Francis X. Guardipee was recently named to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. He is pictured above left as a Glacier National Park employee in 1935. At right, Guardipee is pictured around 1965, just five years before he passed away.

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) has announced the eleventh class of inductions into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. The inductees were chosen from a field of candidates nominated by the general public. Inductees are honored for their notable contributions to the history and culture of Montana.

“Our volunteer trustees around Montana vote on nominations that come from the district in which they reside,” said Bill Galt, MCHF & WHC President. “This process gives the local communities a strong voice in who will represent them in the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame exists to honor those who have made an impact in their part of the state and represent Montana’s authentic heritage for future generations.

The 2018 inductees into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame include Francis X. Guardipee (Ah koo in slak mi) - Big Lodge Pole - of Browning. 

Francis “Frank” Xavier Guardipee was born Nov. 4, 1885, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation at the Old Agency on Badger Creek. He was the son of Eli and Sadie Guardipee and the grandson of Jean Baptiste Guardipee and Judith Guardipee. His famous father Eli was a friend and companion of James Willard Schultz. In Schultz’s book describing their float trip down the Missouri River, he said that Eli was the best shot he had ever seen, white man or Indian. Though of French, Cree and Shoshoni origin, Eli was married into the Blackfeet tribe and became one of its principle authorities on tribal lore and history, as did Frank later in life. 

Frank first attended the Jesuit run school at the Holy Family Mission on the Two Medicine River. Later he attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. That was the first federally funded, off reservation, Indian boarding school located on a military reservation. Frank learned to manage and synthesize the two cultures within himself. While at Carlisle, Frank played football under coach “Pop” Warner, who later became the football coach at Stanford University. According to the Hungry Horse News, Frank was “a 10-second man in the 100-yard dash.”

During a trip to Atlanta, Ga., for a Shriners Convention in 1914, most likely a trip promoted by Louis Hill (owner of the Great Northern Railway), Frank was given the name “Ah koo in slak mi” (Big Lodge Pole) by Chief Two Guns White Calf, Bird Rattler and other tribal elders. This name refers to the main pole in a tipi that provides support to the entire structure. He was 29 years of age.

In the following years, Frank traveled and had many adventures. For a time, he drove a taxi in New York City, a sightseeing bus in Denver, worked for the American Museum of Natural History and was reportedly a cast member in the silent Western film, “The Covered Wagon,” released by Paramount Pictures in 1923. 

His impact, influence, contributions to the Blackfeet Tribe, State of Montana, the National Park Service, his church and the countless thousands of youth on the Blackfeet Reservation and elsewhere is hard to fathom. He was long famed as an outstanding speaker and motivator with his strong, deep voice.

•In 1916, he founded Boy Scout Troop 100 in Browning, believed to the first Native American troop in Montana. Frank led Troop 100 for more than half a century. No other Montanan had served the Boy Scouts for so long. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) bestowed two of their three highest awards in Scouting to Frank for his service and numerous other recognitions from his many thousands of hours for the good of young boys and all men whom he considered his brothers. As a Scout leader, Frank attended many National BSA jamboree’s representing the State of Montana and several International BSA Jamboree representing the United States. In 1947 he attended the 6th World Jamboree in Molson, France, representing the United States. This event on the banks of the River Seine in France was named the “Jamboree of Peace,” being the first International Jamboree since 1941. It was attended by over 25,000 Scouts from more than 70 countries, including Frank and one of his scouts from Troop 100 by the name of Earl Old Person. 

•Glacier National Park (GNP): Park Ranger from 1932 to his retirement at the end of 1947. He worked all over the Park. He, his wife Alma and son Francis X Guardipee Jr. (Gunner) spent most summers at Nyack and Flathead Ranger Stations, Lake McDonald, Two Medicine and winters at East Glacier. Francis retired after 16 years in Glacier. Frank served on the Presidential Security detail consisting of Secret Service and Park Rangers for President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to GNP on August 5, 1934. He drove one of the security trucks immediately behind the President’s car.

Like the Scouts, Frank spent many decades serving the Knights of Columbus in Montana.

 Frank died of a stroke on Feb. 10, 1970, and is buried in Willow Creek Cemetery. His obituary reports, “His constant effort was to lift up the members of his Tribe, and he had no patience with a person, Indian or not, who did not help himself. He instilled in all he came in contact with the virtues of honesty, industry and determination. Rarely in the history of mankind has one person contributed so many thousands of hours for the good of young boys and all men whom he considered his brothers.” The Flathead Living Magazine stated, “A man of so many firsts and superlatives, it’s safe to say he left behind much more than a mountain name.” 

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