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Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands by Brenden W. Rensink, Texas A&M Press, 2018

Chapter 8, Note 23 (pages 169 and 260)

Reports from Havre, where Little Bear’s Crees held their dances, were largely positive, while those from Butte were derisive. (p. 169)

Chapter 8, Note 23 . . . for sources and discussion of positive and negative press coverage in Montana. (p. 260)

The generally positive tone of reports concerning Cree dances represented a departure from the familiar negative coverage.[1] Negative reports did persist on a number of issues, however, with particular disdain coming from Butte.[2] From passing observations of their indigence to coverage of legal proceedings in which they were involved to brief mention of Native deaths, most Butte reports expressed a general distaste. Consider the 1900 case of Charles Verona, a resident of Butte accused of the manslaughter for the death of three Crees, after they died from consuming wood alcohol he had furnished them. In all the press coverage concerning his arrest, trial and sentencing to 10 years in prison, the Crees and “Half-Breeds” involved are only discussed in passing. The fact that they were landless Indians, living in make shift camps on the south side of town at Timber Butte, and struggling in severe poverty finds no space in their reports. The obvious underlying issues surrounding their presence near Butte and activities within the city, all linked to their state of landless limbo, are completely omitted. Clearly, readers of the paper were well versed in such matters. The foreign nature of the Cree, Chippewa and Métis presence was understood and their unique predicament needed no commentary. Throughout the Anaconda Standard’s coverage of the murder trial of the accused Charles Verona, a negative tone concerning their foreign presence in the state can be discerned.[3]

And while many reports suggested a general familiarity and normalness about the Cree presense, actions were taken in various communities to evict Crees from cities and even entire counties. Likewise, many white Montanans steadied their view of and public rhetoric concerning their “foreign” Native neighbors. In a multipart 1906 series on the “Queer Spots in and About Butte,” Cree camps were featured on a number of occasions as familiar, if not unique, landscapes to Butte residents.[4] For those following Little Bear and Rocky Boy, evolving familiarity of Montanans with their presence, or success of Métis in securing lands, did little to solve the immediate crises they faced. In 1907 Butte officials evicted landless Crees and Chippewas from their camp near the city slaughterhouse. They were told their dogs would be killed, ponies stampeded, possessions confiscated and they themselves be thrown in jail if they did not leave Silver Bow County within 2 days.[5] Bellicose threats aside, the order successfully removed Chippewas and Crees from the slaughterhouse vicinity, but not from the county. While Crees were termed “A Dirty Nuisance,” a group of “Syrian gypsies” apparently attracted stronger disdain and were labeled “A Dirtier Nuisance.” They were also evicted. A week later, the Standard offered a backhanded compliment that “Cree Indians are marvels of cleanliness in comparison” to the band of Syrian gypsies. This rhetorical device emphasized that to be dirtier than Butte’s Cree population was a most serious condemnation.[6]

Within months Rocky Boy himself made a public appearance at a trial of fellow tribesmen, defiant in his right to remain in the region.[7] Farther north, Fergus County officials likewise moved to restrict foreign Native activities in their jurisdictions, securing confirmation from the Department of Immigration in Washington D.C. that foreign Natives and Métis could not be naturalized citizens. According to the Choteau Acantha, The Department of the Interior indicated that citizenship could only be conferred upon “free white persons, Africans or persons of African descent.” This may have been in response to the success of Chippewa Métis securing land holdings and the influx of Turtle Mountain Chippewas (of possible Canadian descent) entering into the region during the previous year. [8] All such developments underscored the precariousness of Chippewa and Cree status in the state.


[1] “Big Time Among the Crees,” Milk River Eagle, July 22, 1899; and “The Sun Dance,” Milk River Eagle, June 19, 1900; “Cree Indians Hold a Sun Dance for the Cash There is in It,” Butte Inter Mountain, June 17, 1901, 6; “Sun Dance is Proposed,” Anaconda Standard, June 20, 1901; “Annual Crees Grass Dance,” Dillon Tribune (MT), April 24, 1903, 2; “Indians Will Dance,” Havre Plaindealer, May 20, 1902; “Canadian Indians,” Calgary Herald, May 15, 1902; “Many Braves Will Dance,” Havre Plaindealer, June 21, 1902; “Chippewa Indians Start War Dances in the Valley,” Anaconda Standard, February 16, 1902; “Crees Will Dance,” Havre Plaindealer, June 10, 1903; “Crees Are With Us,” Havre Plaindealer, June 13, 1903; “Forbidden to Sell Alcohol,” Havre Press, June 17, 1903; “Big Dance Tomorrow,” Havre Plaindealer, June 20, 1903; “Sun Dance is Over,” Havre Plaindealer, June 24, 1903; “Grass Dance is Celebrated,” Havre Plaindealer, June 27, 1903; “Great Indian Powwow,” Anaconda Standard, June 21, 1904; “Grass Dance to be Held,” Havre Plaindealer, June 24, 1905; and “Crees Hold a Historic Festival,” Havre Plaindealer, July 1, 1905.

[2] “The Real Thing in Sun Dancing,” Anaconda Standard, December 16, 1901; “Silver Bow Crees Fake a Sun Dance,” Anaconda Standard, June 26, 1904; and “Chippewa Indians Spring on Unlooked for Innovation,” Anaconda Standard, February 18, 1902.

[3] “Half-Breed Cree Killed,” Anaconda Standard, July 5, 1900; “Indian Killer’s Case,” Anaconda Standard, September 29, 1900; “On Trial of Murder,” Anaconda Standard, November 22, 1900; “Didn’t Mean to Do It,” Anaconda Standard, November 23, 1900; “Jury Convicted the Indian Slayer,” Anaconda Standard, November 24, 1900; and“Ten Years for the Indian Slayer,” Anaconda Standard, November 27, 1900.

[4] “Queer Spots in and About Butte: No. 11 – The Cree Village,” Anaconda Standard, May 27, 1906; and “Queer Spots in and About Butte: No. 24 – The Crematory,” Anaconda Standard, August 26, 1906.

[5] “Undesirable Citizens are Ordered to Move,” Anaconda Standard, June 22, 1907.

[6] “Dirtier Than the Crees,” Anaconda Standard, June 28, 1907.

[7] “Dancing Indian in Bad Scrape,” Anaconda Standard, September 1, 1907.

[8] Choteau Acantha, April 4, 1907;“Allotment of land to Family of Breeds,” Anaconda Standard, January 12, 1906; “Dakotas Reds May Crowd out Whites,” Havre Plaindealer, March 10, 1906; “Transplanting of Indians,” Havre Plaindealer, March 10, 1906; and “Flocking into Northern Montana,” Havre Plaindealer, March 24, 1906.