Whole Country was . . .
By Nicholas C. P. Vrooman
Co-published by Drumlummon Institute and the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana
A Project of Northern Plains Folklife Resources
"The Whole Country was . . . 'One Robe'": The Little Shell Tribe's America, by historian and folklorist Nicholas Vrooman, is an extraordinary account of an extraordinary people. Dr. Vrooman, after a lifetime of engagement with the history of a burgeoning and distinctive Métis culture on the Northern Plains, gives us the untold story of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana.
In twenty-nine brilliantly researched chapters, Dr. Vrooman provides the full context for the Little Shell's present-day circumstance in Montana, from origins in the Upper Midwest to their role as successful traders, buffalo hunters, guides, and scouts in North Dakota and Montana (on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border), to their struggle for survival on the margins of Montana towns through the 1950s.
Vrooman writes: "Because of intense historical prejudice, the members of the Little Shell Tribe of Montana live today in a very distinctive and critical conundrum within the greater society. . . . The grand narrative of the Little Shell is . . . one of immense courage, fortitude, resilience, perseverance, hope, and love. It is a story that comprises the deeper, truer telling of our continent's history."
With its remarkable breadth of scholarship, its wealth of images of Chippewa, Cree, Assiniboine, and Métis life, and its passionate accounting of a proud people, "The Whole Country was . . . 'One Robe'" is destined to take its place alongside such classics on Métis culture as Joseph Kinsey Howard's Strange Empire: Louis Riel and the Métis People and Canadian scholar Lawrence Barkwell's essential anthology, Metis Legacy: A Metis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography.
"Their story is about great strength and courage, but more importantly it is a story of faith in the Creator, the spirit of the homeland, and in themselves.
"It is told from a gentle place by a good storyteller, knowledgeable historian, and friend of the people. I urge you to read it, reflect on it, and change the shameful way our mutual countries and governments treat Indigenous peoples, and in the end rob all our children of a rich inheritance."
Maria Campbell, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Trudeau Fellow, recipient of the Canada Council Molson Prize and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and author of the classic book, Halfbreed
"The only way for history and current affairs to merge in the popular imagination is through effective storytelling that bridges the gap between then and now. Even more so than most indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Little Shell People have long needed their story told. In Nicholas Vrooman, the Little Shell Tribe has found its historian and storyteller. In “The Whole Country was . . . ‘One Robe’” he presents Little Shell history with sophistication, rich detail, and entire sympathy for their spirit of survival and their arc through time on the North American Great Plains. And it is quite the story."
Dan Flores, Hammond Professor of History, The University of Montana, and author of The Natural West: Environmental History in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains
“The Whole Country was . . . ‘One Robe’”: The Little Shell Tribe’s America is deeply researched and impressive in its coverage of time and space. It’s valuable both as information and evidence and as a work that connects family and community histories to provide fuller understanding of broader historical patterns – and of persistent misunderstandings. I feel I’ve learned a lot, not only about the history of the Little Shell but also about Indian history in Montana and northern borderlands history in general. I wish every success with this important work.
Colin G. Calloway, Professor of Native American Studies, Dartmouth College, and author of One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark