Floating on the MissouriBook - 1989
This is a true story of a float trip down the Missouri. It compares, in some ways, to the most famous float trip in American literature, the one that Huck Finn took down the Mississippi.
At the end of his trip, young Huck says, "...I reckon I got to Light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."
That young escapee, to extend the comparison, is epitomized in James Willard Schultz. Just expelled from military school, the seventeen-year-old Schultz goes West, stays, grows up and lives among the Indians, marries into the Blackfoot tribe, and lived the kind of life he loved.
In the fall of 1901, Apikuni and his Piegan wife, Nataki, took a long float trip down the Missouri. They camped out and lived off the land for the entire trip, from Fort Benton to the juncture off the Missouri and Milk rivers. The account of that trip is presented here in book form for the first time.
Like Huck's adventure, this was something more than a simple float trip. It was a trip through space and time through memories of early experiences along the river, of friends and enemies (Assiniboines, Crees, Sioux, and others), of early white trappers and traders, of carefree days of the buffalo hunt, of a naturalist's dream world populated with the deer, eagle, antelope, fish, bear, wolf, and animals known only in Indian mythology.
This idyll was nostalgic trip that could not be repeated, for the river and world were changing, Apikuni and Nataki knew first-hand the many changes of the past and sensed the momentous changes coming.
With the advance of the white man's world, with the dams and reservoirs, it would be impossible for today's adventurer to duplicate the trip described here. But, for the armchair adventurer, it is still possible, though the account that has been left for us, to take this remarkable trip.