26 photographs, map, index
Peter Ronan (1839–93) was the government agent for the Salish and Kootenai tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana from 1877 until his death. It was a period of rapid cultural and economic change for the tribes as hunting and gathering resources declined and the surrounding white population exploded in western Montana. As an ex-newspaperman, Ronan provided reports to the commissioner of Indian Affairs with unusually full and detailed information about Flathead Reservation events during a critical time for the tribes. Ronan was a unique federal Indian Agent in the nineteenth century both because of both the length of his tenure and his ability to work with tribal leaders.
“A Great Many of Us Have Good Farms” includes Ronan’s letters from 1877–87, when the Salish and Kootenai navigated crises that could have destroyed the tribes. In 1877 the tribes worked hard to stay out of the Nez Perce War, after which they then had to avoid conflict with white settlers who could mistake them for hostiles and a government that tried to deprive them of guns and ammunition for hunting and self-defense. The Bitterroot Valley Salish struggled to preserve their right to live in their traditional homeland.
The letters, an 1884 photographic tour of the reservation, and a biographical sketch of Ronan provide a rich and exciting journey through nineteenth-century Flathead Indian Reservation history.
Robert J. Bigart is librarian emeritus at Salish Kootenai College and the editor and author of several books on Salish and Flathead Indian Reservation history.