These Canadian Half-Breeds Pay No Taxes
They produce nothing but discord, violence, and bloodshed
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to the midweek(ish) version of An Irritable Métis. This is where things are usually a little more random, a little less … irritable. This one is particularly self serving, I have to confess. Meanwhile, if you forgot what all this is even about, you may remind yourself here. If you want to help keep a writer out of hard labor, well….
Preceded By a Reputation
I’m in Lewistown, Montana to do a bunch of stuff that includes a presentation about the connection between “The Spring Creek Métis” families who founded the town in 1879 and the Little Shell tribe. It was kind of fun on arrival to stop and stretch my legs a little bit and find my own ugly mug here before me. It reminds me of years of rolling into towns to play rock shows and seeing flyers up. It’s good to see people making an effort to draw folks to the event.
This Spring Creek Métis settlement became what is now the city of Lewistown. The migration to and establishment of this community was led by Pierre and Judith Wilkie Berger, both middle-aged at the time. They were accompanied by a number of their adult children and extended family and friends. Of those adult children, Jean Baptiste Berger and his wife Betsy Kepling had a daughter named Mary Margaret Berger, who became Mary Margaret La Tray. My dad’s grandmother. My great grandmother. She gave my father a rosary she made herself. That rosary hangs on the wall over my desk. – from Becoming Little Shell
I drove out of town a short distance to spend some time on the banks of Big Spring Creek herself. I’ve not spent much time in this area; there are a number of my La Tray relatives buried in the Catholic cemetery. My dad was born here too, and brought my mom to visit his family one time in the years before I was born.
What was it like to be Métis in Montana in 1879 when these twenty-five families were just trying to find a place to be? This is what I also write in Becoming Little Shell:
Historian Martha Harroun Foster, author of We Know Who We Are: Métis Identity in a Montana Community, writes, “Tirades appeared in Montana newspapers, including the Benton Record, whose editor accused the Métis of carrying ‘on an illicit trade with hostile savages.’ ‘These Canadian half-breeds pay no taxes,’ he claimed. ‘They produce nothing but discord, violence, and bloodshed where ever they are permitted to locate, they are a worthless, brutal race of the lowest species of humanity, without one redeeming trait to commend them to the sympathy or protection of any Government.’”
That editor seems a nice guy, eh? We almost received a reservation here in 1880 but people like him made sure it didn’t happen.
World Poetry Day
In celebration of World Poetry Day earlier this week my friend Josh Noem, who is the senior editor for the Grotto Network (which is the online magazine for Notre Dame University or something), posted this piece that references a thing I wrote last year about teaching poetry up in Ronan. It’s pretty great, if only to click through to see the poems he shared from last year’s 4th graders on their Instagram page. I love the idea that the work those kids did is reaching a wider audience. They deserve it!
Back on the Water
Another summer workshop with my beloved Freeflow family! This one will be about place. You may register HERE. This is the lowdown:
Many of us feel defined by place. Places important to our lives or our livelihoods. Places we have come to love through our travels, whether in the real world or through the stories we love. What is North America without the story of how many Indigenous cultures came to call it Turtle Island? Who cares about the One Ring if not for the landscapes of Middle Earth? Would we know Ellen Meloy’s name without the deserts and rivers that sustained her? What about Ed Abbey, or Amy Irvine, or Terry Tempest Williams, or Craig Childs? What about Tommy Orange’s Oakland? What about James Welch’s Hi-Line? What about Louise Erdrich’s Turtle Mountains? And what about your place? Are you a freelancer trying to get people to care about climate change? Are you a novelist building your own world? Or maybe you are a poet exploring land and rivers and want to make your images glow.
This workshop will be a study of place. Places important to you, places of cultural significance, the history of your place, even your imagined places. What what makes them special? What makes them worth fighting for? What makes you love them? What are the details that can make a place a character in the story? There are many ways to get to know a place; through story, through science, through history. We will discuss them. In the end, we will all be better writers when it comes to exploring these wonderful places.
These are always invigorating for me; days on a river always are. Hopefully they are for the folks who come out for them as well.
Speaking of Friends
You are now able to buy my books via my friends at Swan Valley Connections! So if you’re still on the fence about them, in this case you’ll also be contributing to the work of a wonderful and dedicated band of merry conservationists! Click through the images for the links….
Meaty Little Shell Survives Grueling Road Slaughter
… and that’s all we need to say about that.
This is a page from Swan Valley Connection’s Spring ‘21 edition of Confluence, their quarterly newsletter. Have I posted this before? Probably. I think it’s pretty.
Ah, spring. Take care of each other out there, friends….
An Irritable Métis is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.