Sunday, July 22, 2012


A REAL CANADIAN HERO! - So Sad / Andrew Dawson song by Richard Harrow
Jerry Potts aka Bear Child was born in 1838 at Fort McKenzie, Montana United States Territory on the Missouri River, the only child of his Kainai mother Namo-pisi (Crooked Back) and Andrew R. Potts, a Scottish Canadian fur trader. The West was a lawless domain when Jerry Potts was born into the Upper Missouri fur trade in 1838. Being the son of a Scottish father and a Blood mother, he was given the name Bear Child by his Blood tribe for his bravery and tenacity while he was still a teen. Upon the death of his father in 1840, Jerry was given to American Fur Company trader Alexander Harvey by Namo-pisi prior to her re-joining her tribe. 

A violent, vindictive man, Harvey neglected and mistreated Potts before deserting him in 1845. American Fur Company trader Andrew Dawson of Fort Benton, Montana United States, a gentle man who was called “the last king of the Missouri,” then adopted young Potts. He taught the boy to read and write and allowed him to mix with the Indians who visited the trading post to learn their customs and languages. In his late teens Potts, who adopted the carefree mannerisms of the frontier, joined his mother’s people and from then on drifted between them and Dawson. As a person of mixed blood, he had to prove to both Indians and whites that he could cope in their respective cultures, and was well served by his quick wits, reckless bravery, skills with the knife and lethal accuracy with both a revolver and a rifle.

In about 1867 Jerry was elected king of fire(okmakak) while he was staying at the piikani encampment. When he became an adult, Potts was employed for several years by the American Fur Company, and from 1869 to 1874 he worked as a hunter for various whiskey traders. Much of this period of his life was shadowed by violence. He gained fame as an Indian warrior, and almost legendary accounts of his battles with the Sioux, Crow, and Plains Cree abound. - Killer than the Killee song by Richard Harrow

Potts married two members of the Piegan tribe named Panther Woman and Spotted Killer. Between the pair he sired several sons and several daughters. He considered himself a Piegan but he kept his Kainai name, Kyi-yo-Kosi.
By the time Potts was twenty-five, he was a wealthy man because of his horse trading. His herd rarely averaged less than 100 horses which made him the second wealthiest Indian in the area as wealth was measured by the Plains Indians in the number of horses a man owned. That his horses carried a number of diverse brands meant nothing. He could always produce bills of sale (even though he could not read them himself) for most of them. Those without papers, if they were American horses, were sold in Canada while paperless Canadian horses were sold south of the Medicine Line. Those branded with the markings of the US Cavalry were sold as far north as possible unless he had papers proving they had been purchased legally.

The going rate for a good horse at the time ranged between $75.00 to $150.00 so his large inventory showed his wealth. When he journeyed to Montana Territory to buy horses he would carry cash - often as much as a thousand dollars - with which to make the transactions. People knew he carried such amounts but they also knew he was Jerry Potts so he was left alone.
He became a minor Chief with the Kainai when he was perhaps twenty-five in recognition of his bravery in battle, his unquestioned leadership abilities, and his knowledge of the prairies. It is said he knew every trail from Fort Edmonton to the lands of the Cheyenne and Apache and every hill between those trails. He could find game when all others had returned to camp empty-handed. He spent much of his time in what is now Montana, guiding, trading horses, and drinking. Potts could speak several languages. He was fluent in English, Blackfoot, and Crow, had a better than average ability in Cree (which he would speak only when necessary), and was passable in Sioux, Assiniboine, and Algonquin.

For all his ability to get along with white men Potts was very much an Indian. He never fully understood the white man's reasoning. For instance, he could never understand the reason that white settlers equipped their houses with chamber pots. "Why," he once asked a Mountie, "would anyone piss in a perfectly good eating bowl when the entire prairie lay before him"?
During his teens Potts passed all the Indian rites of passage including the final agony of the Sun Dance wherein the fledgling brave is tied to a pole by thongs threaded through his chest muscles. Successful completion of this rite meant the youth had achieved glory by tearing himself loose either immediately or by staying tied to the pole in absolute silence for up to three days and then tearing loose. Potts chose to remain the full three days for such was his nature. He also belonged to several of the secret warrior societies which prevailed in large numbers throughout the Blackfoot nation.

Potts wore his "magic" talisman - a cat skin - next to his body at all times and hung his captured scalps on the lodge pole of his main teepee in Indian fashion. Still, he wore the clothing of the white man most of the time including a fashionable hat that sported a wide headband. His bushy, drooping mustache was as stylish as that of any white man. From a distance the stocky, bow-legged Potts looked like a white trapper in his buckskin clothing, his Stetson at a jaunty angle upon his head. Two .44 pistols hung from his gun belt complimenting the Henry rifle which never left his side. On his leg was strapped a long-bladed skinning knife. He always kept small gun inside a hide-away pocket, a practice that saved his life on several occasions. 

In 1870 Battle Of The Belly River: - Cree Massacre song by Richard Harrow.
The Battle of the Belly River was the last major conflict between the Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the last major battle between First Nations in Western Canada.
The battle took place on the banks of the Belly River within the present limits of the city of Lethbridge Alberta. A devastating outbreak of smallpox had reduced the strength of the Blackfoot, and a Cree war party had come south in late October, 1870 in order to take advantage of that weakness. An advance party of Cree’s had stumbled upon a Peigan camp and decided to attack instead of informing the main Cree body of their find.
The Cree and Assiniboine Indians which included Chief Big Bear (Mistahimaskwa) and Chief Piapot (Payipwat), who both lead the attack.

Just in nick of time the Metis Scout, Jerry Potts with a group of Peigans and 2 Blood bands who armed with repeating rifles came to their assistance. After a daylong battle the Cree’s and Assiniboine, who lost about three hundred of their number, were put to rout. The slaughter was such that Jerry Potts said; “You could fire with your eyes shut and be sure to kill a Cree.” – Murder song by Richard Harrow
In 1871, Potts was about thirty-one when his mother was murdered. Her killer had been an Indian who was drunk on "firewater" so he declared his own personal war on the whiskey runners. By the time Potts was 36 he had killed at least 40 men, mostly whiskey runners. - Revenge song by Richard Harrow – Jerry Potts song by Richard Harrow
In September 1874, when the North West Mounted Police first marched west and sat lost and starving near the Canada-U.S. border, it was Potts who led them to shelter. For at that time Potts was trading horses in Fort Benton, Montana United States. He was hired as a guide, interpreter and scout by the newly formed Canadian North-West Mounted Police. His contract as a guide for the North-West Mounted Police was to last twenty-two years. He was paid $90 per month, which was quite a bit higher than a regular guide, and three times a police constable's salary. Even City Marshals in large cities such as Abilene or Dodge City often earned less than that amount. He also picked the location for the first North-West Mounted Police post, called Fort Macleod in Southern Alberta Canada. - Lets Ride song by Richard Harrow

Over the next 22 years he played a critical role in the peaceful settlement of the Canadian West. He only ceased working for the force at age fifty-eight because the pain of throat cancer made it so that he could no longer ride. He died a year later, on 14 July 1896 at Fort Macleod Alberta. – I Know My Way song by Richard Harrow
Jerry Potts was buried at Fort Macleod Alberta Canada with full honours in 1896 having served with the North-West Mounted Police (Todays RCMP) for twenty-two years and being given the rank of special constable.
Potts always received more salary than any other guide/interpreter because as a guide he had no equal. It was as an interpreter that he fell short although he spoke all the Indian languages of the prairies. He could also speak passable Sioux - if he felt like it. His weakness in interpretation lay in his habit of relaying the speaker's message in the fewest words possible. He would never speak a complete sentence if two words would suffice. At meetings between North-West Mounted Police officials and Indian chiefs he would listen intently then, following each speech, would condense what had been said into one or two short sentences
Once, following a Blackfoot chief's extremely long, flowery, impassioned speech to a delegation of visiting officials who had arrived from Ottawa to sign an historic treaty with the Blackfoot people, Potts remained silent as if fully digesting the colorful language. Finally, asked what the chief had said, the laconic Potts shrugged and replied, "He says he's damned glad you're here."
On another occasion, when asked by Inspector MacLeod what lay beyond a high rising hill ahead, Potts muttered, " Nuther hill." – Settled By The Scout song by Richard Harrow – Long Time Laying Down song by Richard Harrow
Potts had two wives, who blessed him with several sons and a couple of daughters. He named one of his sons Blue Gun in commemoration of his favorite rifle. His many descendants still live mainly in Alberta and Saskatchewan with a few in Montana. Three of his descendants, one a young woman named Janet Potts, became Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers during the middle years of this century.
The city of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, east of Fort Macleod Alberta, has named a boulevard in Jerry Potts' honour.
This Jerry Potts Story was put together by,
Sir Richard aka Richard Abbenbroek…
Jerry Potts - songs all, written and performed by Richard Harrow
on the 1974 Album POTTS.
Jerry Potts Music Uploads Assistance thanks to Byran Bunz.
Dedicated with LOVE to you all and all that heaven will allow! By Sir Richard…

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