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The Blackfoot Papers

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  • The Blackfoot Papers

    According to my Pikunni Blackfoot brother Robert Black Bull, (the grandson of George & Molly Kicking Woman), this 4 volume book has been welcomed and praised in Blackfoot country on both sides of the border.

    The Blackfoot Papers - Volume One
    Pikunni History and Culture

    The Blackfoot Papers - Volume Two
    Pikunni Ceremonial Life

    The Blackfoot Papers - Volume Three
    Pikunni Portfolio

    The Blackfoot Papers - Volume Four
    Pikunni Biographies

    The Blackfoot Papers

    "The Blackfoot Papers" is a four-volume tribal documentary covering the history and culture of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, traditionally known as the Pikunni People. Hundreds of stories and anecdotes by and about the Pikunni--both past and present--are combined with nearly 3,000 illustrations--many in colour--showing all the tribal chiefs and leaders, along with the heads of most families, their women and their children. Also shown are hundreds of scenes of tribal encampments, home and family life, cultural festivals and sacred ceremonials.

    Forty-four years in the making, The work is available in four individual clothbound volumes, or as a boxed set. The four volumes are also available as a single edition, limited to 400 copies, signed, numbered, and hand-bound in leather.

    "When I started this project in 1962," recalls Adolf Hungry-Wolf, "it was planned as a memorial to a culture that everyone thought was dying out. Revival of Blackfoot culture since then has turned this work into a handbook for those struggling to keep alive Blackfoot heritage and culture for the future."

    Adolf Hungry-Wolf is a writer, historian and ceremonialist born in Southern Germany of Swiss and Hungarian parents. After schooling and university studies in California, he apprenticed himself to elderly medicine men and ceremonial leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy. He learned to understand and practice many of their traditional, nature-oriented, ways. For over thirty years, he and his family have been holders of two of the Confederacy's revered medicine bundles. He continues to follow a simple lifestyle on his family's isolated homestead in the Canadian Rockies, where four of his children grew up with culture, prayers, home schooling and wild animals.

    The project of assembling "The Blackfoot Papers began when Adolf Hungry-Wolf bought a collection of old photographs for a few dollars at an estate sale, as he was graduating from high school. At that time he was already completing his third book for publication, a photo-history of some well-known railroads. From the beginning, tribal leaders and elders encouraged his work, telling him stories and identifying persons and scenes in the old photos. In the process, he turned a childhood fascination for native culture and history into a commitment and way of life. Numerous descendants of the people in those old pictures have become his closest friends and relatives--his own children among them.

    Working on "The Blackfoot Papers" has been a labor of love for Adolf Hungry-Wolf during the past 44 years, as he received neither payment nor funding of any sort. Furthermore, profits from the sale of this work will be used to support the continuation of Blackfeet heritage and culture. Contact the following for further information:

    The publisher and distributor in Canada:
    Good Medicine Cultural Foundation
    P.O. Box 844
    Skookumchuck, B.C. VOB 2EO
    Good Medicine Cultural Foundation Home Page

    The distributor in the United States:
    Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery
    333 Central Avenue West, P.O. Box 1629
    Browning, Montana, 59417
    Admission is free to the Blackfeet Nation Store in Browning Montana

    ************************************************** **********

    From the “Great Falls Tribune” of May 21, 2007:

    Blackfoot Paper preserve past
    Four-part set was 40 years in the making

    By Eric Newhouse
    Tribune Projects Editor

    “What started out as a simple little book 40 years ago has grown into a four-volume monstrosity,” chuckles the author, Adolf Hungry-Wolf.

    The Blackfoot Papers weighs 15 pounds and tells the story of the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1,500 glossy pages, including nearly 3,000 paintings and illustrations.

    The price is hefty, too--$300 for the boxed, four-volume set or $1,000 for a leather-bound, limited edition volume. Volume 1 is Pikunni history and culture; II is ceremonial life; III is a Pikunni portfolio; and IV is biographies of the elders and leaders.

    Members of the tribe credit Hungry-Wolf for taking the time and effort to learn and preserve their history and culture.
    Darrell Norman, owner of the Lodgepole Gallery in Browning, credits Hungry-Wolf with saving some Blackfeet ways that might have been lost.

    It took sacrifice on Hungry-Wolf’s part.

    “I owe a huge debt to my printers and am struggling hard to get them paid off, after which all the profits will go to the tribe,” he said before a speech in the Great Falls Public Library Thursday evening.

    The massive book cost $310,000 to print last year, he said, and all the author had was an inheritance of $64,000 from the estate of his parents.

    “But the printer believed in this project, so he took my $64,000 and gave me time to pay off the rest,” Hungry-Wolf said.

    Adolf Gutohrlein (his birth name) moved from his native Switzerland to southern California with his parents as a child of 9. In the 1960’s he came to Montana, where his dancing caught the attention of Earl Old Person, chief of the Blackfeet Nation.

    “Adolf Hungry Wolf has been among our people for a long time now and has learned a lot of our ways,” Old Person wrote in the introduction to the book.

    “He takes part in our dances and he also performs some of our traditional ceremonies,” wrote Old Person. “For him to write these books, I think it is important for him to have lived the kind of life that our people did.”

    “I would say that he has shown more interest and obtained more knowledge of our traditional way of life than most of our people today,” wrote Old Person.

    One of Hungry Wolf’s earliest mentors was James White Calf, who died in 1970 at either 110 or 116 years old.

    “He was the last warrior who took a scalp or killed a buffalo,” Hungry-Wolf said. “He fought in the last Plains Indian war (between the Blackfeet and the Gros Ventres) and lived into the Space Age.”

    White Calf taught him that living a natural life was far better than becoming an attorney, as he had once planned. He’s never regretted scrapping that plan.

    Hungry-Wolf now lives along the Kootenay River in British Columbia.

    Norman has known Hungry-Wolf for three decades, often assisting with him in medicine bundle ceremonies presided over by the tribe’s late spiritual leader, George Kicking Woman.

    “He and Beverly have had medicine bundles, painted tepees and participated in sun dances,” Norman said.

    “He’s quite a character, but very credible,” Norman added. “He learned from some very old people, and if he hadn’t made the knowledge available to the Blackfeet people, much of it would have been lost.”


    From BC BOOKWORLD, Winter 2006

    Interview: Keeping the Door from the Wolf
    How Adolf Hungry Wolf spent 44 years preparing his 4-volume history of the Blackfoot people.

    By Alan Twigg

    BC BookWorld: Can you pinpoint where the process for “The Blackfoot Papers” (Good Medicine $300) began?

    Adolf Hungry Wolf: Right after high school, in 1962, I was at an estate auction of an anthropology teacher where everybody wanted pottery and furniture. Nobody bid against me for one box of old photos. There were a few hundred of them, mostly old scenes of the Blackfeet, though I didn’t know that at the time. There was hardly any info with the prints. I didn’t know much about the Blackfeet then. I didn’t have any plans to join them.

    I was making my second photo-history book on railroads. It occurred to me I might do something similar with these “Indian” photos but I never dreamed it would take me 44 years. I just figured I’d get as many of the images identified as possible. By the seventies, I realized it would have to be a very large and well-done book. I’m half Swiss. (Laughter) Precision and accuracy are in the genes!

    BCBW: Not to mention perserverance.

    AHW: Absolutely. All through the years I envisioned one book, but reality made me split it up. Four is our special number, ceremonially. So it became four volumes. And there are 400 numbered limited editions. There are 44 single volumes without numbers, which I’ve been giving to those who helped most, plus my family. The first three volumes explain the tribal history, culture, lore, dancing and ceremonies, etc. The fourth one contains the biographies. It’s the most popular so far. No surprise about that.

    BCBW: What are some of your best discoveries you’ve made over the years?

    AHW: The photos of people I’ve come to know personally. Photos from the early 1900s. Even the late 1800s in a few cases. I’m talking about elders, of course. Almost always they have never seen these photos of themselves. They were usually taken after someone came to a Sun Dance camp, a pow-wow, or whatever. They took some shots, then went back wherever they came from. A handful of these elders are still living. All of them got free books with their photos and stories. Every time I call them they seem to be browsing, reading, finding more stuff they never knew, photos they never saw before, and people they remember.

    BCBW: Do you see anybody doing similar work to what you’re doing? The American filmmaker Ken Burns, for instance?

    AHW: I’ve never heard of Ken Burns. I don’t see my work in relation to anybody else’s. I still don’t take much part in book-related activities. I rarely read book. I never think of myself as a loner, though that’s probably what I am. At least in regards to the literary world. BC BookWorld is about the only place I can think where I might feel I belong.

    BCBW: As the proverbial white guy doing Indian stuff, do you get more flak these days from First Nations intellectuals or from the Indianology academics?

    AHW: I don’t know and I don’t really care. My daughter Star says there have been enough hatchet jobs done over the years that I could do a book by just replying to them all. But that would be boring and useless. The last one was from some German professor. My eldest son and Star did get me to respond to some of the attacks in an upcoming autobiography, but that’s mostly so my grandkids will hear my side of the story. There were some assassination attempts back in the seventies, but I don’t have much dealings with the “Native intellectuals”. I don’t know what they think of me. I don’t care much. I lead a couple of the most important medicine bundle rituals for various traditional families within the Blackfoot Confederacy and I do care what those people think.

    BCBW: You’ve worked all this time without funding, but you must have had some support along the way.

    AHW: (A lot of spiritual and moral support, especially from elders within the tribe, but nothing at all financially, to this day.) The book designing was done over the final two-year period with Dianne Jefferson and her computer. And I have had a very good relationship with David Friesen at Friesen Printing in Manitoba. Without him, these books could not exist. I gave him every penny I owned in cash, which was about one-fifth of the total cost. David flew me to Winnipeg, showed me the plant, put me up. He introduced me to everyone there, then said he believed enough in my project to bring it out. He knows my debt-paying from doing business together for twenty-some years. So that’s it. It’s just Friesens and me. There was no advance announcement, no public relations.


    Good Medicine Cultural Foundation Books

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2
    I recently found the blackfeetindianstore while surfing and noticed this new book, looks pretty good. Ill have to wait for the paperback reprints though, $75 each is kinda much for me right now.

    Unless someone wants to send me a birthday present on January 26!
    There are 2 types of people in the world...
    Really stupid people who think they are smart
    Really smart people who think they are smart.


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