Updated: Feb 17
I follow several "Old Native American Photo" Facebook pages and I always scan through comments made on Edward Curtis photographs. I often find someone commenting that the image is of an ancestor of theirs - that is how I found Tim, FourThunderSon. When I contacted him to tell him about our Descendants Project and asked if he would be interested in participating and telling his story, he enthusiastically agreed!
Tim's full story will be published in the coffee table book we are producing once we get all the Descendants photographed and stories collected. Here is a synopsis of Tim's story:
Remarkably, photographs of Old Person and his great-great nephew, FourThunderSon (Tim Reevis), portray young men of the Blackfeet Nation who appear to be close in age; but there is another less-obvious commonality—they are both warriors—in training. Old Person (Piegan) adorned the magnificent war bonnet of his father, as if practicing to be a warrior and dreaming of the day that he, too, earned prized eagle feathers. “Young men eagerly seized every occasion of public festivity to don the habiliments of their warrior fathers" (Curtis). Although 110 years stand between the photos, Tim views himself like a “modern day warrior of life.”
For a 28-year-old from Browning, Montana who is a citizen of the Amskapi Pikuni of the Blackfeet Nation, he has led a remarkable life having spent much of it in France. Like his father, he joined Disneyland Paris as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, which gave him the opportunity to “represent the Blackfeet Nation all over Europe…and explain what Native Americans are like. I met people who really thought we still lived in teepees.”
This experience shaped Tim in powerful ways: “it made me mature and see different cultures and a lot of the world.” Listening to Tim, he sounds wise for his years. Although he is very proud of his heritage, he firmly rejects the mindset of some of his fellow Blackfeet who accept the status quo of life on a reservation. Instead, he firmly believes that “we [Native Americans] need to get outside that mindset, and that’s not how we are anymore. We’ve got everything on our side to be great and you just need to snap out of it. It’s up to the individual. You’re an American. You have a chance like everybody else.”
Tim is a role-model who welcomes challenges: “there’s been little documentaries made about my life for suicide preventions in reservations and I do work-out videos…and that’s the stuff that counts for me, to touch other people.” When Tim looks at the picture of Old Person, he is reflective yet adamant in his beliefs: “it makes me think about where we come from. And it brings me back to point zero, reset yourself. What are you doing right now? What's important in your life? What's your next move? Just do it and remember where you come from" That picture says a lot to me.”
By Dr. Shawn Pohlman
Tim is one of the three descendants that are a part of our first Descendants Project exhibit at Valley Fine Art in Aspen, CO on Feb 14th-15th, 2020. See www.valleyfineart.com for more information about her gallery which highlights Edward Curtis vintage originals continually.