The Banker and the Black­foot: An Un­told Story of Friend­ship, Trust, and Bro­ken Prom­ises in the Old West

J. Ed­ward Cham­ber­lin

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - KARL HELICHER

Blue­bridge (DE­CEM­BER) Hard­cover $24.95 (256pp) 978-1-62919-017-4

The seem­ingly im­prob­a­ble friend­ship be­tween Jack Cowdry, au­thor J. Ed­ward Cham­ber­lin’s grand­fa­ther and a white rancher and banker, and Crop Eared Wolf, a war­rior and Black­foot chief, is re­called in the warm his­tor­i­cal ac­count, The Banker and the Black­foot. Set dur­ing the late nine­teenth and early twen­ti­eth cen­turies in south­ern Al­berta, this fam­ily bi­og­ra­phy-meets-his­tory re­veals a friend­ship that en­dured de­spite bro­ken treaties with the Black­foot that dev­as­tated the First Peo­ples’ liveli­hood and her­itage.

Cowdry and Crop Eared Wolf met in 1885, soon af­ter Cowdry set­tled in Fort Macleod, which was orig­i­nally within the Black­foot plains. They bonded over their love of horses and re­mained close friends un­til Crop Eared Wolf died in 1913. In ad­di­tion to their story, Cham­ber­lin pro­vides an in­for­ma­tive his­tory of the Black­foot and of west­ern Canada dur­ing a time of un­prece­dented pop­u­la­tion growth, as farms and ranches filled pre­vi­ous Black­foot hunt­ing grounds.

The book is at its best when de­scrib­ing the role the Cowdry Broth­ers Bank played in the lives of small-town farm­ers and mer­chants and when dis­cussing the tragedies en­dured by the Black­foot, in­clud­ing the slaugh­ter of the buf­falo, small­pox and cholera epi­demics, the 1876 In­dian Act, and cul­tural geno­cide.

The text in­cor­po­rates en­ter­tain­ing tales about Fort Macleod no­ta­bles like Harry Longabaugh, the no­to­ri­ous “Sun­dance Kid,” and Frank Dick­ens, a North West Moun­tain po­lice of­fi­cer and the son of Charles Dick­ens. Still, the con­nec­tion be­tween Jack Cowdry and Crop Eared Wolf re­mains its most mem­o­rable fea­ture. The Banker and the Black­foot is an en­ter­tain­ing and mov­ing so­cial his­tory with lessons that are ap­pli­ca­ble in these di­vi­sive times.

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