Cattle Industry Develops
Flooding Fort Berthold
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Blackfeet used the sale of tracts of tribal lands to finance the creation of family cattle herds on their remaining lands. Blackfeet ranchers fattened their livestock on hay they raised along streams running east out of the Rockies and used the Great Northern Railway to ship their steers to eastern markets at St. Paul and Chicago. These ranchers were constantly threatened by weather and the shifting priorities of reservation bureaucrats, but by 1900 the tribe had registered 500 brands, and the community’s herds totaled more than 5,000 head.
Painted by German-born artist Winold Reiss, rancher Plume reflected the modest prosperity that Indian cattlemen enjoyed in the early years of the twentieth century. His portrait was included in a promotional packet distributed by the Great Northern Railway.
Frank Linderman and Winold Reiss. “Plume,” in Blackfeet Indians of Glacier Park, 1940.
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