James Bird Jr.

c. 1800 - December 11, 1892

Bird, James Jr., frontiersman (c. 1800-Dec. 11, 1892). His date of birth is conjecture; Bird, son of a Hudson's Bay Company trader and a Cree woman, probably was born in Saskatchewan; as an HBC man he was captured in 1816 by North West Company men in an attack on the Selkirk Settlement. Before 1832 he had left Canada and become associated with the Blackfeet in the upper Missouri country; he came to consider himself a tribal member and was influential in their councils. He often served as interpreter between Blackfeet and traders, though described by Maximilian as "a treacherous, very dangerous man." In the summer of 1836 he killed Antoine Godin, perhaps because of a feud commencing with the 1832 Pierre's Hole battle which Godin's treachery precipitated. (Aubrey L. Haines indicates in Vol. II of The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West: Biographical Sketches of the Participants, 10 vol. that Antoine Godin "was shot treacherously by Blackfeet near Fort Hall). Bird continued as a part time interpreter all of his life and died on the Blackfeet Reservation near Chouteau, Montana. Maximilian in 1833 described him as "a tall, strong man, brownish complexion, thick black hair, spoke Blackfoot language fluently." Many descriptions reveal him an excellent interpreter, but inclined to be surly, prankish and contentious at least in his earlier years although he may have mellowed later. He had affection for his children and was intrigued by religion. In 1845 he was described as hating "everything connected with the French or Canadians," yet Paul Kane found him hospitable and trustworthy. In his younger years he frequently accompanied Blackfoot war parties, and took part in their activities.


Maximilian, Prince of Wied's Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-34; Bernard DeVoto, Across the Wide Missouri. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1947.