Glacier Centennial: James Willard Schultz

“As a resort for the sportsman the Chief Mountain country cannot be excelled. The scenery is grand, game plenty, the fishing unexcelled.” — James Willard Schultz, as quoted in Man in Glacier

Schultz and his son (right) Hart - MSU Archives

James Willard Schultz (1859 – 1947) was explorer, hunter, mountain guide and author who came to the Backbone of the World before Glacier National Park was established, and then popularized the area through his books about the Blackfeet and the mountains.

Schultz is responsible for calling magazine editor George Bird Grinnell’s attention to the region and to the plight of the Blackfeet. Schultz served as Grinnell’s guide when the “Forest and Stream” editor came west. Grinnell, who would later become known as The Father of Glacier National Park, used his influence to gain the mountains’ national park status.

Schultz lived among the Blackfeet, marrying Matzi-awotan (Fine Shield), whom he referred to as Natahki. She had been badly injured during the notorious Baker massacre in 1870 and would remain partially crippled the rest of her life. Schultz, known as Apikuni (Spotted Robe) by the Blackfeet, and Natahki had one son, Hart Merriam Schultz (Lone Wolf). Hart (1882 – 1970) became a noted artist and illustrated his father’s books.

In addition to Grinnell, Schultz was a contemporary of scout and explorer Joe Kipp and explorer Hugh Monroe. While his books helped popularize the area, he later lamented about the rules and regulations that came with the area’s status as a park. He also wondered where some of the new place names were coming from:

“In 1915, the last time James Willard Schultz traveled into the (Swiftcurrent) valley, the Piegans with him asked about the place names. Who is this McDermott? The lake should be named Jealous Woman after the old story. Are the men behind these names powerful chiefs? Schultz confessed that he had never heard of most of them. The party thought even the wild animals looked changed, domesticated for the visitors in some way. McDermott Lake would later be given the long-time local name of Swiftcurrent.” (Malcolm R. Campbell, “Bears, Where They Fought” in Nature’s Gifts.)

Today in Glacier National Park, you will find Lake Natahki by following Apikuni Creek from the shore of Lake Sherburne. Geographical features in the park named by Schultz include Grinnell Glacier, Going-to-the-Sun Mountain and Singleshot Mountain. Apikuni Mountain (spelled “Appekuny” on older maps and trail guides) carries Schultz’s Blackfeet (Piegan) name.

Books by Schultz, some of which are available today in reprint, include his autobiography My Life As an Indian, his account of a Missouri River trip with Natahki, Floating on the Missouri, and Sign Posts of Adventure:Glacier National Park as the Indians Know It.

Like Grinnell, Schultz documented much of the early history of the shining mountains that would one day become Glacier National Park. Like others who wrote about the region over a period of time, Schultz occasionally appeared to have memory lapses about people and events wherein one published account didn’t quite match another. As the late historian Jack Holterman wrote in Who Was Who in Glacier Land, “Many persons have been lured to Glacier by the fictions of James Willard Schultz, wondering where to draw the line between fiction and fact.”

A novel set in the park's Swiftcurrent Valley

2 thoughts on “Glacier Centennial: James Willard Schultz

    • I’ve enjoyed reading many of Schultz’s books over the years, though they seem to be a bit harder to find now than when I first visited the park. As for moving to MT, you’re right, a CJ might be an important part of the equation.

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