Evidence exists in the Glacier National Park region suggesting humans have lived in the area for over 10,000 years.
By the time the first European explorers arrived, in the early 1800s, several native tribes inhabited the area. While the Blackfeet controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains, the Salish and Kootenai lived and hunted in the western valleys. The Kootenai people, in particular, were skilled hunters, trappers, and fishermen, caring for the land that facilitated their life.
Beginning this week, Backcountry Journeys is hosting multiple photography trips at Glacier National Park through autumn and the end of the season. When visiting this incredible place, we like to think about those who have come before us, especially the stewards of the land we are now able to enjoy. The following is a Kootenai oral tradition about their reverence for the grizzly bear:
“The grizzly bear is a very significant character for the Kootenai people.
Because he is the carrier of ceremony. That is very important to the Kootenai people because of an incident that took place a long time ago where a little boy was lost. Became lost during the huckleberry picking season.
And was taken in by the grizzly bear. And lived with the grizzly bear for three years. And during that course of time of living with the grizzly bear the boy was taught that the grizzly looks in on the ceremonies of the Kootenai people in the middle of the wintertime. And the grizzly bear by looking down the pipe stem of someone who had smoked the pipe, he could see from inside the pipe stem what was inside that person’s heart.
And he could see how sincere that person was and what it was that person was asking for. And so the little boy learned that thats what the grizzly bear did. During those three years he learned how to do it. And then the grizzly bear returned that boy during huckleberry season back to his parents. And the little boy shared with his family and with the rest of the people how important it was for the Kootenai people to always be sincere in their heart when they pick up the pipe and when they smoke it.
Because what goes on in their heart is revealed within the stem of the pipe that they’re smoking. And the grizzly bear looks at it and determines whether or not that person is sincere and whether or not that person is worthy of receiving what it is they are asking for. So thats why the grizzly is important to the Kootenai people.”
A story like this provides for some chills and reverence, doesn’t it? Glacier National Park’s allure comes from more than simply its grandeur and mountain scenery. It also comes from the animals that roam, such as the grizzly bear. And from the people who have made this area home for so long.
Kenton Krueger grew up and spent the first 33 years of his life in the corn country of Omaha, Nebraska. After studying aviation at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute, he “conned” his way into the newsroom at the award-winning Omaha World-Herald where for 3+ years he wrote and photographed news articles on a variety of topics such as community events, travel and even mixed martial arts for the sports department. Yet something was missing. While on backpacking trips to Grand Teton and Grand Canyon National Parks in the mid-2000’s he was quick to realize that the wild lands of the western United States stoked a fire in his heart as nothing else could. This realization led to a relocation to Flagstaff, Arizona, and he hasn’t looked back. He has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, a former pilot, newspaper photographer, and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.
Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!
Image Review: Wildlife
with Russell Graves
Tuesday, August 10th, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time