Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 24, 2001 - Issue 32



Documentary Honors Blackfeet Nation Firefighters


by Daryl Gadbow of the Missoulian


 Alaskan Type I Incident Management Team. Photographer: John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service.

Fighting wildfire has become a family tradition among some members of the Blackfeet Indian Nation in Montana - a tradition through which they can identify themselves as a warrior society in a modern world.

The Chief Mountain Hot Shots from the Blackfeet Reservation represent an elite corps of American Indian firefighters who have achieved the respect of their peers throughout the world.

According to the Associated Press, there were 4,500 to 5,000 Indian firefighters helping to battle wildfires across the West last summer, which accounted for about 20 percent of the nation's firefighting force.

A new documentary film, "The Chief Mountain Hot Shots: Firefighters of the Blackfeet Nation," honors the contribution of those Indians.

A premiere screening of the film, produced and directed by California filmmaker Ismana Carney, was held at the University of Montana's University Center Theater.

The premiere was sponsored by UM's Native American Studies Program and the Native American Student Association.

The 60-minute film tells the story of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots through interviews with the crew members, along with striking footage of the firefighters in action, battling blazes in Montana last summer.

Much of the actual fire-line footage was filmed by Jim Kinsey, a Missoula filmmaker who also has produced a documentary on last summer's fires called "Firestorm 2000," which will be available for sale in area stores this spring.

The pride of being a part of an elite firefighting crew, and in their ability to excel in the dangerous and demanding work, is evident in the interviews with the hot shot members.

They talk about the debt they owe to generations of Blackfeet firefighters before them. Respected elders reminisce about the days when they led the great Blackfeet fire crews of the 1940s and set high standards that have become the measure of firefighters ever since.

Like Marines during wartime operations, the movie shows hot shots launch an initial attack on a wildfire, armed with their essential weapons - chainsaws, shovels and Pulaskis.

The film also explores the ways the Chief Mountain Hot Shots maintain their warrior identity through their role as firefighters, and how they adhere to their cultural traditions. Even their name is an expression of that tradition - Chief Mountain is the center of the universe in the Blackfeet culture.

Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management


Native American Hot Shots




  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.