Montana 1911: A Professor and His Wife among the Blackfeet : Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck-Melchior's Diary and C. C. Uhlenbeck's Original Blackfoot Texts and a New Series of Blackfoot Texts

Montana 1911: A Professor and His Wife among the Blackfeet : Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck-Melchior's Diary and C. C. Uhlenbeck's Original Blackfoot Texts and a New Series of Blackfoot Texts

Montana 1911: A Professor and His Wife among the Blackfeet : Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck-Melchior's Diary and C. C. Uhlenbeck's Original Blackfoot Texts and a New Series of Blackfoot Texts

Montana 1911: A Professor and His Wife among the Blackfeet : Wilhelmina Maria Uhlenbeck-Melchior's Diary and C. C. Uhlenbeck's Original Blackfoot Texts and a New Series of Blackfoot Texts

Synopsis

This is the complete text diary kept by Mrs W M Uhlenbeck-Melchoir while accompanying her husband, the Dutch anthropologist/linguist, Dr C C Uhlenbeck, during his fieldwork on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana in the summer of 1911. Here eyewitness account of their three-month stay gives the reader a fascinating insight into the world of the Blackfeet. The first edition ever to be translated into English, this book is complete with notes, introductions, and supplementary materials. The book includes essays on Blackfeet mythology and folklore that detail life before the reservation period and a biographical sketch of the Uhlenbecks, featuring aspects of C C Uhlenbeck's career as a linguist and scholar, as well as numerous photographs from the era.

Excerpt

Alice B. Kehoe

Professor and Mrs. Uhlenbeck spent the summer of 1911 among the Amsskaapipikani, the Southern Piegan bands of the Blackfoot alliance, on their Montana reservation. Blackfoot, Nitsitapiksi (“Real People”) in their own language, occupied the northwestern High Plains from the North Saskatchewan River to the Yellowstone, and from the Rocky Mountain Front Range to western Saskatchewan and the Montana-North Dakota border area. They grouped loosely into the Siksika (“Blackfoot”), the Kainai (“Many Leaders”) or Blood, and the Pikani, divided into the northern Apatohsipikani (North Peigan) and southern Amsskaapipikani (South Piegan). (Pikani is spelled Peigan in Canadian English, Piegan in U.S. English.) Today the Nitsitapiksi say, “Our people were not interested in dominating others or forcing our way of life on them” (Blackfoot Gallery Committee 2001, 54).

Nitsitapiksi Blackfoot have lived in the northwestern Plains for centuries, very possibly millennia (Duke 1991). Their language is a branch of Central Algonquian, but linguists are uncertain of Algonquian’s original homeland (Foster 1996, 98–100). Their own reckoning is that the northwestern Plains were given to their ancestors by the Creator (Blackfoot Gallery Committee 2001, 4). First recorded contact with Europeans probably was Henry Kelsey’s 1691 meeting with “Archithinue” (Cree word for strangers or foreigners) in southern Saskatchewan: Kelsey, an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, reported that these bisonhunting, tipi-dwelling people to the west of his route were prosperous and uninterested in journeying to the Bay’s distant York Factory (Epp 1993)·

European traders came to Blackfeet lands in the mid-eighteenth century, in time to note that the Nitsitapiksi said they had first seen horses when invading Shoshone rode into battle against them, about 1730. The Nitsitapiksi soon obtained horses themselves, using them both in the raids that were Indians’ preferred form of warfare and peaceably to transport gear, lodge covers and furnishings, and sacks of food. Driving bison herds into corrals remained the principal means of subsistence, conducted on foot, with mounted chase an alternative mode. That traditional way of life is well described in Uhlenbeck’s transcription of “How the Ancient Peigans Lived,” told by Jim Blood (this volume).

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