Blackfeet of Browning

by kfrego

A trip across the northern great plains isn’t the most scenic route you have ever seen. Hundreds of miles of prairie lands with occasional small towns. A few trees mostly along creeks or small rivers. Not much to break the monotony of riding in a car for extended periods of time. We had been crossing Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana for the last couple of days. Being young, we had no idea what was ahead of us except for more grasslands, wind, and boredom. When dad told us we would soon be in Browning, Montana it didn’t excite us very much. When he told us there were Blackfeet Indians in Browning it made things a little more interesting. We all must have had our own vision of what a Blackfeet would look like.

Browning, Montana was established in 1895 as Indian Agency for the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Daniel Browning was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1895. The northernmost point reached by Lewis and Clark is twelve miles northeast of Browning. The Blackfeet reservation extends north to Canada and is bordered on the west by Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains. This reservation is very likely the most remote of all United States reservations, but has always been homeland to the Blackfeet Indians.

In 1953 Browning was full of real Blackfeet Indians. Our family was very surprised to see the number of Indians in town. The braves were dressed in long pants and most had shirts on. They had unbelievable long braids of hair hanging off their heads. Nobody was in a hurry. Most of them were sitting on steps of businesses or standing on the covered porches leaning against the walls. The only thing missing was their bows and arrows. My first thought was mostly of fear of all these Indians. They were nothing like the few Indians seen in New York. To observe these Indians in their native garb, close to their native homes, was something most people would never see.  The sight of Browning and the Blackfeet Indians will be cherished forever.

The Blackfeet of Browning showed very little interest in our stares and pointing……as for us kids, we were glad to stay in the car.