Friday, August 10, 2012

Heart Mountain Story

Has this been posted before?  I am getting ready to go scan journals etc. at BYU and found this clipping in the back of Mother's ledger book.  I thought it might be a fun addition to our history.  I am sure I am not the only one who grew up in our valley and would look to this landmark to make sure I hadn't lost my bearings.
And the few times I have gone back to Penrose, when I would look to the west and Heat Mountain was there, I always felt like "all was well".

(From the Powell Tribune, published on November 21, 1935)

"Heart-Shaped Peak Is Only Reason For Name Says Indian Superintendent of Crow Tribe.

The Tribune is appreciative of the interest taken by R. T. McGaughey, a member of the Powell high school faculty, in helping to solve for us the tradition relative to the name of Heart Mountain, a Park county landmark.
Mr. McGaughey came to us with the suggestion that he would write to Robert Yellowtail, superintendent of the Crow Indian reservation, and inquire of this well educated Indian the history which surrounds the naming of this mountain near Cody and Powell.  He thought, inasmuch as the official records showed that Heart Mountain was named after Crow Heart, tha the history of the Indian tribe might include the identification of this man.
The following correspondence between Mr. McGaughey and Chief Yellowtail is given for the information of Tribune readers:

'Powell, Wyoming, November 13, 1935
Superintendent Robert Yellowtail,
Crow Agency, Montana
My Dear Mr. Yellowtail:
We are having some argument in the Powell locality about the proper spelling of Heart Mountain - whether it is "Heart" or "hart."  A letter from the Bureau of Geographic Names at Washington states that it was named for "Crow Heart," not for "General Heart."  Was "Crow Heart" a person or a tradition connected with the Crow Indians?
Can you give us any information as to the proper spelling of this name and its origin?  As this mountain was at one time in Crow territory, you probably know more of the history of it than we do.
Thank you for anything you can tell us, I am,
Yours very truly,

Crow Agency, Montana
November 16, 1935
Mr. R. T. McGaughey
Powell, Wyoming

Dear Sir:
This acknowledges receipt of your letter concerning the argument over "Heart Mountain."
The name "Heart Mountain" comes from the Crow Indians who named it because it stuck up sharply like a human or animal heart, and means nothing more than that the mountain is heart shaped.  The Indians called it simply Heart Mountain, the proper spelling of it being awasaum dasa, meaning mountain heart.  There is no particular tradition in regard to this name except that a great battle between the Sioux and Crows was fought in which the Crows annihilated a large Sioux force, turning a great many of them into the river Stinking Water at the bend below where the old trading post used to be, which was located near the site of the bridge.

There is also a tradition that runs as follows:  Crow Medicine Man fasted upon the top of Heart Mountain and was supposed to have received revelations from the Great Spirit.  It was revealed to him that whenever Heart Mountain broke and fell down in pieces or if a large portion of it fell, it would mean that he would die. The story goes on that very peculiarly the freezing and thawing of the elements apparently caused a rent in the top of Heart Mountain and a part of it fell and very soon thereafter this seer also died thus in a measure sustaining the truth of the message he received from the Great Spirit on the top of Heart Mountain.  These are the only traditions in connection with Heart Mountain that I happen to know of.
Hope this meets with your approval and will help settle the argument.
Very sincerely yours,
Superintendent and Special Disbursing Agent."


Judy said...

Great photo and documentation of the mountain. Always wondered, and never knew. Keep up the good work.

Dwight said...

Mr. McGaughey, or Mr. Mac as he was known, was my 9th grade algebra teacher for part of the year. I don't know what happened, but he retired in mid-year and a brilliant Norwegian teacher, Mr. Kvenvold finished the year. Mr. Mac kept a gallon coffee can by the radiator to deposit, skillfully, the residue of the tobacco chaw he kept ever present in his mouth. Mr. Mac was one of those rare characters that one never forgets.

Louise Blood said...

Heart Mountain was always my favorite landmark, it is truly unique, It was the first ting I looked for when coming back home, and as soon as I saw it I knew home was near. This is a very nice picture.

Louise Blood said...

That's first thing.

Elizabeth said...

This was a very interesting posting. West of Riverton, on the way to Dubois, there is a butte called Crowheart Butte. This one has a more grisly story - it does not resemble a heart, rather the story goes that the warring Indian of another tribe killed the Crow Indian, and ate his heart. I like Heart Mountain better.

Louise Blood said...

I meant to comment on the historical information. I knew of some of it and wrote it im my first book, but it was interesting to hear about the traditional story. It seems like that in my growing up years I had heard about the Indian battle that took place there. It is intersting to know about things that happened in the past. It is fascinating to think that this place was once inhabited by Indians.