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Blackfeet remember historic flooding of 1964

Blackfeet Flood 1964
Posted at 8:57 AM, Jun 10, 2024

BROWNING — It's the 60th anniversary of the worst natural disaster in Montana's history. Heavy snowpack and the delay of snow melt caused a surge of water, which contributed to the rupture of two dams located at Two Medicine and Birch Creek, which uprooted lives and claimed several others.

President Lyndon Johnson declared 11 Montana counties federal disaster areas and damages stood at an estimated $62 million.

On Saturday, the Blackfeet remembered and honored their own that perished. Their reservation was hit hardest by the surge.

“We come up here and we honor them because we'll never forget them,” said Winslow Evans, a survivor of the 1964 flooding.

The day was filled with song, prayer, and the regaling of tragic tales from a not so distant past.

“Most of the people here pitched in, like throwing tires and barbed wire, whatever they could to save those that were in peril. And they weren't able to rescue everybody, but they could rescue some,” said Kink Davis, another survivor.

"We have no aid. Nothing for three days and were all soaking wet. No clothes, no nothing. But we managed to survive,” said Evans.

Relief came by way of the Red Cross and U.S. government. I was told it took two weeks for relief to finally arrive by way of helicopter. Since all the bridges had been destroyed, there was no warning of the water rushing towards civilization, which consumed entire homes in under an hour.

“Our house made it through, but it was under about two feet full of mud. My dad and I just shoveled it out. But by the grace of God was able to get out when we did,” said Davis.

In total, 31 lives were lost and 20% of the surface area of the state was ravaged.

The Blackfeet remember their ceremony, which focuses on healing and bonding through trial.