The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center recently honored in Helena three inductees from Southwestern Montana.
They are: Living award — Johnny France, Ennis; and Legacy Awards — Gertrude “Brownie” Smith, Melrose, and Chief Tendoy, Beaverhead River. They represent District 12, which encompasses Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Beaverhead, Butte-Silver Bow, Granite, Madison and Powell Counties.
The inductees were chosen from candidates nominated by the public for making a notable contribution to the history and culture of Montana through 1980, no matter the year of death or closure.
The Class of 2012 includes at least one inductee from each of 12 districts across the state. This year, 26 inductees were selected as Legacy Award recipients and 11 inductees were selected in the “Living” category.
The following information about the area inductees was provided by the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame:
JOHNNY FRANCE LIVING AWARD
From time he was a boy, Johnny pursued his western life to excel in ranching activities and rodeo. When time and injuries slowed him down, he moved on to pursue a career in law enforcement, and became known as the sheriff who single-handedly captured Dan and Don Nichols after they kidnapped Kari Swenson in 1984. He wrote a book about the experience called “Incident at Big Sky.”
Winning Montana Rodeo Association titles and being honored in 2010 as the grand marshal of the Ennis Rodeo and parade are just a few of the accomplishments that have been recognized as are part of his life.
Here’s some of what he wrote:
“My uncle, a bucking hose rider, put me on a bareback horse at age 12. By the time I was 17, I was a contestant at weekend rodeos throughout Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. By the time I was 12, I began working for a large cattle company where I ran wild horses, worked cattle and broke horses to ride.
“I was injured in a horse accident 2002 when a saddle horse and I didn’t agree. An important honor for me was to be named as the grand marshal of the 2010 Fourth of July Rodeo parade.
“Now I enjoy a more subtle life with fishing, golfing and acting my age. but horses are still a big part of my life whatever I do.’
GERTRUDE ‘BROWNIE’ SMITH LEGACY AWARD
Gertrude “Brownie” Smith was born on May 18, 1914, in Butte, to Ferdinand and Johanna (Rudder) Schmidt. The family homesteaded in the mountains of southwestern Montana. Brownie died on July 6, 2004, at the ranch in Melrose.
She was a Montana Cowgirl and much more. She married Frank Reynolds when she was 14 and had three sons: John, Louis and Benny Reynolds. They later divorced. In 1946 Brownie married Donald Smith, Melrose rancher, and they had two children: Donna and D.J.
Brownie’s greatest love, besides her family, was her horses. She loved breaking and training them, and was always mounted on a good one. She sat on a horse with regal elegance, leaving a lasting impression both visually and spiritually. She loved to ride saddle broncs, but did not like riding with the hobbled stirrups. She mostly rode exhibition for $25 a ride.
Brownie worked with horses all of her life. She carried Old Glory for 30 years during the grand entry of the Labor Day Rodeo in Dillon. She also rode in a side-saddle posse for many years, a vision you would never forget, dressed in a long black skirt and jacket, black hat with a big pink plume and riding side-saddle. She was also the Jaycee parade grand marshal in 1986.
She amplified the pioneer spirit of the American west. A normal day for her started early with chores, milking cows, separating the milk, cooking breakfast, tidying the house and off to the hayfield to top out a stack or to the calving sheds to pull a calf, or moving cattle, depending on the time of the year. She was a great cook and it didn’t take her long to whip up a wonderful meal. She was also a seamstress, making the boys their western shirts and dresses for her daughter. She loved to have folks come visit and always had something for them to eat.
Brownie was loved, admired, and respected by everyone who knew her, and over the years made many friends in the state of Montana and beyond.
Brownie never thought of herself as being special, but she was. She was humble, sincere, honest, truthful, always thinking of others, never complaining. Even after Brownie had cancer, went through chemo and radiation twice, she never gave up. She was always thinking about what she could be doing, or should be doing, until her death at 90.
CHIEF TENDOY LEGACY AWARD
Chief Tendoy (Tin Doi) was born in the Boise River region of what is now the state of Idaho in approximately 1834. Upon the murder of Chief Old Snag by Bannack miners in 1863, Tendoy became chief of the Lemhi Shoshone.
Revered by white settlers as a peacemaker, Chief Tendoy kept members of his tribe from joining other tribes in their war with the whites. He led his people, known as Tendoy’s Band, more than 40 years. He was a powerful force to be reckoned with in negotiations with the federal government and keeping his tribe on peaceful terms with oncoming white settlers.
In 1868, with his band of people struggling to survive as miners and settlers advanced upon their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, Chief Tendoy and 11 fellow Lemhi and Bannock leaders signed a treaty surrendering their tribal lands in exchange for an annual payment by the federal government as well as two townships along the north fork of the Salmon River.
The treaty, having never been ratified, forced the tribe to move to a desert reservation known as Fort Hall, created for the Shoshone tribes in 1867. Chief Tendoy refused, expecting what the government had promised. After seven years had passed the Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation was created in 1875, nearly 100 square miles south of present day Salmon, Idaho.
On May 4, 1880, Tendoy and a few of his sub-chiefs and a small delegation of leaders among the Fort Hall reservation journeyed to Washington, D.C., where they were coaxed into signing an agreement to move his people from Lemhi Valley to Fort Hall. His people resisted and refused to leave their homeland for another 25-plus years.
Having been granted a $15 per month pension and being honored for dealing honestly with the settlers (by special act passed in Congress in 1892), Chief Tendoy spent the remaining years of his life between the Beaverhead River in present day Montana and the Salmon River region of present day Idaho.
On May 10, 1907, Chief Tendoy, as part of a delegation Indians heading to Washington, D.C., died while crossing Agency Creek.
A range of mountains in Beaverhead County bears his name in honor of a chief who only wanted peace and prosperity for his people and was a friend to the early white settlers.