CULTURE HEROES: GRAY LANDS AND GRAY GHOSTS:  THE TIME OF FLINT [HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] UPDATED, WITH REFERRAL LINKS

John Gray and Marienne Gray  1841
 

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: I am writing much new material and expanding older stuff -- and I am doing so "with all deliberate speed."  When I initially wrote a shorter version of this piece, I could hike five or six rough mountain miles per day with ease.  I no longer can hike as I once did  -- at least not at this point.  But, ever the optimist, I hope to again, and I can certainly always remember with the greatest clarity.

[Special Note 2/06/06:  From mid-Summer, 2004, I have been occasionally hiking two to three miles each trek in our immediate rough mountains -- that commence above our far up home.  Accompanied by my oldest daughter, Maria, and our Shelty, and occasionally by other good family members, I have to move more slowly, but I get there and I get home. And we often get to the special Gray places.  My feet have grown once again -- to Size 16 -- and I have new Lowa Mountain Boots.]

John Gray, Mohawk/Scottish, who was frequently known as Ignace Hatchiorauquasha, and his Mohawk wife, Marienne, are my direct ancestors.  They are also among the major culture heroes of our family  -- exemplifying the best of the "Indian Way" :  human beings of great grace and courage who devoted their lives to serving their community rather than serving themselves -- and who developed and maintained an extraordinarily cohesive family which functioned always as a collective and communalistic "horde."

Most of their lives were spent in uncharted lands in the turbulent Western fur trade of the Rockies in and around the Tetons and the Snake River country.

I spend no time at all on the so-called "Mountain Men/re-enactors" of today who occasionally try to contact me for information on the Grays.  These people, romantics and superficial ones at that, are interested only in self-serving glitter for themselves -- and care nothing about the great creative and constructive  life-long activism and service of John and
Marienne.

A man who did care  -- and who well captured much of the meaning of all of this -- wrote of John Gray:

"His unusual ability to deal with the whites enhanced his stature as an
Iroquois chief. . .he stood out as a gifted leader of his people, understanding and following their ways in a manner that would have been difficult for a white man. . . he not only explored the wilderness. . .he also helped to bridge the cultural gap between Indians and whites during the years of the fur trade, even though much of the time the Iroquois and white trappers did not get along together at all well , and the whites often resented his position on the Indian side when there were differences in outlook.  More than that, his leadership of the Iroquois out of Ogden's camp, May 24, 1825, contributed substantially to the Hudson's Bay Company adoption of competitive pricing that limited the expansion of the St. Louis fur trade in the Oregon country."  [Merle Wells, Idaho State Historical Society, on John Gray]


THE CULTURE HEROES:  GRAY LANDS AND GRAY GHOSTS  [HUNTER BEAR -- UPDATED 2/06/06]

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and remembering way.

It was a Time for Flint.  It was the Day of the Strike.

The setting was a ruggedly beautiful one on the present border of
Northeastern Utah and Southeastern Idaho.  And the day was May 24, 1825 at the camp of Peter Skene Ogden, a major fur entrepreneur for the Hudson's Bay Company.

Matters were not tranquil at the HBC bastion -- and the dark clouds of human storm were very low indeed.  The long smoldering resentment of the Native trappers of the beaver -- Indians from the Northeast and virtually all Mohawks of the Iroquois Confederacy -- was heating rapidly.  The issues involved their multi-faceted exploitation by the HBC which paid only modestly for beaver skins, charged high for goods, and kept them in a state of continual debt and quasi-indentured servitude.

And now the pine needles were beginning to burn openly.

Following a meeting at his tent, John Gray, Mohawk of St. Regis [Akwesasne] of far up-state New York, and the always fighting leader of the Iroquois and related fur trappers in the Far West, strode to the tent of Ogden and denounced the Hudson's Bay Company leaders -- "the gentlemen of the Columbia" as he sarcastically put it -- as "the greatest villains in the world."

He  vigorously added a thoughtfully significant threat:  "And if they were
here this day, I would shoot them."

At that point, John Gray, with eleven other Iroquois trappers, led a
historic labor strike as they all walked out on Ogden and the HBC.  The next day, they were joined by five other Native trappers -- including Joseph Annance, a St. Francis Abenaki of Quebec, from a famous Native family of Mohawk origin.

The strike, its walkaway, and its far flung implications -- inspiring other
Natives and Anglo trappers as well and frightening a wide array of fur
bosses -- was probably the first such labor action in the Intermountain
West.  It successfully boosted the payment for beaver pelts, eliminated the viciously exploitive pricing system, and ended the quasi-indentured
servitude over the whole, entire wide region.

John Gray was my great/great/great grandfather.  And so, too, was Joseph Annance.

---------------------

In the year 2002, the big fresh rounded male mountain lion tracks in the
Fall trail dust of a steep rugged valley/canyon in Southeastern Idaho were very large -- maybe even four inches across each paw print -- and among the biggest I'd ever seen. I was personally not surprised.  He'd been coming down the Trail, probably early in the morning and I was climbing up at high noon -- and we were both in a very special place indeed where always interesting and sometimes unusual things occur. He lives there.  I and various family members go there much.

Our family calls this Gray Hole.  We believe the Creator designed it for the Winter season especially.  It's part of a complex of fascinating and smoothly related geography that has deep and enduring meaning for our Native family -- and it always will.

This is how it's all laid out:

In a broad and fascinating array of mountains and extremely high hills --
all public land -- there's a tremendously high and steep, juniper-covered
ridge that we call Lookout.  And on its eastern slope lies a small downward flowing semi-hidden valley.  We call that Winter Camp.  And from mid-Fall onward into Winter, the initially southward-shifting Sun strikes it with early and increasingly warm force in the morning -- just as soon as the yellow glow rises over the snowy eastern mountains yonder.  And then, in mid-Winter and well into Spring as the Sun moves northward, it continues to reach effectively into that valley.

For most of the year, there is much wild wheat grass handy and, from Fall
well into Spring, there's snow and snow water in the valley -- which tapers slowly down, eventually becoming a half-mile run-off into the Portneuf River.  There's wild game in the valley, especially in the Winter:  mule deer and moose, rabbits, wild chickens.

There is always plenty of firewood close at hand. All over.

And when late afternoon comes and the Sun is going down, it darkens early. But the basic warmth remains in the Winter Camp valley until actual nightfall.

Immediately on the other side of Lookout ridge, there is much, much game indeed.  That's a very deep and steep and always moodily mysterious and extremely rugged canyon valley.  That's our Gray Hole. And it's formed by several substantial tributary canyons that come down from other  geological upsurges of super-high country rising skyward to its immediate south.  And Gray Hole is molded as well by side canyons dropping sharply down from Lookout itself on the east -- whose high, high ridge slope lifts even more sharply on this side than on the other. The slope of Lookout ridge rises starkly -- and almost darkly for much of the day -- since the Sun  never gets in there until the morning is very well along. And on the western edge of Gray Hole are  two moderately high ridges -- in between which the long and widening fingers of sharply defined contributing canyons also press downward into the main canyon/valley.

Junipers and sage abound  all over. In many of the side canyons, and at the major seasonal stream flow at the bottom, are groves of wild red maples. And some of those trees hold  high the large and visually ominous dark-twigged and almost black nests of very large and aggressive hawks.

In addition to being shadowy well into the morning, Gray Hole is always
secluded.  And, for us, it's always friendly -- very friendly indeed.  That
goes back a long, long way -- back to Another Time.

Down at the bottom and about half-way up from the sloping lower end of the canyon/valley is an extremely thin but well-defined and ancient game trail. So hidden is its origin at the bottom -- as well as its exit/origin far above -- that we call it simply the Secret Trail.  It winds its circuitous course for several hundred yards up ridges, maneuvering intricately along, sometimes dipping slightly and then rising very sharply, becoming ever more rocky -- until, at its final stretch, it goes virtually straight-steep up for a long and extraordinarily  challenging pull. It finally surfaces, still inconspicuously, still hidden, onto and into a vasty sage-brush covered gap with the southern end of Lookout on the left and, on the right, another high mountain and tributary feeder into Gray Hole.

And in the Winter, Gray Hole fills not only with some snow -- but with much, much wild game coming down from the country of the very high mountains.

And there are always, at Gray Hole, its permanent residents. Mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes.  Now and then  there's a rattlesnake, its tannish skin with many light and darker brown splotches blending easily into the earth and sage and dry grass.

We see all of these.  All of the wild kin of ours.

The lions and the coyotes and the bobcats travel widely -- back and forth
over Lookout ridge, up and down and along the Secret Trail. But for them,
and for always, Gray Hole is home.

And us -- we Native folks?

We live very close by all of this.  So close we can walk right out of our
house -- and up and beyond any time we wish.  And this is very often indeed.

In the Summer of 2002, a young woman at a choice Eastern university working on her PhD dissertation, and from that a book, made contact with me through the Ethical Humanist Society [Ethical Culture.]  Her determined and splendid work focuses on the great American philosopher, William James, with a significant dimension on his worthy philosopher/socially activist brother-in-law, William Mackintire Salter.  It was William M. Salter, a founder and a major leader of the Ethical Culture Society -- and a vigorous member of the almost all-white Indian Rights Association -- who adopted my essentially full-blooded Native father, Frank Gray, as a somewhat older child and changed his name to John Randall Salter.  The adoption was a difficult one for my father who eventually broke away from the Salters in his mid-teens for a dramatic life of his own -- but who maintained some connection with them, and especially with the always supportive James family who later  played a major role in effecting his education at the Chicago Art  Institute.

This very capable scholar of today, fascinated by all of this, prepared a
long list of excellent questions about my father's relationship with the
Salter and the James families for her chapter on pluralism and ethnicity.
And one of those questions was:

"What were your father's views on religion and how did they change over
time?  Would you call him an essentialist or a relativist?. . .How much of
these views would you attribute to his relationship to Salter or to James?"

To this, I responded in part:  "If you are using "essentialist" as essentialism or biological reductionism, my father never even remotely believed anything like that.  He recognized the power of culture -- and socio-cultural environment.  But he also always accepted, as do I always, the presence of ancestral spirits -- a component of his Wabanaki [Abenaki and closely related tribes] and Iroquois [Mohawk] family lines."

----------------------------------

When he came West in 1816, into the remote and beautiful and frequently dangerous Columbia and Snake River country as a beaver trapper with the Hudson's Bay Company, John Gray -- Mohawk of St. Regis [Akwesasne] -- was 22 years old, Jesuit-educated.  His Saint was Ignatius of Loyola, founder of that Order, patron of warriors. [Occasionally in the Far West, John Gray used the name Ignace Hatchiorauquasha.]  And his wife, Marienne Neketichon
[Mary Ann Charles], Mohawk of Caughnawaga [Kahnawake], was 16.

The eastern reservations were increasingly circumscribed, dull and land-dwindling.  Adventure beckoned -- the Call of the Far Away Hills. John Gray and Marienne took the Wind and rode with It.

He was the son of a Scottish-American veteran of the Revolutionary War, William L. Gray, who married into the Akwasasne Mohawks, became an important interpreter for the Indians -- and then also for the United States during the War of 1812 in which he was wounded, dying in British captivity in Quebec.  [Occasionally, in a few of the numerous histories mentioning John Gray, one encounters the erroneous spelling, Grey -- a mistake initially made by the adversarial HBC field operative, Alexander Ross.  Every generation of the family itself has consistently used Gray.]

He generally had several rifles at any one time, about six horses, and at least a dozen beaver traps.  For he and other Mohawks, the ballad of the Mountain Men, Shenandoah ["Across the wide Missouri"] came to blend with the old Iroquois songs.

He was an extraordinarily committed and enduring activist -- from the very beginning,  He fought for the Iroquois fur hunters and their allied Native trappers from one turbulent crucible to another.  And, in time, he and other Mohawks became vigorous advocates for the Flathead Nation of the Northern Rockies -- warning them in detail about that which had happened to the Natives of the East at the hands of the Europeans and the Euro-Americans.

Occasionally, he and his band of almost twenty Native fur hunters and their growing families were grouped together.  But, usually, in the traditional fashion of trappers, they were scattered for much of the year.  Now and then they gathered at the wild rendezvous affairs -- drink and singing and sometimes women -- organized by fur companies  and frequented by the Anglo mountain  men.  More often than not, however, they had their uniquely Native gatherings in special and hidden places of wonderful ruggedness.

They lived with their individual families over a very wide range indeed -- a great area where "the world opens out instead of in" -- a vast array of mountains and forests and high deserts and deep canyons and rivers-of-no-return.  All of this was seen by most whites as
wilderness -- and by all of the Indians, whatever their respective origin and tribe, as quite familiar lands.

Very early-on following his arrival in the Golden West, a deep valley right on the edges of the Teton country and just into the Idaho side of the present Idaho/Wyoming border, came to be known as "Gray's Hole."  This was the late Spring and Summer base for him and his cohesive and  communalistic family.  And, in time, a small nearby river came to be known as John Gray's River -- and a close-by lake, now a national wildlife refuge just inside Idaho, is called Gray's Lake. From this camp, the Grays tended to travel fairly widely.

All through this region of high elevation, the winters are rough -- with much cold and many heavy snows.

Almost as soon as he had his good-weather home established at Gray's Hole, he and his family set up another major base at a somewhat lower elavation  -- a winter camp -- in the almost hidden valley flowing directly down from the high eastern slope of  Lookout Ridge,  not far above  what came over time to be  called the Portneuf River. Here, in a world of rolling
sage-brush plains and high rounded hills  and knife-edge ridges and sharp-tooth mountains, the early morning Winter sun shines directly onto the camp area from the rugged horizon just at the mountains to the east,  And its warmth and light pour in from the early morning  into the mid-afternoon.

And then, moving down from the other very steep -- western -- slope of that far up Lookout ridge, lies the oft-shadowy and secluded and Winter game-filled valley/canyon that we simply call Gray Hole.

And that's where John Gray loved to hunt.

They were in this setting from the mid-Fall well into the Spring -- every basic Winter season for almost twenty years.  Here at this Winter Camp -- and at the Summer base as well -- some Gray children entered the world. The first born of all was my direct ancestor, Peter Gray, for whom the family and census records say in remarkably succinct fashion, "Born 1818, born in the Rocky Mountains."  He was born right in the Winter Camp in the almost hidden valley.

Well before the angry -- and eminently successful -- confrontation with Peter Skene Ogden on that May day in 1825, the hard-advocating and fiery and math-knowledgeable John Gray was the focus of an increasingly jaundiced view by a growing number of  British HBC managers and representatives.  This became open hostility following the report by key HBC staffer, Alexander Ross, who had, from his perspective, the great misfortune of spending a part of a trapping season with John Gray and the other Iroquois in an atmosphere of significantly mounting mutual acrimony.  Much of this stemmed from John Gray's fully successful campaign to hold up any Iroquois cooperation with Ross until the HBC man cut the costs of company trade goods in half and redid all of the account books to retroactively reflect the considerable change. In the aftermath of this, Alexander Ross referred  frequently to John Gray with such hostile descriptions as " turbulent blackguard" and "a damned rascal."

And after the very successful showdown with Ogden , and all of its rapidly broadening ramifications in which the payment for beaver pelts was much increased and the entire pricing system underwent sweeping and substantial reformative change -- and all of this across the entire region --  the British view of the Mohawk of Akwesasne was one of universal hostility.

It was certainly extremely mutual. After the Ogden crisis, John Gray and his Native band tended to work much more closely with the Americans in, say, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.  The Blackfeet, who resented the growing Iroquois alliance with the Flathead Nation and who often tilted toward the British, killed John Gray's close colleague, the older much-seasoned Mohawk mentor, Old Pierre Tevanitagon.

And then they almost killed John Gray himself.

Suddenly jumped while on horseback by a number of Blackfeet who  wounded him, John Gray rode like the highest of high winds straight to the Portneuf River.   There, dismounting, he plunged into the Winter-cold waters, concealing himself in reeds -- from which he then made a kind of rudimentary raft. With this, he traveled the Portneuf down river for a short distance and then, with extreme difficulty, made it to his nearby camp. It took him a full two months to recover.

His taste for danger was, however, unabated.  He had an increasingly demonstrated penchant for fighting and killing grizzly bears -- themselves the epitome of lethal ferocity.  In addition to his guns, he used knives with great skill.

And at Bear River, in the southeastern corner of Idaho, Milton Sublette -- he of a very well known Western fur family -- made the signal mistake of physically demonstrating unwelcome interest in one of the very young Gray daughters.  Deeply slashed in several parts of his body by the devoted father, Sublette was given up for death by all observers -- but somehow survived.

The Gray daughters were never molested again by anyone.

And, following that, John Gray killed even more grizzly bears.

For all of its challenges -- and also much because of them -- this wild, free and egalitarian life of those trappers and explorers of several races who came to be called "Mountain Men," can only be seen as utopian in whatever rough and ready sense.  And, although it lasted for several decades, it finally began to fade -- as beaver prices fluctuated ever downward -- and then gradually it passed away.

For John Gray and many of his band, there was also another reason.  Their families were now growing rapidly.  Some were much concerned about the absence of Catholic priests and the lack of formal education in the Intermountain world.

And so, with virtually all of his colleagues and their families  -- a very few remaining  with the Flatheads -- John Gray left the Far West in the Fall of 1835 and relocated at very small French Settlement on the  banks of the lower Missouri.  That community soon  became associated with Westport -- a key Oregon Trail stop and a launching place toward the  far off Rockies -- and those several small communities in the immediate area came to make up the basic beginning of Kansas City.  In 1840, a detailed parish map of Westport, drawn by a Jesuit priest and an extremely gifted artist, Father Nicolas Point, indicates 26 resident Catholic families -- including that of John Gray and other Natives.

But, for the Indian trapper families, nothing there really worked out. Some drifted away -- back East.  But most stayed -- especially with a few of their offspring now beginning to marry local and regional Indians.

The relatively flat and humid lands of the lower Missouri were far from a worthy and comfortable setting for those who had  savored so deeply and so long the old wild, free life in the dry air of the rugged Rockies, who had summered in the great Teton country, and who had wintered in the Portneuf region.  And, for them, far too many people were coming through from the East, wild game was dwindling, work was increasingly drudgery.

And there were no mountains. No lookout ridges,  No canyon/valleys. No Holes.  No enduringly bright -- very bright -- blue sky.

They hunted the brush thick river bottoms and the hills just west of the Missouri -- full of the tough strange black trees called Osage Orange.

But it was never the same.

Father Point, extremely empathetic and supportive, noted in his journal the "drunkenness" and "wretched" nature of almost all of the adult Iroquois men in the general Westport region.

And in the midst of this, a young woman -- daughter of Joseph Annance, the St. Francis Abenaki of the family of Mohawk origin -- became pregnant with the child of the oldest Gray son, Peter, with whom she'd had a quite long-term relationship. The Annances were Anglican.  She was sent East into the White Mountains of New Hampshire to live with her uncle, the well-known Dartmouth-educated Native guide, Lewis [Louis] Annance.  When the child was born, she was named Louise and called Lizzie and she grew up in the family of Lewis Annance -- mostly in the wild Moosehead Lake country of Northern Maine to which he soon migrated.

That child of Westport conception, who occasionally used the Annance name and often that of Gray, was my great grandmother.

The Sun was now very low for John Gray and for most of the trapper Iroquois. But, for him, there was one more moment where it shone very brightly and very warmly and in full -- hovering just over the western horizon.

The Jesuits, encouraged by some of the Iroquois and also by Flathead emissaries to the Church at St. Louis, were now preparing to establish missions in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The arrival of the notable missionary leader, Father Pierre Jean De Smet,  Belgium-born and based at St. Louis -- who was to become a major and life-long advocate for many of the Western tribes -- signaled the beginning of a historic trek. Six Jesuits, including Father Point -- a meticulous journalist and an increasingly splendid artist -- left Westport for the Far West in a larger party combined with other travelers, in  mid-May, 1841.

And John Gray, accompanied by Marienne and one small grand-daughter, was the primary hunter for the Great Odyssey -- which moved slowly and with determination across the warm and humid prairies and out onto the hot high plains.  And then, with the dark sentry mountains of  Wyoming's East signaling, they entered the far-flung region of the Rocky Mountains.

In what is now central Wyoming on July 5, John Gray carved his name, "J. Gray" onto Independence Rock.  So did twelve other members of their party so inscribe -- including Father Point, who sketched the Rock and added those names in an intricately printed column.

Somewhere along this great trip, Father Point did a very detailed sketch of John Gray -- the only known portrait depiction ever made.  It shows a side-view of a pleasant, lean Native face, with strong cheekbones and jaw and prominent eyes.  Dark, somewhat curly hair, pushes out from under a white, wide-brimmed Western-type hat. He wears a kerchief tie.

The Jesuit sketched Marienne as well:  a side view of a seated, rather small and sturdy woman wearing a fringed buckskin shirt.  Her hair is long and black, flowing from a full and very pleasant Native face.

In his journals, Father Point observed that John Gray "showed extraordinary courage and dexterity, especially when, on one occasion, he dared to attack five bears at once."  The priest of the pen and paints did more than write that sentence.  Rather heroically himself, he sat under a nearby tree and in an extraordinary sketch, depicted John Gray's simultaneous fight with the five grouped grizzly bears -- all of which the great hunter killed in what can only be viewed as a major climactic point -- in a life full of such mountain peaks.

Later in the summer journey, in August, John Gray and Marienne and the small grand-daughter made an extremely important personal side trip. Leaving the main party, they traveled their own way westward to the Portneuf River, stopping only briefly at the fairly new, small trading center known as Fort Hall which had been established by the HBC in 1834 at that point on the Oregon Trail.

From there, they had to ride only a very few  poignant miles to the hidden valley of Winter Camp of the warm winter Sun, the super high ridge of Lookout, and the oft-shadowy secluded canyon/valley of Gray Hole so full of wild game in the winters. It was all there -- along with the charred wood remnants of their old camp fires,  The sky was dark blue and the winds were cool.

They stayed there for a few days. Then they returned, slowly, to the lower Missouri and Westport.

There was never another trip to that very special and beautiful piece of the Earth. Did they ever expect to return -- some day, some way? Maybe for good? They had to have hoped in that direction. Hoped very hard.

We do know that John and Marienne Gray and at least several members of their immediate family regretted -- many, many times over -- the move from the Rocky Mountains into the comparatively flat Missouri river lands of the prairies.

In 1843, a red-haired Shoshone woman, long regarded as an enemy of his family, knifed and killed John Gray at Westport.  A year later, the Missouri flooded everything, destroying the Gray home and many others.  Marienne Gray stubbornly moved up on a high bluff above their original location and, with several of their immediate family members in the area -- including Peter -- remained there for many years.  She and two daughters made and sold fashionable dresses to well-to-do Anglo women.

But then, gradually, children continued to marry,  Some stayed around. Others moved to the Four Directions. Accompanied by a daughter, Marienne Gray eventually moved well south of the developing Kansas City to Fort Scott, Kansas. She died there of cholera in 1862.

--------------------------------------------

Many of these things are things we have always known.  Some are things we've learned.  All of these things are precious to us -- as are the special lands themselves.

Flagstaff, Arizona, the high pine mountain community bordering the vast Navajo reservation on the immediate west, is my home town. I grew up there -- very much among the Navajo -- with my Native father from the Far Northeast and an Anglo mother from a very old Western frontier family. From my earliest years, I trapped and hunted -- and later, long before the legal age of 18,  was fighting forest fires summer after summer. A passionate commitment from my earliest childhood years onward, killing a huge bear and thus coming of age,  was fulfilled in the great Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area -- traditionally the most special place of all in the Cosmos for me.

For all of my adult life, I have been a radical social justice organizer -- often teaching in conjunction with that -- all over the United States. And my wife, Eldri, from Minnesota has consistently been with me in all these struggles and always will be.  But wherever our wandering trail has taken us, "as many years have come and gone," our hearts have always been in the mountains of the West.

And then there was that day in mid-May, 1997, when Eldri and I stood and looked at the massive floodwaters of the Red River of the North.  Those, born of a dozen blizzards and having engulfed virtually all of Grand Forks, North Dakota that mid-April -- forcing the evacuation of over 50,000 people -- had stopped only three hundred yards east of our
way-out-on-the-edge home.  I had never trusted the Red River.  Never.

We had lived in that bleak, flat country of extreme climates for sixteen turbulently activist years.  I had taught Indian Studies [and Honors] at the University of North Dakota and had been involved in continually militant and social justice work throughout the entire region.  My classes had been huge, my organizing eminently effective, and we had made many friends indeed -- and some extremely venomous enemies.  If much of our sojourn in that setting had been pleasant, some of the experiences -- especially those in and around some University faculty and administration circles  -- had been the most vicious that we'd ever encountered.

When the Great Flood of '97 came, we knew it was Our Sign.  It was time to go -- back to the Mountain West. And we knew precisely to what very special place.

And so we came to the Pocatello, Idaho setting on the Portneuf River in the Summer of 1997:  myself and Eldri; our youngest daughter, Josie; and my oldest daughter, Maria, and her two children -- Thomas and Samantha. Rescued by me just before the Red River struck with its fury, Maria and her little group had lost everything.  Our families now joined, we brought our cats, my one-half bobcat, our rabbit, and the turtle on the long westward trek out of the hot Western plains and into the cool Montana mountains and down into Southeastern Idaho.

And, at just the right spot -- 'way far up on the western frontier of Pocatello, right on the very edge -- the fine house we needed was for sale and at an extremely reasonable price. It had been, it seemed to us, waiting patiently just for our arrival.

We bought it immediately.  It's less than an hour's steep up-hill walk through rough country to the two very special valleys and the protective ridge of my ancestors:  Winter Camp, Lookout, Gray Hole.  We walk right out of the door of our home -- and up -- and we do this all the time.

Not surprisingly, no sooner did we arrive than it became quite clear that my reputation as a "known agitator" had preceded me. Surveillance of many kinds by various "lawmen" and harassment by racist elements began. It continues. Yet, with only an exception or two, our immediate neighbors -- people who've gotten to know us on a personal basis and who come from various ethnicities -- are friendly and just fine.

And we are much more than survivors.  We are the Flint People, Tough, fighting, resilient.  The Hudson's Bay situation then, the same system now. Solidarity and sacrifice, courage and leadership are as critical today as they were in those old-time struggles in the Rockies -- as they have been all through the blood-dimmed history of humanity's River of No Return.

We all -- all of us -- have many priceless things, some so very ancient indeed, that can never be taken away.  And very high among them for us here are those extraordinary places, many of them now so close, where the coyotes howl and the lions and the bobcats prowl. The strength from there is deep, timeless, enduring -- and very, very sharp.

It is a Time for Flint.

Hunter Gray  [Hunter Bear]  Micmac / St. Francis Abenaki / St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org

More material on John Gray on these pages:
 

http://www.hunterbear.org/family_stuff.htm

http://www.hunterbear.org/some_notes_on_gray.htm

http://hunterbear.org/kind_correspondence.htm  [John Gray's land of long ago -- Akwesasne]

For Father Point's 1841 on-scene sketch of John Gray's historic battle with the five grizzly bears, see http://www.hunterbear.org/grizzlyfight.htm

And see Personal Narrative at  http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm

And in a contemporary context:

http://www.hunterbear.org/coming%20of%20age%20[western%20memoir.%20htm.htm

http://www.hunterbear.org/ghosts.htm

http://www.hunterbear.org/hunter_gray_in_the_gem_state.htm

http://hunterbear.org/outlaw_trail1.htm  Outlaw Trail: The Native as Organizer

http://hunterbear.org/forces_and_faces_along_the_trail.htm

http://hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

It's critical to always keep fighting -- and to always remember that, if one
lives with grace, he/she should be prepared to die with grace.



 

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