“White Man’s Dog raised his eyes to the west and followed the Backbone of the World from north to south until he could pick out Chief Mountain. It stood apart from the other mountains, not as tall as some but strong, its square face a landmark to all who passed. But it was more than a landmark to the Pikunis, Kainahs and Siksikas, the three tribes of the Blackfeet, for it was on top of Chief Mountain that the blackhorn skull pillows of the great warriors still lay. On those skulls Eagle Head and Iron Breast had deamed their visions in the long-ago, and the animal helpers had made them strong in spirit and fortunate in war.”
(From Fools Crow by James Welch)
Chief Mountain is one of the most interesting peaks in Glacier National Park from three different perspectives; geological, historical and, of course, mountaineering.
The history of the mountain is as interesting as its geology. It is one of the earliest mountains in the area ever to be placed on a map, appearing as “King Mountain” on maps published in England in 1795 / 96. Meriwether Lewis observed the mountain on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and called it “Tower Mountain”. In 1854, a state survey referred to the mountain as “The Chief or King Mountain”. Some early German geographers dubbed it as “Kaiser Peak”.
The present day name of the mountain is appropriately taken from the original Blackfeet Indian names of “Old Chief” or “The Mountain -of-the-Chief”
Early Indian legends about the mountain involve braves ascending the peak and staying on the top in their “medicine vision” ritual. The most popular of these involves a Flathead Brave who risked not only the long journey from the west, but also discovery by Blackfeet who were not on friendly terms with the Flatheads. He is said to have carried with him to the top a bison skull that he used as a pillow during his stay. The first white men to climb the mountain in 1892 discovered a weathered bison skull on the summit. For more information visit here…
Rising to an elevation of 9, 080 ft, it is a spectacular mountain peak, especially when the Prairie Smoke is caught in the evening glow…
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