On May 11, 1910, Glacier National Park in Montana became the tenth national park in the United States. Half of the new park was formed by the “mineral strip” which had been sold by the Blackfoot to the United States in 1895. The enabling legislation for the park, however, contained no reference to the Blackfoot, nor does it acknowledge their hunting, fishing, and timber rights to the area, rights which they had reserved in their treaty with the government. The tribe was not invited to the congressional hearing about the park. During the first decade of the Park’s existence, tourism was developed in conjunction with the Great Northern Railroad.
Glacier’s first superintendent was William Richard Logan, the son of an Army captain who made a career out of fighting Indians. He was no friend to Indians, calling them “natural beggars and bummers” and subsequently served as the Indian agent to the Blackfeet and to the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre at the Fort Belknap Reservation. Since he also had little sympathy for conservation, he was made superintendent of Glacier National Park and introduced programs that were developmental rather than environmental.
In 1916, the National Park Service was created as a part of the Department of the Interior and began to develop a philosophy regarding the management of national parks. The newly created National Park Service was mandated:
"to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."Tourism:
Glacier National Park was created in part because of the commercial interests of the Great Northern Railway. The park provided a tourist destination and the Great Northern provided the transportation and also owned the concessions within the park. Great Northern promoted the park as an “Indian” destination and referred to the Blackfoot as “Glacier Park Indians.” Tourists were met by Indians as they got off the train and there were tipis around the park lodges.
When Congress created Glacier National Park in 1910, they did not allocate any money for the development of tourist facilities in the park. The bill that created the park had been promoted and influenced by Louis Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway and son of James J. Hill. The southern boundary of the park is the railroad. Having helped create Glacier National Park, Hill set out to create within the park a tourist facility for wealthy easterners who would ride his railroad to the park. Since Glacier’s mountains looked somewhat similar to the Swiss Alps, Hill envisioned the park as America’s Swiss Alps which would draw the wealthy tourists who had traditionally vacationed in Europe. Between 1910 and 1930, Hill commissioned the construction of nine Swiss-style chalets to be built in and around the park.
The Glacier Park Company, a subsidiary of the Great Northern Railway, operated as a concessionaire within Glacier National Park. Glacier Park Company’s facilities were oriented primarily to serve tourists who arrived in Glacier on the Great Northern’s passenger trains.
The first of the Swiss-style chalets was the Belton Chalet, located just outside of the Park. The Belton Chalet opened in 1910 just two months after Glacier became a national park. Glacier Park Chalet opened in 1913. The massive upright logs used in this hotel were cut in Oregon and Washington and then shipped to Montana by rail. Since the railroad didn’t have equipment which could lift the logs off the flatcars, they simply extended the railroad tracks to the construction site.
The lobby of the Glacier Park Lodge is shown above.
The Great Northern Railway designed and built most of the early roads and trails in the park. In 1914 Hill made arrangements with the White Motor Company to provide bus services in the park and the following year White Motor Company formed the Glacier Park Transportation Company to operate the buses.
One of the early buses is shown above (NPS photo).
Glacier Park Company opened the Many Glacier Hotel (shown above) in 1915. This was the largest facility in the park.
By 1917, the Great Northern Railway had spent more money than the government—about twice as much—in developing Glacier National Park.
As a part of its Glacier National Park promotion, the Great Northern Railway in 1915 produced a movie entitled A Day in the Life of a Glacier Park Indian. In addition, the Great Northern Railway took six Blackfoot to the San Francisco Exhibition where they presented lectures, movies, and transparencies about Glacier National Park.
The Blackfoot and the Kootenai had explored and used what is now Glacier National Park for thousands of years. During this time they had given names to all of the major geographic features of the area. The United States government, however, ignored the aboriginal names and proceeded to rename these features. Thus, the mountain known as Napi (Old Man or Trickster) to the Blackfoot was named Mount Cleveland in 1898 as a way of honoring President Grover Cleveland. The glacier known as Azina Kokutoi (Gros Ventre Ice) to the Blackfoot was named Dixon Glacier in honor of Senator Joseph M. Dixon, who had helped push through the legislation which established Glacier National Park. Dixon also pushed through a bill which broke up the Flathead Reservation and added greatly to his personal wealth. The list of geographic features named for presidents, wealthy men, politicians, and their friends is fairly long.
In 1915, Blackfoot leaders Curly Bear, Wolf Plume, and Tail Feathers Coming Over The Hill visited Washington, D.C. to complain about the renaming of mountains, lakes, rivers, and glaciers in Glacier National Park. The Indians wanted Blackfoot names used and they were promised that in the future only Indian names or their translations would be used.
While most people today think of hunting as an activity which is incompatible with the management of a national park, in the beginning this was not the case. Two years after the creation of Glacier National Park, two Blackfoot hunters were arrested for hunting in their usual areas within the park. Their firearms, traps, and hides were taken from them. The Department of the Interior later instructed the park to return these items, but the Indians were not to be allowed in the park.
At this time, non-Indians were allowed to hunt in the park and government hunters were actively seeking to exterminate coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions within the park. While the Blackfoot felt that the treaty had reserved their right to hunt in the park, the government simply ignored their concerns.