Scottish Highlanders, Indian Peoples: Thirty Generations of a Montana Family
Scottish Highlanders and Indians Share Roots in Montana
Scottish history and that of Montana and its Native Americans might seem continents apart, but a book from the Montana Historical Society Press links the two in an epic tale.
Scottish Highlanders, Indian Peoples: Thirty Generations of a Montana Family traces the history of the McDonald family from the clan's emigration to the Scottish Highlands from Ireland in the ninth century to the lives of the McDonald descendants who still reside on the Flathead Reservation in Montana today.
William Farr, history professor at the University of Montana, called it "a fascinating story of mixed inheritance and cultural brokering in the Rocky Mountain West, one which will surely enrich the reader's understanding of race and identity."
In the early 1800s Angus McDonald, who had left Scotland and become a trader in the Pacific Northwest, married Catherine, who was the daughter of a Nez Perce chief.
To this happy union Angus brought the history of his clan's unsuccessful fight to remain free and independent, which included the bitter memory of a seventeenth-century governmental attempt to kill all McDonalds under age seventy.
Catherine carried the proud heritage of her people who already were locked in a desperate struggle to retain their homeland in present-day Idaho and Washington.
Both knew what it was to be faced with powerful enemies—England and the United States respectively. Both knew what it meant to be faced with their conquerers' policies of total war and the loss of the control of much of their land.
Author James Hunter, who lives in Scotland and did extensive research with the McDonalds of Montana, uncovers uncanny parallels between the fate of the native Highland clans and that of North American Indians.
Hunter begins his book near Missoula in 1877 where the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph outflanked a feeble attempt by local militia to block their entry into the Bitterroot Valley.
Present at that encounter was Angus and Catherine's son, Duncan, who wrote a history of the Nez Perce War defending the tribe's attempt to retain its freedom.
Throughout the rest of the book Hunter searches across two continents and weaves a story that colorfully links the clans of Scotland with the native people of the American West.
Joseph F. McDonald, a descendant of Angus and Catherine and president of the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., said Hunter "shows unusual perception of Indian culture, their beliefs, and their feelings for the land in his writing of this book."
"The McDonald family is especially indebted to the author for the special attention given to the McDonalds for their part in Scottish history and their history in the Northwest," McDonald said.
The Glasgow Herald from Scotland's side of the Atlantic called it "a superb book, well researched and excitingly written."
The book is available at bookstores across the nation or can be ordered directly by calling the Montana Historical Society at 1-800-243-9900.
232 pages, with 8 pages of photographs, $18.95 paperback (ISBN 0-917298-52-7) is available at bookstores across the state, or can be ordered directly from the Montana Historical Society by calling toll free 1-800-243-9900 (shipping charges additional.)Order