(Main blog, daily posts)

Heart Butte School, Montana (Non-fiction, the school and its community.)

Robert Macfie Scriver and Art: An archive. Books by Mary Scriver

ON AMAZON: "Bronze Inside and Out: a biographical memoir of Bob Scriver" and "Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke: sermons for the prairie."

Sunday, July 05, 2015


The most basic things about Ebola, which we are just reminding ourselves of now, is that it strikes people who are living barely viable lives on the lip of starvation, dehydration, and disease load, so that Ebola is very much a “syndemic” with many interwoven pressures.  Something like climate is linked because that’s one of the strong controls on insect vectors, though bugs are only suspects now -- no proof so far.  The pressure on people of hot weather, the point in crop development between planting and harvest, the current state of governmental corruption and disfunction, and simple things like clean needle syringes (syringes being a significant carrier of all diseases ever since they were invented, even putting aside illegal drugs) all contribute a little bit to the whole.

Some wise people have said all along that medicinal cures are not as effective as the general robustness of individuals and groups.  Unless meds are accompanied by behavior, they are rendered useless, like the current state of overused antibiotics, and the preponderance of diabetics who don’t follow their protocols.  Measles has been controlled since I was a kid suffering through it, but a DEATH from measles just happened in one of the richest, most sophisticated, most carefully governed places on the planet: Seattle.  The victim died because her parents remained susceptible to rumor, unproved claims about immunization, and misplaced sense of entitlement: “we’re too good to die.”


I share thoughts with Aad de Gids, a philosopher, poet, and psychiatric nurse in the Netherlands, and together we ponder what may at last force attention and energy to developing a new world.  The whole planet is hanging on to uninformed superstitions and wrong convictions.  We cherish our sense of privilege based only on money.

Aad and I are cruising websites.  “How Stuff Works” is excellent.  Here’s a quote:

“The Ebola virus is most closely related to the viruses that cause measles and mumps, the paramyxovirus family.

“The genetic information stored in the RNA codes for only seven proteins (the molecules in the cell do most of the work in the organism), as compared to about 20,000 for humans.

“One of these proteins is suspected to be the superpower of the villainous Ebola: glycoprotein. One version of this protein binds to host cells, so the virus can enter and replicate, and the other version is released from infected cells and may play a role in suppressing the immune system.

“The virus is pretty impartial and will infect a wide range of cell types in our bodies, but early on, Ebola typically invades cells associated with our immune systems, namely monocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. After that early infection, it travels to the lymph nodes, spleen and liver through the blood.
Neil Bodie, DVM

We’re following the #’s on Twitter, including, who’s been researching this stuff for a long time, and Dr. Neil Bodie, veterinarian developer of treatments for zoonoses, the ones that travel between animals and people.  Some common diseases, including measles, got started ten thousand years ago when people began to domesticate animals so that they lived closely with them.  On the other side of the planet, the East is struggling with MERS, a poultry disease, possibly involving pigs.

The most shocking account of Ebola so far has not been so much people dying in the streets, though that was happening, but people dying in what were supposed to be locations of help.  Now that people are beginning to testify, we hear that in the beginning the latrines were overwhelmed so thoroughly that it was impossible to get through the door because of the piles and swamps of feces, all contagious.  Patients were issued buckets, but so many of the nursing staff became infected early -- and there were never enough of them anyway -- that the buckets were soon overflowing for lack of people to empty them.  People died of simple starvation and dehydration because no one was available to bring food and water.

The nations and the world were slow to respond but they did finally, with spacesuits, bleach buckets, and the high-pressure development of vaccines and virus meds, including antibody molecules from those who had survived.  When cases were brought to the USA on purpose and despite filtering, resources for those individuals came quickly, life support on the scale that can pull a person through rabies.

Then everyone complained that they had overbuilt the African clinics because Ebola was “all gone.”  But it wasn’t.  The people were ostriches in denial.  They hid bodies to keep them from being cremated.  Now they resist coming to get their malaria meds for fear of being diagnosed with Ebola and detained.

Everything but patients.

No disease is ONLY a bacteria, a virus, or whatever.  In the first place, they all interact with each other and with everything around them: insects, mammals, plants.  In the second place, probably the most determining forces are the human social groups and behavior and maybe global forces like climate/weather.  Economics have a huge impact in terms of detection, prevention, meds, study, and so on.  And the most devastating consequence can be economic, like the shriveling of tourist industry.

One of the interesting new ideas about Ebola is that it may be “vectored” through several different entities and bats may be only one of the pass-alongs, and maybe only certain species of bats.  The virus may be sitting passively in many places: even in people who have recovered or who had such a strong immune response that they didn’t realize they’d ever been infected.  Maybe the virus lurks in graves or undiscovered bodies in the jungle being parted out by burrowing insects (or maybe their larvae like maggots), passed to rats who eat the bugs, and so on.  Monkeys can catch aerosol "coughing" particles but people cannot.  At least so far.

Related to this is the realization that human bodies have small pockets, refugia, where viruses, antibodies, and so on can hide: where a virus can exist without showing any signs.  Aad’s quick list of examples is:  “immunoprivileged "loges", like the molar pulpa, testes, intracerebral space near the hypothalamus and hypophysis, such a jagged space unseen, the eyeballs....”  I learned from watching CSI TV shows that the interior of the eyeball, the vitreous fluid, is commonly analyzed to get information about drugs or infection in a really thorough autopsy.

Recent studies found 25% of village dogs, not pets but scavenging pariahs, have antibodies but no full viruses in their blood.  The most recent cases were three men who dug up a dead dog and ate it.  One died, the other two became ill, but it turned out not to be Ebola.  I made a grim joke that the best medicine might be cases of peanut butter, enough to prevent eating dogs. 

In the past, few have done autopsies on animals or insects, which are simply part of the scenery, except for the necropsies on bats, primates and duikers, a cute little antelope.  Those revealed that Ebola mutates like flu and each location has a different variation.  Some vary in contagiousness and virulence, which suggests that the milder ones might be a good source of vaccine, the way cowpox was for smallpox.  One strain that turned up as an isolate in monkeys in the Philippines, doesn’t make people sick.

Local indigenous Africans have no knowledge of what blood does, much less viruses.  There is no folk wisdom about Ebola.  In fact, the custom at death is likely to be contact, which is highly contagious even after death.  The most effective -- if almost unbearable -- strategy has simply been to isolate sick people in a remote hut and leave them until they die -- then burn down the hut.  Maybe we’re still doing that on some level.  Like shutting out the communities and villages of Africa.

Pygmies have antibodies for a lot of viruses but seem resistant to most.  They are immune to Ebola and other things.  Suddenly we’re VERY interested in them.  Small, but packed.

There turns out to be a lot of variations among Ebola on a genome level.  They mutate easily, like HIV or flu, and each is specific to a place, which usually gives the variety its name.  But they go on mutating.  They are processes, not objects.  Genome analysis provides much tracking info for a “map.”  The edge of jungle is webbed with paths and trails, not to mention waterways big enough to travel on, like Quammen’s imagined HIV first vector-man.  (“The Chimp and the River”.)  

Much of the interest in Ebola comes from what we’re learning that might lead to an HIV/AIDS cure. Typhoid, malaria, and so on are everywhere:  they might be precursors, intensifiers, or vectors in some way.  They confuse diagnoses and treatment.  The "Big Three" world diseases are malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS.  We don't have malaria in Montana, but TB has afflicted indigenous people for a long time.

A bit of good news is that Ebola works so quickly that it’s a self-snuffer but the infection lingers after death.  This is very different from HIV that was worldwide before it was detected and can be sub-fatal for decades.  The beloved Dr. Bob Frascino from had to answer again and again that once someone is dead, they are no longer contagious for HIV.  However, they taught us at Multnomah County Animal Control that parasite vectors (fleas, lice, et al) are most "contagious" when a just-dead body is cooling and the parasites know they need to seek a new home.  If they carry Ebola, they are dangerous.  They do carry rickettsia and other "interesting" afflictions.

Finding a cure has been too slow coming.  But we know what the main vector is:  poverty.  One group addressing this is called “Blue Marble Health.”

"In its place, “blue marble health” [a focus of analysis] suggests that all economies are rising but that each one leaves behind a bottom segment of society that lives on less than one or two dollars per day, or at some other level of extreme poverty. Moreover, both poverty and disease are not evenly distributed among the G20. Instead they are concentrated in specific areas such as in northern Argentina, northeastern Brazil, southwestern China, Eastern Europe, and even the southern United States."

"A major finding from the blue marble health paradigm is that more than one-half of the world's NTDs occur in G20 countries and Nigeria, and yet in most cases these countries have the financial capacity for controlling or eliminating their own indigenous disease burden. Doing so could eliminate the single major source of global poverty and disease related to NTDs."

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Pastor Reinke

IMDB:  Broken, desperate men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor risks everything to help them.

ROTTEN TOMATOES:  Hard-hitting, absorbing, and painfully relevant, The Overnighters offers an urgent and compassionate picture of life in 21st century America.

GOOGLE:  A pastor sparks a controversy in his North Dakota town by opening his church doors to homeless workers who are seeking jobs at nearby oil fields.

INDIEWIRE:  One of the most remarkable examples of layered non-fiction storytelling to come along in some time.

Okay.  That’s the official position, the liberal gloss on small towns with conservative churches caught in a culture vice created by exploitative power-hungry corporations.  That’s true, but there’s more to it.

One of the early scenes is the jolly pastor singing hymns as he rousts men for the day.  He’s very much in the mode of good old Brother Van, the Methodist bachelor preacher who supplied song and good cheer across early Montana. The sleeping men are indoor street people in bedrolls along the halls and rooms of the religious education wing of a Lutheran church, clearly built back in the day when big two-parent families wanted to provide their children with a reliable map of how to live with God.  The pastor is intense and intimate, putting his arms around the men, but the filmmaker is also allowed a lot of intimacy -- his head is in the huddle, too.  

The Bakken boom has reverberated even here in Valier. An earlier version of social shift that displaced small family farms with rural industrial agriculture (vast small-grain fields farmed by huge machines).  Now this shift is to the oil patch and frakking, a destructive bonanza made necessary by the fuel and fertilizer managed by those huge diesel tractors.  (Plus, of course, transportation and energy that supports the Internet and other city doin’s.)  This is “flyover country”.  Sometimes you can see the little smudge of dumped surplus fuel when the big planes prepare the long descent down to Minneapolis.

Often one can tell more from the negative space around a problem than the obvious problem itself.  What we here call “the High-line” because that was the name of the Great Northern tracks just south of the Canadian border, pushed that earlier boom/bust a century ago.  The railroad promoted ag-based homesteading so they would have traffic, but the combination of drought and bank collapse (these booms always are capital-based both on ascendancy and on decline) ended in foreclosures and dispersal, the same trajectory as these contemporary men looking for a way to make a new grubstake.  But they didn’t come to make homes.

Locals at first were thrilled.  These things are always promoted as a surefire way to “grow” and therefore get the old days back.  Plus needed tax money.   In Great Falls there has been a boom in telephone answering services: they contract to answer questions as “support” for appliances, insurance, and other businesses that are not there.  No one can see them, so they tend to be people who can’t easily get other jobs, stigmatized by their appearance but not handicapped by being dumb.  The company always comes in asking for grants from the city and pledging to stay and become part of the community.  After a few years of sweet deals, they pull out.  The building is back to being semi-abandoned and a few hundred people are looking for job.

Working in the Bakken boom is tough.  It’s hard repetitious labor with a certain amount of risk and a climate like Antarctica, which makes it barely possible to live in a car or “rough.”   Man-camps go up, trucked-in dorms, usually owned by the corporations.  There are always a few men who are over-optimistic, grifters, alcoholic, and other misfits.  The ones who haven’t gotten into the job system yet -- or who are automatically filtered out -- can be dangerously antisocial.  One category that desperately needs to be anonymous is the men labeled sex-offenders and forbidden to live here, there, or anywhere.  There are a LOT of them and they are supposed to be monitored as criminals.  The nature of their sex offenses ranges over a broad spectrum, from murderers to teen lovers.  

Gradually, we realize that this church is a shell.  It’s Lutheran, which means that the denomination is helping, probably mostly with the pastor’s salary.  He has a wife, hard-working and devoted, and three kids who seem pretty successful.  We never see the pastor preach.  The building, probably all paid off in the past, is clean, well-built, with a big parking lot, now filled with men living in cars and campers.  The neighbors want a clean, safe, respectable location, like the old days.  The board is middle-class businessmen, aging, a little baffled but used to being in charge and preserving appearances while dealing quietly with bad things.  This is not the sort of church in the sort of place that a successful Man of God is looking for if he’s thinking about anything but charity.

Something is going on.

Now the spoiler:  the pastor turns out to be gay, but not in a healthy way.  His family doesn’t know.  The gay grifters have figured it out and take advantage.  He is terrified of publicity.  With good reason, because the small town resisters know that if they pull in some hip big city news hounds, the reporters are capable of smashing this charity project that has turned their big otherwise empty buildings into a Salvation Army dormitory.  (On the other hand, they DO fill the pews on Sunday.  But would you want to sit with them?)  SEX, SEX, SEX!   What sexual revolution?  So Jesse Moss comes in and puts a new liberal spin on the story, finally getting down to the level of confession.

There’s a pile-on of the more shifty men, happy to accuse the pastor’s character, creating enough squid ink to make their escape.  Looking back, one wonders which ones were having sex with the pastor.  The film shifts to the land, not the drilling but the fields where family homes stand ruined and deserted.  This had been their forever place.  They are probably swelling the cities and suburbs to the south or west.  The pastor tells his wife ON-CAMERA in public and she is devastated.  Then he wanders off alone in his car, now an over-nighter himself.

The wife and kids will be okay as soon as they have a little time and counseling.  They are hard-working and attractive.  The house belongs to the church so what happens with it depends on whether a new pastor comes who needs to live there.  I think the community will rally to the family, but that they will move on.  The kids are nearly college age and the wife may want a re-tread credential for a career.  This is the way life happens in the US today.

But let’s be real.  The Metropolitan Community Church (website: welcomes gays and other alternative “lifestyles.”  All their pastors that I know of are gay men, though there are women and cis men in the congregations.  I’ve done pulpit supply once, because Unitarian Universalists also try to be open.  (UU's are a little more upscale and straight.)  I was instructed that at some point I was to receive the men in couples, to put my arms around them and assure them that they are fine, conscientious people who love each other.  I did that.  It was exactly what Rienke, the pastor in the movie was doing.  These were young, idealistic, devoted men and I saw no reason not to support that.  Some of them wept.

How come Rienke or at least the filmmakers, who were presumably broadly aware, didn’t note this alternative he had?  It’s as though he had been earning redemption with martyrdom so long that he didn’t know how to be ordinary, didn’t WANT to be ordinary, somehow NEEDED a secret life.  I can’t blame him.  When I was in the ministry, I needed a secret life, too, but it was not sex-based, more book-based and, well, cloistered.  Was this pastor’s advisors -- come on, every pastor in a mainstream denomination has a cloud of supervisors, guides, colleagues, therapists -- so out-of-it that they didn’t know about the Metropolitan Community Church or was the pastor himself defining gay as so scurrilous that he wouldn’t accept his own desires and make them legitimate?   Why couldn’t he join with the people trying to reform the Lutherans to recognize gay pastors? 

In the end any population-based institution has to deal with numbers, demographics, and how many bottoms are sitting on their checkbooks in those pews.  But when the people are gone, there is no graceful strategy for the use of a building that has the luxury of standing empty for 6 days out of 7.  Probably the best bet would be a retirement home for aging people who need a little support.  Emotion has to respond to economics.  In fact, it is world economics of the price of oil that has since changed the whole dynamic of the boom.  Valier was a bit relieved, to be honest.

But what about a centuries-old, education-based (Lutheran seminaries have VERY high standards), once-mainstream denomination, sort of semi-Catholic religious institution.  What obligation to do they have to drifters and grifters?  What do they owe to the respectable, worried, struggling “Saving Remnant”?  And why didn’t they give that pastor a rap upside the head?  I know he must have done a Clinical Pastoral Education internship, probably in a hospital, where such deep dilemmas are supposed to be turned out and surrendered to God.  

It must work for somebody somewhere or why do conscientious people keep counting on it?  There are perfectly practical things to do when the will to do it is there.  To me the bottom line corruption is that the city folks are willing to destroy the prairie in order to live on the profits: cheap oil and cheap bread.  They worship money, not God and not the planet.  Lately even city people have been wondering if they aren’t just an answering service for small appliances and travel agents.  

Friday, July 03, 2015


portraits by Bob Scriver

It’s been a long time since I came to Browning to teach high school English in 1961.  I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t really prepared to teach English, except that I had a solid grip on grammar.  I was trained in theatre and, as it turned out, that was a fine way to approach a tribe that appreciates performance:  not high test scores but more like fancy dancing.  I found the scripts as I went along.  Here’s a link to one list: they are people but they are also roles.  Many are gone now, but only in this world.

I tend to confuse students.  Over the years Greg Hirst has had to remind me again and again that he is not Mike Hirst, his brother.  I do remember who Charlie Hirst is, since that’s more recent.  He wasn’t a student -- he was the maintenance man for the Heart Butte school bus fleet until he was found dead in a flaming pickup after I left but right in front of the teacherage where I lived.  I was there 1989 to 1991.

Whichever Hirst was actually in my classes was a good student.  So was Greg.  It’s partly genetic and partly memes -- these are mild-mannered people who value learning of all kinds but are careful about how they manage it.  Greg is out at Heart Butte now, though he just retired from a long career in Wolf Point.  He has been solid and contributing for many decades.  When he finally gives it up, he owns a big house in Great Falls.  He needs space for lots of books.

Verena Rattler has been a conscientious historian.

It’s easier to think about people here in terms of family.  There are always outliers, but in the main there are shared characteristics and unless one gets into some entirely different environment that hits all the wrong keys -- which might very well be about success -- then they are doomed.  The white man’s way of keeping track by name through the father doesn’t really work for a culture so recently oral.  There needs to be a circle of old ladies who remember and sit together counting who-is-who-and-how.  For instance, Misty Upham, who belonged to the same descended-from-Heavyrunner family as the Hirsts, was driven over a rain forest pisgun, a buffalo jump.  It's a high price for fame and success.

I’ll come back to Misty later.  What I want to talk about here is the Uphams I knew personally. They are entwined with Hirsts and Kipps and other worthy cousins.

One of the things I do is to cut out all the Blackfeet obits from the GF Tribune and tape them onto cards, then alphabetize.  I don’t date them because what I’m looking for is relationships.  Eva Upham, who died at 97, was the mom for a special person, Galen Upham.  (Also, his brother Dennis, who was a little like him, and some others.)  It’s Galen I want to talk about.  I have a special attachment to Galen, but when I mention it in certain company they get mad, because they think that THEY are the special ones.  His gift was in part giving people that feeling.  He looked like a young Abraham Lincoln.  

Young Abe Lincoln

He’d pull his old rez car into the so-called driveway in my East Glacier years and honk until I came out and sat on the edge of my so-called back porch.   (I called it my "drunk-catcher" because boards were missing.)  He’d stay in the car and we’d visit for a long time.  He was famous for stealing one of the red tourist touring buses and driving it over Going-to-the-Sun road by moonlight.  He was drunk, probably, and if you know that Backbone of the World track, the miracle was not getting away with the theft, but simply staying on the road.

I wrote a script about it:  one of those Outlander time-travel things.  Galen is driving over but he wrecks and ends up in a snowbank which keeps him from being killed.  While he lies in the wreckage, an old-time young man just like him is there on a vision quest, and they talk.  If I were writing it now, I would make the ancient one a warrior -- that pass was a war trail first.

But Galen wasn’t a warrior -- or didn’t think he was.  When he got too far into the alcoholism, he’d be committed to Warm Springs.  A lot of people wanted him to kick the booze.  While he was there, he’d take his guitar over to the children’s building and play for them.  When he was stabilized, he’d be back home.

I ran into Galen and Olivia at Indian Days, walking in the dark evening, holding hands.  In those days the lights were only strung up temporarily -- the only permanent structure was the pump-head for water, a big cement cube alone out there in the grass most of the year.  The young couple was plainly very much in love, well-matched.  Olivia was remarkably beautiful.  One evening she was reading in bed and smoking, but fell asleep and that’s how she left us. There were no dragon’s eggs that hatched.  

Somehow that whole family had a bit of of mysticism in them, I think more from Eva than from “Doc,” who had been a musician in Bob’s High Line dance band in the Forties.  Once when times were good, Doc brought in a deer head to be mounted.  It wasn’t a remarkable specimen -- I think he just wanted to show off to Bob, who was skeptical about ever getting paid, with reason.  For years Doc left it, probably forgot it was there, maybe was expecting Bob to cave in and say, “Here -- just have it.”  In the end Bob needed some glass deer eyes for another mount and pried them out of the head.  After that, mutilated, it was hard to look at, so it was tossed.

I hadn’t realized Eva was a Canadian Guardipee, which is often a Metis name and maybe includes some far north “Cree medicine” genes.  Cree medicine is the love medicine that Louise Erdrich often mentions, but Louise’s white genes are German and Guardipees would probably be French.  Eva had a sense of elegance about her and a sweetness that both Galen and Dennis shared.  March had it, too, and she married Peter Sellars, part of that 8th grade bunch in my first class ever.  He was a high IQ kid, quite balanced, but he got dumped in there because, I think, he played his cards close to his vest.  Never let people know how much you know.

In 1988 when I was the Methodist minister for a year and monitored study-hall for grub money, Galen and Olivia’s son Glen turned up.  He had that same arrogance that became pride once it was backed up with accomplishment.  I had no money at that point (do I ever?) and was wearing cheap canvas slip-on shoes.  Glen looked at my feet and sneered, “Potato pickers’ shoes!”

I’d humor him and even slip him a bit of money now and then.   The kids asked,  "Are you related?"  Sort of.  I worried.  Times had changed and he was one of those who stole needles from home ec class so he could experiment with penetrating the skin on his hands.  It’s drug-related.  But twenty-five years later he’s okay, living up in East Glacier.  He’s not much like his father, maybe.  I haven't gone to look for him.

I still have a story Galen wrote.  It’s about a Blackfeet chief who kidnaps an English teacher and keeps her hostage until she will teach him to read.  Of course, a kid who read as much as Galen didn’t need to be taught even how to write.   He just did it.   Ever since then I’ve searched for what it was I ought to have taught him, the grail that could have saved him.  It’s a searing, flaming thing.  I mean both the search and the grail.

Galen was three years younger than me.  (1942 - 1987).  I was in Saskatoon in 1987.  The next year I came back to the rez, homesick.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

HISTORY SUBDUCTION ZONE: one plate over another

Today I read two articles about Blackfeet.  One, in The Guardian was by Kristen Millares Young in Seattle.  Her resume is at:   
Her website is at
Kristen Millares Young

She is a pretty woman, trained in journalism at fancy places but aspiring to be a novelist.  The first one is called "Subduction" and its place is Neah Bay, which is a rez.  The one on the coast with werewolves and whales.   She wrote a good article about Misty in The Guardian.  I haven’t read "Subduction", but I listened to her reading from it.  I think it’s fancy writing, haute Harvard, closely observed, and out of control.  (Do you hear the condescension?  I can’t help it, so I’ll just stick a flag in it.)

Misty Upham, an actress who went over the edge

Here’s the link to the article:  

An older white man from Montana has just written a book about the “Baker Massacre” and is promoting it as “the real story”.  He is impressed that when he was a kid, no one knew anything about it, but now they do because of Jim Welch.  He believes that living in Montana entitles him to the story.  Actually, there’s quite a bit written about this event, including what’s embedded in the “Blackfeet Heritage, 1907-1908” transcription of the commodity rolls which is available through the Blackfeet Heritage Center.  [SEE BELOW]  He evidently doesn't know how to google and didn't ask a librarian.  He gets my other flag.  

Come on, mister!  For decades Carol and John Murray have been publicizing this story and making sure it gets marked annually with ceremony. One of the quickest and most appealing things to read is Ben Bennett’s version, “Death, too, for the Heavy Runner.”  It's a fiction version of events.  Bennett was a history prof in SF and is gone now. These accounts are laden with mythology, romanticism, bitterness, truth, and outrage.  I put a version in a book of mine. The emphasis depends upon the writer and the times.

Now I’m going to be a target myself.  I didn’t know Misty Upham, but I knew a lot of her relatives.  Let’s start with the oldest genealogy that I have.  The Blackfeet Heritage book gives us these relatives.  (In the only Amazon customer review of “Death, too, comes for the Heavy Runner” the person only wants to know how Heavy Runner got his name. Grab those factoids!)  But I’d like to know far more about Ben Bennett.  Knowing about writers tells you a lot about what they write.  In the meantime, I’ll give you the Blackfeet names of some Upham ancestors.

Illustrations, including the visionary cover, by Tom Saubert
He's in Kalispell.
He accepts commissions.

Many images here of Blackfeet/Blackfoot

Source for the books that are resources for the info below.


William Upham was 37 when the commodity list was made.  His father was Heavy Runner, whose parents are unknown, though the entry for Emma Miller claims his mother was Ah-poh-kee-a.  His mother was Rush-in-the-Night, daughter of  Ee-pun-sevis-wa-ah. All these folks except William were dead when this list was made.

The descendants of Heavy Runner are split into two claim-groups at this point, descendants of Dick Kipp, who was said to have been adopted as a child by Joe Kipp after the Baker Massacre, and Richard (Makapini/Red-Eyes/Last Gun) and Mary (Eesqueepeesaki) who was the father of Thomas Kipp who was the father of Darrell Kipp (Apiniokio Peta, founder of Piegan Institute).  Joe Kipp and Cobell were the scouts that led Baker to the wrong camp.  Heavy Runner had been elsewhere only a short time earlier.  The soldiers were in pursuit of Mountain Chief, who had possibly been warned -- they had left.  Feelings about Kipp and Cobell run high.  Darrell Kipp contested vigorously the material tucked into the commodity list as footnotes. (From Robert J. Ege)  Joe Kipp was well-known as a bootlegger and may have known where the camps were because of delivering whisky only a short time before. Baker was alcoholic and many of his soldiers were drunk, good consumers. Both scouts had family connections to Mountain Chief.

The sibs of Tom Kipp were Cora, Louis, George, Cecilia, Annie and Jack.

The half-sibs whose mother was Old Woman are Joseph (Berry) Kipp, Spear Woman, William Upham, Cut Bank John Kipp, Mary, James, and George.

The children of William Upham at the time of the list were Joseph Upham (9 yrs old) and Dick Upham (6 years old).  They were said to live in the St. Mary’s valley near Babb.

Now I switch to another genealogy book also composed by Roxane DeMarce.  This much more recent book was voluntary; that is, people sent in their own information.  It’s also generally available through the Blackfeet Heritage Center and includes other historical material.  The only entry under Upham is John Edward Upham (wife JoAnn Leotta), children Brittany Jo, Bethany Marie.  Sibs are Tony Francis, Lisa (husband Copiskey), Doug and Laniana.  Father was Francis, and other descendant is Karen.  John Irvin Upham was his grandfather and Hiram Upham was his great-grandfather.

A Good Man Dead. Hiram D. Upham, son of Hiram and Delphia Upham, was born in Madison County, NY, Feb 22, 1838, and was therefore, at the time of his death on June 3 [1893] 54 years of age. Possessing more than ordinary ability, young Upham was given a good education in the schools at Coldwater, Mich., to which place his parents had moved from NY. For several years his uncle, Judge Upson, presided over the circuit court in the Coldwater district in Michigan. During Judge Upson’s third term in Congress Gad E. Upson, a brother, was appointed agent of the Piegans and with him to his post at Fort Benton came his nephew, the subject of this sketch. In the summer of 1865 Major Gad E. Upson was nominated by the republicans for delegate in congress and was beaten by Sam Mclean. During the canvass he left Hi, then chief clerk, in charge of the agency. In the fall of 1868 Major Upson, being compelled by ill health to relinquish his post, he was placed in charge to settle up the affairs of the agency.  [Note from MHS: there is no explanation for sliding from Upham to Upson.]

T.C. Power steamboat on the Missouri

T.C. Power himself

Continuing on as clerk under other agents until about 1873 he entered the employ of the firm of T.C. Power Bro., trading at the agency then located on the Teton about three miles above the present town of Choteau, [now Teton County] and at Fort Macleod. In the latter part of the seventies he became associated with Joseph Kipp in business, which partnership continued till the time of his death. Trading at Carroll, Fort Conrad, Robare and Piegan, the firm is one of the best known in northern Montana.

In April 1885 Hi, Joe Kipp, Charley Thomas and several others, went to the Sweetgrass mines, then but recently discovered, and Hi was made recorder. Upham was interested in the Summit Mining Company, whose claims are located in Flathead County west of St. Mary’s Lake. About two weeks ago his health was so impaired that he thought best to go to Great Falls for treatment. On April 28 [1893] the physician telegraphed Kipp to come to Great Falls, but upon his arrival there Upham seemed to be better, and Joe left for home after being with Hi three or four days. The next day after Kipp left, the sick man’s condition was so changed that little hope was entertained for his recovery. On the day of his death A.B. Hamilton called about noon to see him and when admitted to the room was recognized and welcomed by the sufferer, though anyone could see, and he realized it himself, that he had not many minutes to live. Holding his friend’s hand while he approached the dark valley and with scarcely a struggle he ceased to breathe. The bereaved family consists of four children the oldest being 10 years of age. Coming to Montana in his 24th year and living here continuously for 30 years, Hiram D. Upham was admired by every man who knew him. A man of brains and sterling integrity, loyal to his friends and family, generous to a marked degree, of jovial disposition, wholly without sham he finished his work without flinching and is dead. [Reprinted from the Teton Times June 10, 1893]

H.D. Upham No More: the Many Friends of Him Whose Name Appears above Were Shocked with Almost Inexpressible Grief When They Heard of His Untimely Death, Which Occurred in Great Falls Saturday Last. He Had Been Suffering for a Year past with an Affection of the Bladder. His Physicians Had Finally Told Him He Could Live but a Few Days Unless Relief Could Be Had by a Surgical Operation. They Told Him the Operation Would Probably Result Fatally. But He Decided to Risk the Terrible Ordeal And, as the Doctors Predicted, the Operation Proved Fatal Within Twenty Four Hours. The Writer of this Is Only Able to State Some General Facts in the Career of the Deceased. He Was Upwards of Fifty Years of Age and a Native of New York. While a Very Young Man, Perhaps Before He Had Attained His Majority, He Left His Home in New York, and Went West, Settling in Coldwater, Mich. He Entered the Law Office of Judge Upson, His Brother-in-law, (Afterward a Leading Member of Congress for Several Terms) and after Pursuing His Studies the Usual Time, Was Duly Admitted to the Bar. He Had Scarcely Began the Practice of His Chosen Profession, However, When Major Upson, Brother of the Judge of Choteau County, Was Appointed Indian Agent at the Blackfeet Agency and He Came on with Him, Having Been Appointed Agency Clerk. This Was in the Early Sixties. After Serving Some Time in That Capacity He Was Chosen, and as the First Probate Judge of Choteau County. Subsequently He Became Associated in Business with Joseph Kipp at Fort Conrad, Later at Piegan Agency in the Indian Tradership. Mr. Upham Was a Notable Character among the Old Timers in Northern Montana. Everybody Seemed to Know Him, and Not as “Judge Upham,” but Familiarly and Affectionately as “Hy Upham.”  He Was a Man of Remarkable Abilities. Clear-headed and Reliable in Business, Socially Genial and Witty. There Was a Certain Ruggedness about Him Coupled with a Heart as Tender as a Child’s and as Affectionate as a Woman’s. No Man Was Ever Freer from Revengefulness, or Jealousy, or Petty Meannesses, That Characterize So Many. Six Feet or More in Height and Large in Proportion, He Seemed the Picture of Health and Long Life; and with His Happy, Whole Souled Ways, He Was a Person One Could Scarcely Associate with the Idea of Death. His Friends Were Almost as Numerous as His Accuaitances, and He Held Them as with Hooks of Steel. It Is Safe to Say That the Death of No Other Person in Many Years Has Caused Sincer Sorrow in All this Section than That of Hiram D. Upham. No One Who Knew Him Will Deny That He Had Faults, Which Is Only to Say He Was Human.. But If Men Are to Judged by the Deeds Done in the Body, Then Every Tender Heart Will Hope, and Every Liberal Mind Believe, That When the Books of the Great Accountant Are Written up a Balance Will Be Found to His Credit. Though His Death Seems Untimely to Us, We May Perhaps Quote Apprepriately the Words of Colton: “Death Is the Liberator of Him Whom Freedom Cannot Release, the Physician of Him Whom Medicine Cannot Cure, and the Comforter of Him Whom Time Cannot Console. Standing by His Grave as it Were, We May Say: “Here Are No Storms, No Noise, but Silence and Eternal Sleep” FAREWELL, DEAR FRIEND, A LONG LAST, A SAD FAREWELL. C.L.B.

BIOGRAPHICAL: Information was supplied by Carol Ann Chattin Kramer P. O. Box 144, Babb, Montana 59411-0144; Phone: (406) 732-4430 dated 5 May 2002. It states:

"Hiram D. Upham
Leeson, History of Montana (1885) P. 1028
Montana Historical Society, Helena, Mt.

Hiram D. Upham. P.O. Conrad, Was Born in Madison Co., N.Y., February 22, 1839; Son of Hiram And Delphia Upham. Before Coming to Montana Our Subject Had Been For Several Years Located at Coldwater, Mich., Engaged as Collector of Back Pay, Bounties, Pensions, Etc., and Came to the Territory in 1865 as Clerk under Major Upton, Who Located Here as Indian Agent and Died the Year after His Arrival. Mr. Upham Continued to Work as Clerk under Other Agents until 1871, After Which He Acted as Indian Trader for T.C. Powers Sessions in Vicinity Of Fort Mcleod, for Several Years. In 1878 He Became Interested with Joseph Kipp in General Merchandise on the Marias River at Fort Conrad, They Being Also Engaged in Ranching and Trading with the Indians, and He Is Now Interested In the Dupuyer Ditch Co."

CENSUS: This family appears in the 1880 US Federal Census for Montana Territory, Choteau Co., Belt Creek District 4. Enumerated 23 Jun 1880. See line 11 as follows:

Upham, Hiram D. W M 40 Indian Trader N.Y. Fa: N.Y. Mo:N.Y.

Hiram married Emma Spear Woman Heavy Runner of the Blackfeet tribe.  She had a brother William Heavy Runner who took up the name UPHAM.  You will find two Upham lines. One from Hiram and the other from William Heavy Runner UPHAM. When looking up these lines go to ROOTS.WEB.COM you will see both lines.  Terry Smith who has the Indian side and Jacqueline Upham Oliver the UPHAM SIDE. Both are correct in many ways. Difference Source used. Also see Descendent of John Upham by Frank Kidder Upham 1892. Also go to the Upham Family Society Melrose, Ma

Rose or Rosa UPHAM b: 17 DEC 1880 in Dupuyer, Pondera, Montana
Kathryn Marie UPHAM b: 27 NOV 1883 in Browning, Glacier, Montana
Joseph Johnson UPHAM b: 24 APR 1885
John Hiram UPHAM b: 29 AUG 1889 in Blackfoot Reservation, Browning, Glacier, Montana
Myrtle Stella UPHAM b: 6 APR 1893 in Barnard, Lincoln, Kansas

I’ll continue tomorrow with personal memories and may post more info as I find it.  This has been a remarkable family.  I don't think that will change.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Farsi poem about sadness

A wealth of research and finely written essays testifies to the unique value of poetry though it may be quite different from one culture to another.  Our own experience tells us that poetry is at least different from rationality, reasoning, or purely informational writing and at best is quite transcendent, almost religious, sweeping us into feeling.  But what IS the difference?  

In some cultures and individuals, it is the cadence of the words, the patterning for rhyme, sometimes specific subjects, its relationship to oral culture or music.  In some places it is assigned time and location: at night or on rising, some turn of the day/night.  It might be soft words of love, vigorous epithets of condemnation, or pledges of faith.

Just the same, it’s words.  I’ve been trying to push words off to the side, take wind out of their sails, reduce them and their grip on us in law, governance, required texts, fancy rhetoric that is NOT poetic, church.  And I relate this to neuron studies, particularly those that make explicit the evolution of the brain, whether reptile, mammal or human. Strangely, sometimes a wee simple worm is enlightening.

One of the most under-considered strategies of evolution is doubling back to use old structures in new ways, to link new and old structures, always to conserve.  Bells and whistles are accidents.  If the structure and function of the whole finds a way to use them -- “soooo, the larynx is in a slightly different place now -- what can it do there that it couldn’t in the old place?”  Like, TALK.  Make words by interrupting the flow of breath with sibilance and clicks and bitten-off air.  But that’s the tongue, the teeth, the palate and -- oh, the vocal chords.

The red chairs of the poets.

This is from a website (and book) called

“It got me thinking about the FOXP2 gene (discussed here) that fine tuned control over the  lower jaw. One of the things we can do with that lower mouth is cough and clear our throat more easily than people without the mutation. It seems a trivial task compared with speaking precisely, but one peculiarity of human anatomy is the way our windpipe (trachea) and esophagus are available to  each other. The system allows us to speak, but at the risk of choking to death . . .

“The larynx works like a valve, opening and closing to let air pass. When it is shut, food can pass into the esophagus at no risk to the lungs. The best place for such a seal is right at the top of the trachea so that no food or drink accidentally goes even a little ways down it, but humans have a second use for the valve. We work it like a musical instrument shaping the sounds made by passing air as we speak. The musical valve works best if we pull it a bit down into the trachea so that the air wave shaped by the larynx can resonate before leaving the mouth.”

This is the entrancing stuff that babies discover by babbling.  We sing before we speak, making vowels, fricatives and plosives for the pure pleasure of the sounds.  We aren’t born speaking because anatomy recapitulates evolution -- at first the larynx is in the animal position so the baby won’t choke.  It takes four years for the larynx to have moved into the standard adult human position.  And boys who are becoming men will experience a second descent of the larynx and their voices.  Then they get guitars and are filled with emotion, potency, and new sound.  It is thought that this sexual voice change evolved earlier than baby larynx migration because deep sexy voices mean big dominant animals that make lots of babies.  Drums and brass.  Maybe.

“The fossil evidence seems to put the decline of body dimorphism based at about 2 million years ago, with the appearance of Homo in the fossil record. Is that when the male larynx began to descend?

“So far no conclusive evidence that the adolescent’s larynx descent preceded the descent of the infant larynx. Fossils might provide some ambiguous answers, but a more likely source will probably have to await understanding of the genetic control of these two processes. Then we can, perhaps, determine which genes are older.”  

Do I need to name Jane Goodall?

“Objective: A mutation in the FOXP2 gene has been the first genetic association with a language disorder. Language disorder is considered as a core symptom of schizophrenia. Therefore, the FOXP2 gene could be considered a good candidate gene for the vulnerability to schizophrenia.

“Conclusions: These results suggested that the FOXP2 gene may confer vulnerability to schizophrenic patients with auditory hallucinations.”

There are two other things FOXP2 genes can do.  They are related to “embedded recursions” which is a grammatical structure in which lists of description are attached to an object.  I taught it as “parallel structure.”  All the descriptors must be in a sequence of the same grammatical type: adjectives, or prepositional phrases, or participles.

The other thing is the FOX2P does is allow coughing to clear jams in the esophagus/windpipe crossover.  Before FOX2P, the people whose larynxes best allowed them to sing and chant poetry may have risked choking to death.

So oral poetry is made possible by anatomy, genes that control brain function (coughing is controlled by the brain and so are voices), allure in the time of human dimorphism, and a desire to share information -- but also emotion.  Writing it down is derived from the oral form.

Except that reasoning -- in the most extreme form mathematical formulas -- really needs to be written to be kept track of.  Bookkeeping is mathematical records.  But it’s embedded recursion: you have to keep the numbers in columns, parallel structures.  Maybe there’s a bit of crossover when poetry is meant to form a structure on the page as well as in speaking or even in thinking.

Adolescence is the “feeling” age which now is closely entwined with music again -- I mean, music with words, courtship music to keep the species surviving.  It’s not just physical creation of babies, but also the emotional support of lullabies and rhythm games.

The point is that we keep trying to make speech into a competition where some words are forbidden and others are imposed to show one is civilized or elite or gifted, but we neglect the older dark unconscious brain parts that are still there, still involved.  Poetry is a way to bring all the brain parts back into the game of communication: the laughter, the shivering, the capacity to trampoline to transcendence.  It must involve the sensorium, which is the only way to poke apertures through our boundaries against the world.  And that means that a poem might be memorably evocative through an object:  an old red wheelbarrow in the rain.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


No formal post today.  Too much keyboard time yesterday and one leg is swole up like a snakebit pup.  Today my feet are up high.  Here's some gossip.

Fire north of Browning in hay meadows, that probably means along Willow Creek drainage.  Last I heard there were hundreds of acres involved, but they were almost halfway contained.  Lots of fuel this year.  Could involve Bob Scriver's Flatiron Ranch, which used to belong to Corky Evans and before that Oscar Doane.  Now it's a Nature Conservancy/tribal consortium.  Might not be there.

In Valier, post office sign says bears sighted near Valier.  They follow watercourses, including along Lake Francis and irrigation ditches.  Folks in town advised to keep pets indoors and make sure there are no attractions outside.  They're likely to be young bears with no manners.

I've watched a PBS movie about Williston and the influx of men, hoping for work on the Bakken oil patch.  A minister is trying to help, but. . .

There's a sharp swerve at the end.  And then the credit roll gives you faces and origins -- these men come from the whole planet.  We were anxious to have them here in town, thought we'd make lots of money renting out our back yard.  Then thought about it  again and changed our minds.   The boom is calming now anyway.

Among other books, I'm reading "All Our Stories Are Here."  It's an anthology of literary criticism edited by Brady Harrison.  Professors must publish to get tenure.  Many have figured out they can do that by getting their friends to each write a chapter.  Harrison's friends are mostly on the U of Montana faculty in Missoula.  Not that that is a bad thing, but it means that friendship circles among writers are the key to publishing.  They always have been.  But they badly distort the full spectrum of who's writing about what.

I'm going to put this on the air twenty minutes early and go to bed.  It's just dusk.