the state authorities without first consulting with the people, a middle-aged woman at the ceremonial signing upended the congratulatory punch bowl onto the papers and politicians.  (I wish I'd been there.)   Unfortunately, that's usually about where things end, because no one knows quite what to do next.  In this particular instance the tribal council knew what to do:  award a $50 per capita payment.  Criticism vanished,  except for a few diehards who complain so much that no one listens to them anymore.

One of the most dangerous sides of secrecy is the encouragement of lies.  First of all is the institutional lying Orwell called “doublespeak,” where the school or tribe simply “reframes” the reality into whatever fits their convenience.  Cranking up restrictions on kids is called “structuring experience.”  Signing away tribal property is called “maximixing relationship with the larger community.”

But more serious, because it is more private, is the common practise among kids of lying.  They lie to escape trouble, to promote their own importance, to make life more interesting, and to protect others.  That in itself is not particularly remarkable.  But they lie with such forcefulness and skill that they sometimes lose reality.  It is one thing to lie, knowing what the truth is, and a much crazier and more dangerous thing to lie and begin to believe it oneself.  That is by definition insanity.

And perhaps most troublesome for a change-agent, people on the reservation have learned to deny and suppress any criticism.  They kill the messenger, asserting that any bad news is simply unacceptable and must be hostile.  “My mother says you are not to talk about my family.”  “I forbid you to even think of me.”  It happens because facing the truth is simply unbearable.  A change-agent must provide the strength and safety to be honest-- including for himself, or else all the changes will be confused by mirrors.


In recent decades among intellectual circles people have begun to question whether the truth is something knowable.  If every human witness is biased, if every bit of evidence is interpretable, if payoffs for particular outcomes are generous, if memories exist unconsciously,  how can anyone ever really know what happened?  Most people do not share such scepticism, because they prefer to think that there is a Truth, which they, specifically they themselves, firmly grip.

Suppose I really had access to the actual, God-certified truth about Heart Butte.  Would it be legitimate to tell who deals drugs, who escaped a grand jury indictment for lack of evidence, who molests their children, who is gay?  (Acts of homosexual intercourse are a felony in Montana.)  What might the consequences be for them or even for their victims?  People might lose relationships, lose jobs, be branded for life by accusations from a single person acting out of a conviction that what amounts to gossip is true.  People might use what I said in twisted ways to hurt each other.  People just simply might not understand.  A Montana lawyer who read this manuscript advised me against publication, saying that the Heart Butte people had already been shamed enough.  But what do they have to be ashamed of, really?  Why don’t the white people have more cause for shame?  And why does anyone assume that Heart Butte is any worse than any Montana hamlet with a low income -- which is to say, most small prairie towns?

The principal tried to control me by hinting that I was lesbian.   In the end I was blackmailed into resigning by students willing to twist incidents so I appeared a sex-obsessed celibate, an old woman who beat up kids.  They were not entirely aware of what they were doing.  They simply knew I would get in trouble if they reported I answered questions about sex or if they reported that I struck them, however lightly.  They were joined by parents who knew I knew their secrets from twenty years earlier.  Women who recently had confided  being molested in childhood or students who had come for advice about gay relationships had second thoughts.  Maybe their secrets weren't safe.  I was a liberal, committed to not being judgmental about such matters, while paradoxically also being committed to judging opressors, dishonesty and secrecy.  They had no concept of “liberal.”

Fundamentalist ministers have been "outers" who accused sinners from the pulpit and even called for them to be excluded from congregations, "shunned" by their own families.  Sins are seen as catastrophic, condemning the sinner to eternal Hell.  Before teaching at Heart Butte, I found as a minister I soon became privy to so many secrets, and  almost everyone had such similar secrets, that I simply could not remember what was or was not privileged.  The "secret" that cause the most actual trouble when I spilled it was that someone was moving, which seemed innocent to me but had serious overtones to the mover.  People seem attached to the notion that their secrets and their crimes are unique.  They would rather believe that I would expose them than understand that others had secrets just like theirs.  And they were singularly unresponsive to the assurance of forgiveness, cherishing their evils as part of their identities.

Blackfeet are not different.  They would like their own massacre to be the ultimate atrocity, not one among the many.  They are no different than Jews who claim sole custody of Holocaust.  They would like their own suffering to be deserving of recompense, not part of the greater human pattern of suffering.  And they would like their secrets to be their own, never disclosed and never repeated to outsiders.

If Heartbreak Butte is to be a helpful book instead of a destructive one, then I think I must take some confession and repentance on myself.  Mostly my short-comings were not having enough patience, enthusiasm, energy, insight, generosity or whatever.  I was lazy, angry, greedy, slothful and mouthy.  I have always struggled with a nasty temper.  (That stereotype red hair!)  These seem like trivial enough faults, but the results are discrediting.  If I am going to open the community to scrutiny, then I must also open myself and share the consequences of whatever outsiders think about it.


Secrecy became a necessity for faithful Blackfeet when the United States Government, fearing that religion would become a source of revolution forbade all Native American ceremonies.  Since unsophisticated white Christians define all non-converted people as "pagans" who will burn in Hell, and do not understand that the "Sun Worship" of the Blackfeet is a coherent and complete religion, the measure seemed reasonable to unsophisticated whites of the time.  Even today it would be possible to find both whites and converted Native Americans who would agree that the old-time Blackfeet religion should be suppressed.

Since the religion was rooted in the land and the Blackfeet remained on that land, the rituals and materials of worship simply went secret.  The old ways continued, though with fewer and fewer people and less and less understanding.  The secrecy that preserved them was salvific, even in the Christian sense, at least from a liberal point of view.  To be able to worship as one's ancestors have is an act of salvation.  But few young people were taught these ways.  When a high school student daringly described his bedroom and the Thunder Pipe Bundle that hung over his bed, I hardly knew what he meant.  When I asked Blackfeet people I knew well, most of them could remember some similar object which frightened them because their grandparents treated it with awe, but few knew what it really was or what it meant.


An anthropologist would give Heart Butte a made-up name and use some kind of code for informants.  But everyone in Heart Butte, which is where it matters, would know exactly whom I meant.  I remember that a Cosmopolitan magazine writer came to town once and wrote an article about the kind of men Indian women liked.  She got some good quotes from a woman called "Cherry."  It was pretty easy for us to guess that she meant Peaches.  But I've tried to disguise or generalize some things.  There's no need to always name names.  I've mixed two or three people into one and made up people who don't exist, though none who couldn't exist.

Sometimes secrecy is worse than the truth.  I have to believe that family secrecy that hides abuse -- beatings, sexual abuse, addictions and deprivations -- is the deepest wrong.  I sometimes think drinking per se isn't the root cause of Native American problems -- although I recognize that it damages health both physiologically and by causing accidents -- but rather it is the violence and the resulting need for secrecy among family members that stops growth and repeats tragedy.  It's impossible to heal this damage without open honesty, but I'm not convinced a book-keeping approach to total revelation is very helpful.  Who cares who did what to whom, unless it means finding a way out of the damage?  How will Native Americans ever come to feel like they are just like all the other Americans until they realize that every family -- even mine -- has its battles with alcoholism, drugs, poverty, and the rest of the litany that is often pinned on tribes?  We are all struggling with the same repetitious problems.

Other secrets that deserve uncovering are the political patterns that grow into paralyzing tangles on reservations.  Once I was talking to a representative of The Nature Conservancy about some issue and she asked,  "What does the tribe say about it?"  

"What do you mean by the tribe?" I had to ask.  "The Tribal Council, the elders, the reservation population, everyone who is enrolled?  Do you mean the ranchers or the unemployed or the school community?   Each of those bodies has quite different opinions."  Even someone so sophisticated and close to the reservation was thinking in terms of movie-like chief's councils.

People from the outside world rarely ever figure out the shifting alignments within the Native American communities.  If I could describe how these secret-trading economies work in a way that doesn't expose individuals specifically at Heart Butte School in 1989-91 but alerts people to reflect on the present, then maybe the risks would be worthwhile.  But I don't have much inside information I could really prove.  I could only speculate from outside.  I can hear the lawyers rubbing their hands together.

Beyond that, I would hope to describe Heart Butte people in their ordinariness, their yearning for normalcy and predictability, and their uniqueness as individuals.  I can't do that without talking about people who are real.  Some will be convinced I'm talking about them, when in fact I am not.  In the end I can only hope they will forgive me and that no harm will come of it.  I mean to hold them up as friends and colleagues, people of dignity and achievement even in tough circumstances.  


There is yet another reason to keep some phenomena quiet, but it is a happy reason.  Just now it is possible to see many small beginnings on the Blackfeet Reservation.  Some of them are quite public and others are happening  without much notice.  Many a small enterprise with a bright future has been inaugurated on the Rez, only to be pounced upon by so many opportunists that growth will be too fast to sustain.  There has been no time for what is called "a learning curve."  At first experience comes hard and takes some reflection to understand.

Individual success stories have been so freighted with expectation and so accompanied by demands from those less successful, that the human beings involved have become confused and even borne down to failure.  It seems to be hard for everyone in contemporary culture to understand that success is sustained by work.  The successful poet or painter needs time to work, and so does the successful businessman.  Much of that work will be boring and repetitious:  stock inventory, totting up figures, carrying supplies.

When I talk to people in counselling after trauma, I often suggest that they not be too quick to re-focus, too eager to edit, too intent on weeding their garden.  New situations mean new opportunities, but in their infancy it is easy to confuse troubles with advantages.  When I do a wedding, I advise the newly married couple to go up the aisle and directly into a room where they can be alone together for five minutes, to bond and to gather their wits before the celebration of the event -- all that cake-eating and garter-throwing.  These are the liminal (threshold) times, unstructured and seeking a new way of being.  It is important to provide shelter, safety, just for a little while.

Native Americans in particular seem to attract do-gooders, anxious to help but not anxious to take the time to listen.  When it comes to respecting the peoples' right to choose their own way and travel at their own speed,  New Agers rushing in to create Medicine Wheels where no one much wants them can be just as much a pain in the butt as the original fire-and-brimstone Jesuits 

Over the past three -- nearly four -- decades I have known the Blackfeet, I have become convinced that they can find their own way.  In fact, no permanent change can come about without involving the whole tribe, however it may be defined.  Certainly no one can define them but themselves, whether they decide on blood quantum, residence on the reservation, formal enrollment, ability to speak the language, or some other criteria.  What outsiders can do is to ensure democratic process; a little extra boost for the smallest, weakest, eldest; and to keep the federal and state agencies honest.  That ought to be enough work for anyone.

The public schools on the reservation are a key to the Blackfeet future.  The people must decide what it is they want those schools to do.  Then ways can be found to reach the goal.  So long as the people are divided, the carpet baggers will be there to profit from the confusion.  Secrecy -- quiet little deals behind the scenes -- are exactly what carpetbaggers love.  It's easy to corrupt people one at a time.  Especially when they are only there to make money so they can collect their pension and spend it somewhere else.

Some whites have stayed on because they never made enough money to leave.  Some, like Bob Scriver, were born there and can't imagine living anyplace else.  Some, like myself, would like to live there but can't make a living.  Many have stayed because they loved the place and the people, and many who have left still love the Blackfeet Reservation.  That is no secret.

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