Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

First Superintendent

One notable person to visit the Waterton Lakes area was John George "Kootenai" Brown. Born in Ireland in 1839, Brown served with the British Army in India before coming to North America. Well-spoken and educated, Brown first saw Waterton in 1865 after traveling over the South Kootenay Pass. At that time, he vowed to return to this place of scenic splendor, "for this is what I have seen in my dreams, this is the country for me."

In 1869, after marrying Olive Lyonnais (a Métis girl), Brown—former army ensign, deckhand and gold prospector—embarked on a series of careers that included riding Pony Express, scouting for General Custer, and hunting bison and wolf. By all accounts a colorful character, Brown was also a trader, rancher, backwoods guide and fisherman. He came back to Waterton in 1878 with his family.

Brown was devastated when his wife passed away in 1885. Concerned for his children's welfare, he placed them in better hands. He later married Isabella ("Blue Flash of Lightning"), a Cree woman. In 1901, "Kootenai" or "Insupi" (meaning long hair) was appointed Game Guardian and Fisheries Inspector for the newly formed park. Kootenai eventually became Waterton's Forest Ranger in Charge in 1911. Brown wrote several letters to his superiors expressing his concern about the state of the park. He was one of Waterton's most vocal advocates in the early years. Brown was a key player in the evolution of the park's preservation policies, one of his many accomplishments.