Monday, April 11, 2011


Well I've finally gotten around to uploading some of the pictures from my visit to Missoula, MT over spring break. It was a breath of fresh air from my Winter in the midwest. I'm truly excited to move there in the Fall.

The Grizzly - The Mascot of UMT

This is a view from part way up Mount Sentinel, which is right behind campus. Looking across Missoula to the mountains beyond. 
 They Call this Big Sky Country for a reason....
Looking out over the Clark Fork river, which flows right through town.
Fly fishing abounds in this area.

The Flathead Indians

So I'm taking Native American Culture (SCA 230) this spring, and I was given the assignment of writing a paper about a specific Native American tribe, and an issue involving them. I chose to write my paper about the Flathead Indians, and their relationship with the surrounding communities. I wrote this paper from about 10 PM - 4 AM the night before the paper was due. I was AMAZED when I received a 40/40 grade.

                                             The Flathead
    Relations between contemporary U.S. citizens and Native Americans have always been weak at best. From the time Europeans stepped onto North American soil, they have been trying their best to push the natives to different locations, away from their sacred customs and religions and into a more Eurocentric American culture. I feel that within the last 50 years, much progress has been made to help Native Americans get back to their cultural heritage, and many people’s beliefs and opinions about them have been changed dramatically. For the purpose of this paper, I will be specifically studying the Flathead Indian nation and their relationship with their surrounding community.
    To begin, I think we must look a brief history of the Flathead tribe, and their first exposure to Europeans.Although the first recorded contact with the Flathead tribe occurred in 1806 when Lewis and Clark came upon the tribe on their journey up the Missouri River (1), it is possible that they had contact with French trappers before this. At this time, the Flathead became known as the Bitter Root Salish, because of their geographic location within the Bitter Root valley of what is now western Montana. “Salish”, their name for themselves, means ‘people’ in the native Flathead language (2). In 1841 the St. Mary’s Mission was constructed and established within the Bitter Root Valley. This Catholic mission encouraged Flatheads to abandon their native religion and convert to Catholicism, and by 1853, the United States government ended it’s official relationship with the sovereign nations of the Flathead, refusing to recognize them as self-governing. Because of this early influence by the Catholic church, Catholicism is the main religion of the Flathead people today.  Relations between Europeans then settling in the Bitter Root valley and the Flatheads continued to decline for the next 40 years, with the Flathead slowly being pushed onto less and less of their native lands until 1890, when they were ordered to move to the Jocko Reservation (2). Despite this, the Flathead affirmed their trust with the American government when they refused to assist the Nez Pierce when they looked to the Bitter root valley for refuge. Chief Charlo of the Flathead was said to have questioned Chief Looking Glass of the Nez Perce “Why should I shake hands with men whose hands are bloody? My hands are clean of blood.”  “If you kill any of my people or the white people, or disturb any of the property belonging to my people or the white people in my country, I will fight you.” (5) One would think that this display of willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government would help the Flathead in the long run, sadly this was not the case. While not as large a distance to move as say, the Trail of Tears, the move to the Jocko reservation still had a significant impact upon the Flatheads’ already diminishing opinions of their new white neighbors. Jocko Reservation is located just north of current day Missoula, Montana. (3) Although containing only a small part of their native lands, the reservation was considered to be quite large for the number of Flathead to which it was given (an estimated 10,000 at the time), covering about 1.2 Million acres of both alpine forested and open plains land. The Flathead were given their name ironically because while many of the surrounding tribes made their young children wear conical headdresses made of cedar wood that caused their heads to become slightly flat and pointed, the Salish themselves did not (2).
    Today out of the 7,005 registered members of the Flathead tribe, an estimated 4,500 live on or near the Jocko reservation (4). The governmental head of the tribe is located in Pablo, Montana and is listed as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, as they were forced to live on the reservation with several other surrounding groups and now consider themselves as one united population (6). Unfortunately, as is the case with many  Native populations within the United States today, many of the Flathead economically fall beneath the poverty line. It is estimated that over one third of the population of Pablo, Montana are impoverished. “Over 20% of Native American reservation households have annual incomes below $5000, compared with 6% for the overall U.S. population.” (7) Considering that the average American citizen spends around $6,133 annually on food alone, this is a truly staggering statistic (8).
    Despite this fairly extreme economic disadvantage, the Flathead do have several lucrative operations currently underway. As a tribe, they run Flathead Timber company, a successful logging operation. Due to the large amount of forested land located on the Jocko reservation, logging is a wise use of the Flatheads natural resources as a means of profit. Another way that the Flathead are making money is through the use of ‘Indian Casinos’.  The tribe currently owns more than sixteen casinos, and two resort-style casinos within the Jocko Reservation and in the immediate surrounding areas. As a recent visitor of Missoula, Montana I can personally attest to the amount of publicity and number of casinos within the Missoula area.  With the invention of video-slots, the Flathead have been able to implement gambling much more easily into communities that may have been against it originally. The tribe also collects income as a whole from NorthWest energy. NorthWest energy operates the Kerr Dam facility that produces hydro-electric energy for the surrounding communities within Montana (4). Much of this tribal activity is monitored and controlled by S&K Holding, a Flathead corporation that also offers business loans to tribal members to encourage economic growth and Native entrepreneurship (4).
The gambling industry of the Flathead appears to have the biggest overall impact on relations within the surrounding communities, although I could find no specific study to support this idea.
    With the Flathead community in such close proximity to the city of Missoula, the home of the University of Montana, the state’s largest University, Native American studies has become a specialty of the school. The enrollment of Native Americans to the University has more than doubled within the last twenty years, suggesting more state aid being offered to put the Flathead and other tribes through the higher education system (9). The University, through a large private donation, recently constructed The Payne Family Native American Center, focusing on Anthropological study of Native Americans and the betterment and conservation of Native cultures (10). This drive to educate people about Native Cultures, specifically those found within close proximity to the University (I.E. Flathead) show a large improvement in the attitudes of contemporary Euro-Americans towards the Flathead Nation. It has been the willingness of the people of Montana to allow the Flathead to create their casinos, to become more educated and to finally assimilate into society while retaining their strong cultural traditions that proves that relations between these two diverse groups have improved dramatically, especially within recent years. While there is still much progress to be made in regards to becoming a fully egalitarian society, things are looking up for the Flathead Nation.

Works Cited

(1) "Flathead Indians." Family Search. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(2) Ryan. "The Flathead Indians." Cesa10. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(3) "google maps." google maps. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(4) "Flathead." Visit Montana. Available from     Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(5) Ojibwa. "Removal of the Flathead Indians." Street Prophets. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(6) "Montana Casinos." 500 Nations. Available from Internet; accessed 31     March 2011.

(7) Anderson, Terry L.. "How the Government Keeps Indians In Poverty." Perc. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(8) "How the Average American Spends their Paycheck." Visual Economics. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(9)"UM Native American Center." The University of Montana. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

(10)"Native American Studies." University of Montana. Available from Internet; accessed 31 March 2011.

Essay -Tornadoes

Just finished a very very basic essay on Tornadoes for my Weather and Climate class. Figured I would post it for anyone who is interested in a primer on tornadoes...

        Tornado Alley - Cyclones in the United States

    Growing up in the mid-west United States, one generally feels pretty protected from most of the natural disasters that you hear about on the news; landslides in California, Avalanches in Colorado, Hurricanes along the coasts. But there are two natural disasters, or occurrences as they are not always disasters, that happen almost every year: tornadoes and flooding. And while floods are fairly predictable, as they happen along river ways and streams generally in the Spring months, tornadoes are a bit more unpredictable. Still, to this day tornado prediction is quite difficult even for highly trained storm chasers and meteorologists (4). Even when the conditions are perfect, a tornado may not occur...  other times, a tornado may form in minutes, seemingly out of nowhere. It is this fascinating event, known by many names: tornado, twister, vortex, cyclone that is the basis of my research.
    A tornado can be described as a rotating column of rising air that is in contact with both the ground and a cloud. This  can either be a cumulonimbus or on occasion a cumulus cloud (cumulonimbus clouds form from cumulus clouds are are the typical cloud invisioned when one thinks of a thunderstorm)(3). Tornadoes usually run across the ground for several miles and can span from several yards to 2-3 miles wide (3). The winds produced by a tornado have been known to reach 300 miles per hour (1), but typically blow at around 100 miles per hour or less (3). Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and are traditionally imagined as a funnel shape, with the smallest end of the funnel at the ground. They can also form to look like long skinny ropes attaching the ground to the sky, or have multiple vortices - smaller tornadoes rotating around a central location (3). They can also vary in color, generally depending upon what debris the tornado picks up, or may be nearly invisible at other times (3).
    The formation of a tornado generally occurs during a thunderstorm. “Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts”(1). Tornadoes are produced when the two air masses with different characteristics run into one another (5). Within tornado alley (most of the mid-west United States), this usually means dry continental air from the west meeting warm moist air in the central plains (5). Along where these air masses meet, a ‘dryline’ is formed. Many tornadoes and severe storms develop along a ‘dryline’ (5). Clouds are formed when air rises, causing water to condense in the air. This physical state change releases heat, fueling the thunderstorm, particularly the ‘updraft’ (6). Supercell thunderstorms have particularly strong updrafts, which can create a vortex known as a mesocyclone, the prelude to a tornado. These are generally 2-6 miles wide and once one forms, there is approximately a 1 in 2 chance that the storm could become a tornado within half an hour (6). Mesocyclones can exist as early as 20 minutes to one hour before the creation of a tornado (7). The cyclone (tornado) itself is formed when the lower, warmer air mass punches a hole in the cooler air mass above it. It does this because the warmer air is less dense and naturally rises. The warm air then rises dramatically, as it pushes through the cooler layer above it, and, much like in the bathtub when you pull the drain, a vortex forms. As the air moves upward, a low pressure system is created, pulling air towards the tornado in all directions. Tornadoes in the northern hemisphere usually spin counter-clockwise due to the coriolis effect, which is caused by the rotation of the earth. On rare occasions tornadoes in the Northern hemisphere spin clockwise due to specific wind shear characteristics in certain storm conditions, but this is considered quite rare (7)(9).
    This main type of tornado is created from a supercell thunderstorm (a long lived storm feeding off an updraft that is tilted and rotating), and is the most common type of tornado (7). There are several less common types of tornadoes that occur without the presence of a supercell storm: gustnadoes, landspouts and waterspouts (7). Gustnadoes are what many people would call a ‘dust devil’ - small whirls of dust or debris near the ground without the presence of a condensation funnel. These usually originate with the gust of wind in front of a storm (7). Landspouts are skinny, long, rope-like tornadoes that form when a thunderstorm is still growing and there is not yet a rotating updraft. Instead, the spinning motion begins at the ground instead of in the sky. Waterspouts are much like landspouts, but they occur over water (8).
    In the United States, on average nearly 800 tornadoes are reported, resulting in around 80 deaths per year (1). In 2008 1,691 tornadoes killed at least 120 people, resulting in one of the most active tornado years on record (2). As population in the midwest expands, and people continue clearing forested areas for farmland and development, the human-tornado incidence rate is bound to increase. Only through the advancement of tornado detection technology and advanced warning systems,  are we able to alert people faster than ever of coming storms. Even with millions of dollars being spent each year on tornado and weather research, predicting tornadoes accurately is still extremely difficult, and even basic questions about how tornadoes form are still being asked to this day. It is on this basic level of cyclonic knowledge that we will base our research on for years to come.

Works Cited

(1)"Tornadoes...Nature's most violent storm." NOAA. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(2)Gray, Will. "Stormchasers: Studying twisters up close." New Scientist 205 no. 2749     (2010): 40-43.

(3)"Storm Encyclopedia : Tornadoes." The Weather Channel. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(4)Frankel, Leora. "Funnel Vision." Discover 30 no. 5 (2009): 34-39.

(5)Oblack, Rachelle. "The Fujita Scale." About. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(6)Marshall, Brian. "Tornadoes and Thunderstorms." How Stuff Works. Available from     Internet; accessed 11 April 2011.

(7)"Tornado Basics." National Severe Storms Laboratory. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(8)"Understanding Waterspouts." USA Today. Available from Internet; accessed 11     April 2011.

(9)"Inside a Tornado On the Road, In the Lab." National Geographic 205 no. 4 (2004):     29-31.

Spring 2011

It's been nearly a year since my last post, time certainly flies when you're in college. My sophomore year has been somewhat enjoyable, but this spring semester has been a TOUGH one. Looks like I'll be headed to the University of Montana this Fall to attend school, and I'm hoping that Allison will come with me. The school is located in Missoula, Montana in the mountains and I'm truly excited to live there. I've got about three more weeks of school left this semester, and then three weeks of a post term class - macroeconomics. I'll be taking that class from 9-Noon every day for the three week period, and then I'm off for the summer. My 21st birthday is coming up on June 5th, which is exciting and scary and the same time. Hopefully I'll get to spend some time in Gulf Shores around then, and then I'm taking a trip to the Northwest in July, should be a hell of a time.