Some family history about these Fighting Bulls:
John Powell commissioned his friend John Clarke to carve two fighting buffalo bulls. While John was working on this piece, John D. Rockefeller visited East Glacier Park and wanted to buy the carving. John explained that the piece was a commission but agreed to carve another for Mr. Rockefeller. This first carving traveled to Oregon and was passed down through several generations. Eventually the carving was lost to the public eye. A few years ago, the relatives of John Powell brought the carving to the attention of Joyce Clarke Turvey. It was a pleasant surprise for Joyce, she only knew of the Rockefeller carving. My thanks to Dale F. Johnson for casting a bronze of Johns work and sharing these pictures.
Here are some pictures of the original carving. Click on the picture and a larger photo will slowly pop up.
John L. Clarke came from a long and distinguished line of Americans. His mother was Margaret First Kill, a Blackfeet Indian; born in 1849 near the present town of Fort Benton, and the daughter of the Blackfeet Chief Stands Alone. She married John's father, Horace, in 1873 but because Indian marriages were not recognized until consecrated by a priest, the marriage certificate was not filed until 1875. Horace's mother was Coth-co-co-na, a full blood Piegan and also the daughter of a Chief named either Under Bull or Big Snake.
In 1875, Horace and his wife, homesteaded on Indian land near Highwood, MT. Horace and his wife, Margaret First Kills, had eight children. John L. Clarke was born on May 10, 1881. 1883 would be a tragic year for Blackfeet Indian Territory. 1882 would be the last year the buffalo would return to Montana, in 1883, over six hundred Indians would starve to death. On top of that, Scarlet Fever would strike northern Montana territory. The Clarke family lost five boys to Scarlet Fever and John would be left deaf, and as a result, he would never learn to speak. In 1888 Horace and Margaret would divorce and Horace would move his family to the Indian land on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. There they would receive land in the first Indian allotments, homestead, and along with other members of the Clarke family, become one of the founding families of village of Midvale (which would later become East Glacier Park). Eventually much of their land would become a part of Glacier National Park. (A portion of the great lodge at East Glacier Park and the golf course sits on land homesteaded by the Clarke family.) By 1890, Horace would become one of the tribal leaders and would be a signer of the Treaty that would establish the final boundaries of the Blackfeet reservation. Horace passed away on October 11, 1930.
Horace's sister - John's aunt, Helen Pi-o-to-wa-ka Clarke (Came Running Back), was born near the Judith River on October 11, 1846. Helen spent her childhood attending boarding schools in Minneapolis, MN and Cincinnati, OH. She attended a drama school in New York and embarked on an impressive stage career; working with Maude Adams and Sarah Bearhart. She performed on the stages of New York, Paris, Rome, and London and received letters from the German Kaiser and the Queen of the Netherlands commending her on her portrayal of Lady McBeth. In 1875 she returned to Montana and became a schoolteacher. In 1882, Helen Piotopowaka Clarke became the first woman elected to public office in the Territory of Montana - she was elected as the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Lewis and Clarke County. In 1887, the Indian Allotment Act was passed and Helen acted as the interpretor and mediator for the Blackfeet Tribe. As a result of her work, the Office of Indian Affairs appointed her to manage allotments for several tribes in Oklahoma Territory. In 1895, The United Stated Government began to negotiate with the Blackfeet to purchase the area that is now Glacier National Park. Helen assisted the Blackfeet in framing the Treaty of 1895 where the tribe would be paid $150,000 per year for ten years. A mountain above Upper Two Medicine Lake is named in her honor.
Last but not least is John's grandfather, Major Egbert Malcolm Clarke. Malcolm was born in 1817 at Fort Wayne, IN. He entered West Point as a classmate of General William T. Sherman and joined the Texas fight for independence where he received a commission as a lieutenant by Sam Houston in the Texas Army. In 1841, at the age of 24, he joined the American Fur Company and was sent to the Upper Missouri region of Montana. He was a good trader and quickly gained the respect of the local Indians. According to legend, during one trip up the Missouri, Malcolm killed thirty grizzly bears in just thirty days. As a result, the Blackfeet gave him the name of Nesokeiu (Four Bears). He was the first and only white man to earn a Name from the Blackfeet Indians. In 1844 he married a full blood Piegan and the daughter of a local Chief. In 1863 Malcolm retired from the American Fur Company and move his family to the Little Prickly Pear Valley north of Helen, Montana. In August of 1869, Malcolm was killed and his son, Horace, was shot through the head. His death was one element of the resulting Piegan War. It ended in January of 1870 when Col. E.M. Baker would attack the wrong Indian encampment and kill 173 Indians who were friendly to the U.S. Government.
Below are some reviews of John's carvings.
The Bear perhaps is his specialty, though his animals figures are equally remarkable for their naturalism of expression and attitude. Indians of Today, 1936
John L. Clarke is generally considered (to be) the best portrayer of Western wildlife in the world. Frank McCaffey in Who's Who in Northwest Art, 1941
When John L. Clarke finished carving a bear, you could just smell it. J.K. Ralston, artist
He carves bears and deer, which seem to live and have personality. Many a carver has given us realistic textures, but only occasionally does one underlay them with such knowledge of his subject and such life. The Art Digest, 1926
In 1995, John Clarke was inducted in the Montana Hall of Fame. With only twenty-one inductees; he joins with such Montanans as: Senator Mike Mansfield, Gary Cooper, Charles M. Russell, Chet Huntley, Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, Richard Hugo, the Salish Patriot, Charlo, and historian K.Ross Toole.
John was recognized and honored by the deaf community.
The Montana Association of the Deaf honored Cutapuis with a bronze plaque summarizing his life and presented it to the Montana Historical Society.
He was chosen as a delegate from Montana for the Washington State Association of the Deaf Convention in Seattle in 1951.
An article was written in the April, 1994 edition of the Silent News, World's Most Popular Newspaper for the Deaf.
He was highlighted in Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness, 1987.
His life was also detailed in book, Deaf Artists in America: Colonial to Contemporary, 2002.
His awards were written about in The Rocky Mountain Leader, published by the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind. Boulder, Montana, February 1927.
To find out more about John L. Clarke, take a drive to East Glacier Park, Montana and visit the John L. Clarke Western Art Gallery. John's granddaughter operates the gallery and it is open between Mothers day and late September. This a link to a John L. Clarke Gallery web page.
Hear are pictures from a couple of Ebay listings.
I bid on this carving when it was on Ebay. A person from Helena, Montana won the bid - at least it stayed in Montana.
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