When Jack Gladstone, “Montana’s Blackfeet Troubadour,” performed at North Idaho College, he captured the attention of his audience with both his songs and his easy manner, sometimes asking them to sing along and at other times regaling them with the history behind his songs. He knows Native history and legend far better than most, talking easily of events involving many tribes and many individuals and his songs, written and produced by him, frequently relate these events in lyric form.
It was American Indian Heritage Week and NIC's American Indian Student Alliance had invited Gladstone to highlight their Inter-Tribal Show at the Performing Arts Center on campus. The Alliance has raised $60,000 for Native American scholarships over the past three years and proceeds from this event were designated for that cause.
The audience was widely receptive, clapping along and singing when asked, as Gladstone sang a number of his songs. He has produced 15 original CDs over the years, and two years ago won a Native American Music Award for Best Historical Recording, for his album titled Native Anthropology, Challenge, Choice and Promise in the 21st Century.
Earlier this year the C.M. Russell Museum presented him with its Heritage Award.
In 1985, Gladstone co-founded Native America Speaks, a Native interpretive series he still presents at Glacier National Park near his home. He has presented thousands of programs, in all but three states, and has toured Canada, Japan, and Europe.
The enthusiasm this night for his music was evidenced by the number of people waiting long after his performance for the chance to talk with him and buy one or more of his CDs.
The other part of the evening’s show featured the Haida Heritage Dance Group from Seattle. This group is endeavoring to keep the Haida culture alive. The language had nearly disappeared but now it’s being restored through school and college classes.
Wearing beautiful button blankets and carrying hand drums with Haida symbols, they performed a number of dances and songs, including the “dogfish” song. Legend tells of a dogfish, caught in a tide pool, who said, "If you throw me back into the waves I’ll give you a song for your people." They also performed a paddle song, a bow and arrow song, and both eagle and raven songs.