# 23: Council With the Blackfeet

From the 7th through the 11th both Tinkham and Lt. Saxtons teams traversed, in different directions, over rather rough terrain with no grasses for the animals. Mr. Stanley left his camp near Fort Benton to travel to Cypress Mountain in the company of three voyagers, an interpreter of the American Fur Company, and were guided by Little Dog, one of the chiefs of the Piegans.


Stanley’s mission was to record the landscape and all it held: plants, geography, animals and humans. Their course had them gradually ascending to the base of the Three Buttes, approximately 35 miles from the Marias River. His team found the area full of life with grass around them, fresh as spring, with an abundance of game feeding in the area. They reached the Milk River, about 30 miles away from the Buttes and thirty to the northwest of where Mr. Tinkham’s group’s change of direction away from them. There were dry coulées within one contained coal or lignite, three feet thick, running for a quarter of a mile. As reported by the others, the valley was studded with groves of cottonwood and other trees interspersed with high mesas separated by ravines.


It was in the valley that Stanley found “three lodges of Piegans belonging to Lame Bull’s band.”[1] Lame Bull informed Stanley that the Piegans had split their camp as Lame Bull had expected to meet Stanley’s party at the crossing at Fort Benton. Low Horn, had gone to Cypress mountain with the rest of the tribe. They exchanged gifts at the site. Stanley provided Lame Bull presents of ammunition and tobacco and Lame Bull returned the courtesy with fresh and dried meets in return. On the 13th they departed together toward Cypress mountain. They passed through a high, rolling dividing ridge for about 12 miles, to a dry bed of a stream having a valley two miles wide. This is the outlet of the large salt lake called Pa-ko-kee. From there they crossed another broken, rocky ridge and ascended it and passed an old Indian fort built of logs and sticks. They continued another 12 miles and established a camp for the night having traveled a total of 40 miles that day.


September 14th found the group another 28 miles along their journey and joining the other Piegan band with 90 lodges under their new chief, Low Horn. That evening Little Dog conducted Tinkham to the chief’s lodge where the immediate principal chiefs and braves met to receive his message. It was decided the entire camp would move hold a council with the chief sent by their “Great Father”. September 15th was a day of feasting, including a delicacy of buffalo blood boiled with berries. The next morning, the chief announced the entire camp would move and had the horses brought in from their grazing. Stanley described the process: In less than one hour the whole encampment was drawn out in two parallel lines on the plain, forming a very picturesque scene. Their lodge poles being fastened as a sort of sled, with the small ends tied across the horses or dogs’ backs, and the others dragging on the ground, their goods are packed on them, as well as the children and the infirm, while some of the women and children also ride on the horses’ backs. From three to five hundred pounds are thus transported by each horse at the rate of twenty miles a day. The dogs each drag about forty pounds. Thus a thousand Indians accompanied him [Tinkham] as far as Milk river, where the main party remained to hunt, and the thirty principal men, with their families, came with him to Fort Benton.


Stanley enclosed a sketch he drew on the return to Fort Benton of the view of the Three Buttes and the Blackfeet Indians engaged in the hunt.


[1] Stevens, Isaac. “Reports” Page 115.