Michel Pablo

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Michel Pablo

N. A. Forsyth is responsible for taking the majority of the pictures we enjoy today, most of which are at the Montana Historical Society and a large number at the Library of Congress. 

Michel Pablo, son of a Blackfoot woman, acted as interpreter to stockmen Charles Allard, of the Flathead country. Both men were in their early 30s, both had Indian mothers, and both had been orphaned at an early age. Now they were both deeply interested in buying a small herd of buffalo from Walking Coyote, a Pend Oreille, but living on the Flathead reservation.

Michel Pablo and Charles Allard, in 1884 purchased 13 head and paid 2,000 to 2,500 to Walking Coyote. He turned them loose upon the Indian reservation in Montana, leaving them to wander and roam of their own free will over an area of some fifty square miles. By freeing them in this manner, and protecting them against destruction, he concluded that they would propagate freely since the conditions were highly conducive to such a result.

In 1893 purchased, some say 26 to 35 more from Charles Jones.

Pablo and Andrew Stringer,  totaled 250 in 1899. By 1906 it numbered nearly 800 and was the main plains bison hers in North America, the only other being the herd in Banff National Park..

(Reference: The Herds Shot Round the World Native Breeds and the …Nov 8, 2011 – And brother joseph, pablo, and andrew stringertotalled 250 in 1899. … numbered almost 800 and was the main

Michel Pablo
Michel Pablo courtesy of the Montana Historical Society

plains bison herd in north america, the only other of note being the herd in banff national park. … Her first project, the herds shot round the world: native breeds and the british empire, 1800-1900, …)

Between June 1, 1907 in June 6, 1912 Michel Pablo delivered to Canadian authorities 716 bison, of which 631 went to Buffalo National Park and the remaining 85 went to Elk Island National Park. In October 1909 77 bison were added to the herd in Buffalo National Park from Banff,  10 more were delivered on March 31, 1914. In 1910 in 1911, 30 more bison were delivered to the buffalo national Park from the Conrad herd near Kalispell, Montana; these bison originated from the Allard Estate. Therefore, the bison assembled in Buffalo National Park by 1914 were mixture of Southern and Northern Plains bison.

Elk Island National Park has a prominent history in large ungulate conservation. As early as 1907 the Canadian government bought one of the last and largest remaining pure-bred plains bison, the Pablo-Allard herd, from Montana. Close to 400 bison were shipped to Elk Island as a temporary waystation until the fencing at Buffalo Park in Wainwright was completed. In 1909 the fence was finished and 325 bison were relocated to Buffalo National Park. However, 40-70 bison evaded capture and became the ancestors of today’s herd in Elk Island National Park.


The Buffalo Boys; for more pictures of the drive please see 1909

Pablos Buffalo Punchers
Pablos Buffalo Punchers ~ Montana Historical Society
M Pablo on his famous buffalo ranch MHS
Michel Pablo on his famous buffalo ranch. Courtesy of MHS










In 1905 Alex Ayotte, Assistant Immigration Agent for Canada at Great Falls, Montana offered to find out in the Canadian Government might provide a grazing lease. He set in motion a series of letters and reports that went all the way to the top on Ottawa. It was determine that Pablo was an honest and shrewd vendor, but would accept a reasonable figure for sale. The herd, the 350 animals, was considered in satisfactory condition and fully worthy of purchase. In Jan 1906, a deal was struck by Frank Oliver, federal minister of the Interior, and approved by Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.

National Park Superintendent for the Canadian Government, Howard Douglas. Douglas participated in the great buffalo round up which took several years.



 The Great Round Up


(By F. L. Baghy.)
WITH the shipment Wednesday of nearly 200 buffalo from. Ravalli, Mont., to Canada,Patriarch of the Herd (center) Which Died
all but the outlaw remnant of the largest herd of wild bison in the United States were removed from their native heath to the limited confines of a foreign park–to make: way for the advancing march of progress and development. Trapped into manmade corrals, roped and loaded into cages, bound down with chains and wire, hauled over long and rough roads, then dragged by main force Into freight cars and shipped like so many common cattle over the rail roads, nearly 600 of these lords of the plains have been dragged from the free and untrammeled range of their nativity into a national playground, where they will he kept as noble specimens of a rapidly vanishing species of American big game. And this is all done to maim room for the white man with the plow and the hoe, whose conquest of the soil has swept the red man, the buffalo and other wild game before him like mist before the wind. The settler, in the great battle of development,’ needed more lands to conquer. The Flathead reservation offered an enticing field for his activities. But there was not room for the red man’s buffalo and the white man’s cattle. perforce the bison had to make way for the munching cow, the tolling horse and the ravenous sheep and swine of him who was coming to transform the untamed wilds into an Arcadia of homes, farms ‘ and ranches. The grazing range of the buffalo was to become the feeding ground of domestic animals, so the bison were sold for a paltry sum and men were hired to capture and ship them into the country of the purchaser-the Canadian government.The men who the deal
And when the 150 head that remain upon, the reservation are rounded up and shipped this fall, there will be none of the noble animals left to dispute the right of the White man’s stock to- every blade of grass on the range where once the buffalo was lord of all he surveyed.

Countless Numbers. But a few years ago bison roamed the western plains in countless numbers. Herds so large that days were required for them to pass a given point frequently forced pioneer immigrants to encamp and wait patiently for them to pass before they could resume their journey over the new trail into the unknown wilderness of the vast west. In their migrations the beat of their hoofs resounded like the mighty rumble of thunder, and the dust from their heels clouded the sun itself. Running before a prairie fire or stampeded by a flash of lightning these great masses of shaggy, wild-eyed, snorting beasts made the very earth tremble beneath their majestic forms. But these days have swiftly glided into the past, and with them are vanishing the buffalo like a mirage at the setting of the sun. The thunderous pound of their hoofs is heard no more, and the plains where they once were went to graze in peace or rush in maddened fright before some impending danger, are crossed with fences, dotted with farm houses and producing farm products to sustain life and pour dollars into the pockets of their conquerors – the white man.
Whitened Skulls. A few years ago whitened skulls’ and scattered bones marked the great immigrant trails into the west, grew some monuments to mighty herds that fell under the ruthless slaughter of countless hunters. But even these relics of pioneer days have disintegrated and have become indistinguishable mingled with the dust of the earth.

Man’s appetite for fresh meat and the discovery that buffalo tongue was a delicacy to tickle the palate of an epicure first led to the’ ruthless slaughter of the animals, the lives of countless thousands being sacrificed for the sake of their tongues. When the bison began to at scarce and wealth developed a. hobby for buffalo hides and heads, man’s greed for gold furnished a motive for the slaughter of more and more until he suddenly awakened to the realization that the bison was almost extinct. A desire to save and protect these noble animals found birth in the hearts of a few men, and the surviving buffalo were gathered together in small herds by animal fanciers, zoological gardens and bison societies in various parts of

UNLOADING THE HAULING CRATES. Unloading The Hauling Crates
the. country. The Canadian government took an interest in the matter and established herds in some of its parks. The United States government has, at last, been interested and has
established a bison range in Montana, but it failed to act in time to prevent the loss to this country of the largest herd within its borders.
The Allard Herd.
Among the individuals who took an Interest in preserving the buffalo was
BUFFALO IN LOADING CORRALS.Buffalo in Loading Corrals
Charles Allard, who secured a few.animals and started a herd on the Flathead reservation near Ronan in the early eighties. He increased this herd by breeding and purchase to more than a hundred head in a few years. In 1893 he purchased the herd owned by “Buffalo Jones” of Kansas, and drove them across country to his herd on the Flathead. Accompanied by his family and riding in an old-fashioned barouche, he followed the herd across plain and mountain until the members of the band were safely delivered on the reservation In Montana. This herd consisted of full-blooded and half-breed animals. The latter were products of cross-breeding with cattle, but they did not prove to be desirable  animal, having all the undesirable and none or the good qualities of either ancestor. The mongrels were separated from the blooded animals, and the latter were permitted to range in a wild state on the reservation. They thrived and the herd grew until it numbered almost 800.

When Allard died the herd trussed into the possession of his partner, Michel Pablo, a half-breed Indian and an expert buffalo raiser. Pablo was induced to dispose of a few of the animals to zoological parks, but kept the larger portion of the herd intact until he learned that the reservation was to tie thrown open to settlement and that his buffalo must make way for the settler and his cattle. Then it was that Howard Eaton, expert hunter of Wolf, Wyo., attempted to interest the United States government in the purchase of the herd. Falling in this he turned to the American Bison Association, but again was unsuccessful.

Makes an Offer. It was at this juncture that the Canadian government sent Howard
Douglas, superintendent of the western Canada national parks, out to the Flathead to see the herd and make an offer for It. Mr. Douglas recommended the purchase of the animals and an offer of about $130,000 was made. This was accepted, Pablo agreeing to deliver the animals in Canada for that price. Then came the task of rounding up these animals, transporting them from their range to Ravalli, Mont., i;f miles away, loading them upon freight cars and shipping them to Canada, where they had to be unloaded and delivered in the parks. To say that such a task was Herculean is to express it mildly, but Michel Pablo was not daunted. He employed a force of expert riders, mounted them upon his own best horses and set forth to accomplish the task, riding at the head of his men on his own favorite mount. A corral into which the animals might be driven from the range was the first necessity. Taking advantage of a horseshoe bend in the Pend d’Orielle river, the outside bank of which Is of clay and stands almost straight up and clown, he had a fence constructed across the neck of the horseshoe and wing fences built for a distance of a mile or more from the end of this fence and a cut in the bank of the river out into the range.
Into this the buffalo were driven in three separate hands at different times. It required much hard and dangerous riding on the part of the buffalo punchers, and many of the animals escaped numerous times, but perseverance prevailed and two years ago 400 of the herd were successfully rounded up and then driven down the Mission valley into the corrals at Ravalli. From these corrals the animals were pulled and dragged by means of block and tackle into the railroad cars. Last year another round up was made, but just when the riders were about to drive the herd to Ravalli the band stampeded and made its escape from the corral at Ronan.

A New Plan.
This spring it was decided to make no further attempt to drive the animals from Ronan to Ravaili. but to corral them, load them in crates mounted upon wheels and haul them over the mountains to the loading corrals. For this purpose heavy crates, large enough to hold two buffalo each, were constructed of heavy timber fastened together with steel and wire. Through a loading chute the animals were driven into these crates, securely roped in and hauled by means of six and eight-horse teams over the long and dusty journey to Ravalli. Here they were turned out into a series of corrals from which they were driven, one at a time, into the loading chute. A noose around each buffalo’s neck and the tugging of a score of men landed the animal in his car, where the struggling beast was held until a partition to separate him from his companions could be firmly put into place.The dangers attending the work of handling the buffalo were many and there were numerous narrow escapes from death and injury on the part of, riders and loaders, Fred Decker had
FEEDING FROM THE HAY RACKS.Feeding in the Hay Racks
his horse gored under him, and his brother. Johnnie Decker, twice had his mount gored and was slightly injured, his life being saved only by the prompt action of Pablo and his brother in firing pistol bullets into the neck of an infuriated beast that was trying to kill man and horse. In their maddened struggles against being dragged into captivity 20 or the animals were killed, some of them rushing blindly against the sides of the corrals with such force as to break their necks. One, the patriarch of the herd, fought with a younger

bull, then lay down in the loading chute and died.
Pathetic Picture.Pulling a Bison Aboard a Car
It was a pathetic picture to one who stopped to think, as he gazed at the
lacerated, bleeding, ragged animals that stood in the corral at Ravalli, gazing longingly through the cracks of the high, strong fences out upon the hills, beyond which lay the wild free range from which they had been dragged in ignominious captivity to be loaded Into cramped stalls of rail road cars, there to be left to vent their fury in vain kicks against the walls of their prisons until steam and steel landed them at their new home. Slowness in hauling the bison from the round-up corral necessitated some of the animals standing in the cars for eight days before the last train started for Canada. At last all of the shipments save those that were killed and two that escaped were loaded, aboard and the long trip of 1,200 miles to the point of unloading was commenced. Canada has secured a bargain in buffalo and the United States has lost an asset which it may never be able to replace.

Much interest Is already being manifested in the coming roundup of the remaining portion of the herd which is scheduled to commence about the first of September. The riders who have been leading the strenuous life on the buffalo range for the past two lmonths will now turn their attention to, gathering together the cattle that have been wintering on the reservation, and this work will continue until haying time. When the season’s crop is gathered the sunburned riders will again dog their ‘”‘schaps,” high -heeled boots and spurs, mount their favorite steeds and ride forth to the buffalo range. Then the work of maneuvering the outlaw buffalo from their stamping grounds into the corraI at Ronan will he gotten under way.

Since the work of shipping the present hand was begun the wilder members of the herd have strayed some 40 miles from their usual feeding grounds, and it was feared that they would migrate so far from their usual haunts that it would become an, almost impossible task to drive them a back. But Indian riders report that within the past two weeks the straying bands have turned their noses back toward their accustomed range and are gradually moving back in that direction. It is hoped by the riders and Pablo that by the first of Septembher the animals will have forgotten the excitement that has been in progress in the vicinity of Ronan and be back in that district, for enough trouble is anticipated in handling the beasts is it is without t having to search for roving bands of them over the entire reservation and rounding them in a bunch of three or four at a time. The same methods and tactics used in handling the recent shipment will be employed in handling the outlaw herd, provided the herd does not upset all plans. Some changes are planned in the corral at Ronan, as experience has taught the riders that the buffalo is a wily animal and cannot be trapped twice in “the same place or manner. A buffalo that has been driven into a trap once and succeeds in making hIs escape cannot be driven into the trap in the same place again, and will always attempt to escape from the place that afforded him freedom before. The entrance to the corral will be changed to another location, the loading chute will be moved and the entire corral will be strengthened to withstand the onslaughts of the obstreperous beasts. New crates of a little better construction than the ones used last time will be constructed for time hauling of the animals from Ronan to Ravaili to the loading pens. An effort will also be made in the fall to load and haul more bison at a time from the roundup corral, so that those loaded into the cars at Ravalli will not be forced to stand in their cramped stalls so long as many of the recent shipment were forced to do.Shaggy Monarchs of the Plains
Though the riding on the recent roundup and the incidents attendant upon the work were more thrilling and sensational than any “wild west” performance ever dreamed of being, still greater excitement is anticipated when the next round up is gotten under way. But notwithstanding the dangers they have passed through and the narrow escapes from death that some of them have had, the riders face the coming roundup with eager impatience. Those bronzed men who sit the saddle with as much comfort as a millionaire rests in his up holstered chair, and find more enjoyment and actual life in doing so, would rather ride than be the president of a railroad.. To them the excitement, the dinger and the thrill attendant until a chase either before or after a rushing herd of bison, constitute life.



Where Forsyth lost his camera and almost his life MHS


Here is Charlie’s account of one incident. NOTE: no attempt has been made to duplicate Charlie’s original spelling in this passage.

“I wish you could have seen them take river – they hit the water on a dead run. That river was tapioca for them and they left her (the river) at the same gait. They took her catching a photographer from Butte on the bank. We all thought he was a goner but when the dust cleared he showed up shy a camera, hat and most of his pants. Lucky for him there were some cedars on the bank as he wasn’t slow about using one.”








In the book Head Hides and Horns, a photo is captioned.

“Michel’s Salish wife, who, rumor has it, so hated the United States she kept Michel from selling their herd to it. More likely, the U.S. bid too low. Courtesy University of Montana Archives, Missoula.”

(The two photos are not the same photo.)

Michel's Salish wife
Agate (Agathe) Finley, the Pend d’Oreille daughter of Augustin “Yoostah” and Clemence “Cah-le-moss” Finley
Mrs Irvine from newspaper 1907
Emily Brown, daughter of Louis Brown Louis Pascal (le Gaucher) Kouilqaausi. Called a chief of the Upper Pend d’Oreille or Kalispel) and Louis Brun [Brown] a French-Canadian from Quebec. Her sister was the wife of Charles Allard.

In 1907 an Edmonton newspaper shared a similar photo as Mrs Irvine. Wife of Billy/William Irvine. One of the “Buffalo Boys”.

From the book,

“I Will be Meat for My Salish”: The Buffalo and the Montana Writers Project and the Buffalo of the Flathead Indian Reservation;

In the interval of thirty years the names of most of these daredevil riders have been forgotten, but the names of a few of them are still recalled by the older residents of the Flathead Valley. At that time they were called “Buffalo Boys” to distinguish them from the ordinary cowboy. Among the riders were Tony Barnaby (Pablo’s son in law), Zephyr Courville ( Allard’s brother in law), Frank McCleod [McLeod], Malcom McCleod [Mcleod] , Joseph Houle, James Peone, Jim Grinder, Antoine Morigeau, Billy Lewis, Billy Ervine [Irvine], Billy Archibald, Tom “Butch’ O’Connell, and Mrs. Emily Ervine [Irvine], Alvin Peone, then too young to ride, with Mose Delaware, Henry Moss were attending the loading chutes leading to the railroad cars. The riders were paid $5.00 a day and they probably earned it, as they were usually in the saddle from dawn to dark. It has since been said of them that they road not for the money but for the excitement and glory of the chase.

In an interview, Mrs. Mary Blood, told of Michael Pablo’s pleasure when her sister-in-law, Mrs. Emily Ervine [Irvine], offered her services as a rider in the roundup. Billy Ervine [Irvine], her husband, was one of Pablo’s friends. She was an expert horse rider, had ridden broncos, and bad ones, over much of the Flathead Valley. As she was part Indian, she understood buffalo, their habits, and how to handle them. Her fellow riders said she was an equal of any two ordinary riders. She was a graceful and beautiful woman, and was always mounted on a splendid appearing horse; a site which Charlie Russell said, “was enough to stir any he-man’s blood.” She demonstrated her efficiency one hot day, when after continuous riding of about 100 miles, she, unaided, was successful in steering the herd and thus preventing what would have been a most disastrous stampede. Her husband also participated in the roundup, and Mr. Pablo was so well pleased with their work, that he presented them with the best buffalo cow in the herd. This was in Indians appreciation, aside from the wages they had earned. They treasured the hide of that cow and were proud and telling their visitors its history.



The Billings Gazette., October 09, 1908

(Special to The Gazette.)

GREAT FALLS, Oct.- Charles M. Russell, Canadian Land Agent; Benjamin F Davis, and or two other Great Falls residents will leave shortly for Ravalli for the purpose of watching; the roundup of the remainder of the herd of buffalo purchased by the Canadian government a couple of years ago, which will be shipped to the Canadian national park at Banff.

Word has been received from the reservation, where the buffalo are ranged that the recent bad weather had interfered with the work of rounding up the animals and that little progress was made before the storm commenced. There is trouble enough in running these outlaw bison when all conditions are favorable, and when the ground is slippery it Is next to impossible. They run clumsily, but dart quickly when they dodge, and they keep running until a horse is worn out. With the effort to keep up with them and head them off. There is no use trying to handle them in wet weather, as they are liable, to get hurt, and it is necessary to deliver them in good shape.


Manitoba Museum – Pablos Outlaw Bison states:

In early 1911, in what was billed by the The New York Times in January that year as “the last big buffalo hunt in the history of the world,” Pablo hunted down and shot these ‘outlaw’ bison. The metal plaque on the Museum hallway head clearly identifies it as a member of Pablo’s ‘outlaw’ herd.


American Bison Society meeting:

Dr. Hornaday then spoke of the status of the outlaw bison of the Pablo herd.

On motion of Dr. Hornaday, it was Voted: That the President of the Society be requested to communicate with the governor of Montana, representing to him the undesirability of allowing the slaughter of the Pablo outlaw bison, and requesting him to take action to put an end to it permanently.


The Pablo Herd.—This herd was started in 1884, with 36 animals brought together. In 1907 it numbered almost 600. Few people will believe there was such a number, but they were on the reservation, without doubt. The annual increment for several years has been between 60 and 100. There have been many sales, perhaps some losses by wild animals, and still the herd has increased rapidly.

This herd was sold recently to representatives of the Canadian Government. The understanding was that the entire herd was to be taken except 15 or 20, which Pablo reserved. The price was $250.00 each, large and small, old and young, male and female, delivered at Strathcona, but the Canadians paid the freight. Pablo suffered the loss in loading and in transportation, paid the expenses of bringing them in from the range, of loading, and of stalls, rope and other material.

Two train loads, containing approximated 200 animals each, or about 400, were shipped, one in late spring, the other in late fall. Nearly $100,000 have thus been paid by the Canadians for American animals. The expense to Pablo has been great. They were hard to bring in from the range, and weeks were required to bring together a few bands.

Approximately 200 Buffalo are vet on the range, which it was impossible to bring to the shipping point. No doubt many of these are old ones, and least desirable in starting a herd, but with this number there is still a chance for saving a portion of this herd for America.

Pablo cannot be blamed for the sale. The reservation is soon to be thrown open, his range will be gone, and so large a herd cannot be maintained without a large and free range. The herd cost him money in the beginning, money for maintenance, and he must dispose of it to any buyer. It is said on excellent authority he would prefer to have them kept in America, but saw no opportunity to sell to the Government, and they could not be sold to private parties.

The Pablo herd should not have been permitted to leave the country. The range outlined in this report will hold a herd twice the size of the original Pablo herd of 600, and still have food for as many more animals of other species. The cost of the range will not be as great as the loss to the nation of the herd that has been sold. If the money that should have been put into the herd is now in part put into this range, and in part into animals, in a few years the increment will be such as to make a herd of which the nation may be proud.