James Willard Schultz was an author, explorer, hunting guide, trapper, trading post operator, and historian of Indian lore. He was born to a wealthy New York family on August 26,1859, and grew up outdoors, hunting, trapping and shooting. He left home at age eighteen “to escape a West Point future” by boarding a Missouri River steamboat in St. Louis and traveling some 2,000 miles before arriving at Fort Benton, Montana Territory, in 1877.
He fell in love with the American West while working at various trading posts, and got to know the Pikuni Blackfoot Indians he traded with. He visited their villages, hunted bison with them, and learned their language. He was nineteen in 1878 when he married his first wife, Natahki, a fifteen-year-old Blackfoot maiden. It was during this period that he was given the name “Apikuni” (Spotted Robe) by the chief of the Pikunis. He remained a staunch supporter of rights for Native Americans all his life.
Schultz and his wife were living with the Pikuni when the tribe was moved to its reservation in 1882-83. Natahki was allotted a parcel of land there, and she raised cattle with the help of her uncles. This gave Schultz time for the things he loved — hunting, fishing, trapping, and exploring the spectacularly beautiful wilderness that eventually became Glacier National Park.
His letters to his family’s friends “back east” soon brought customers to his new business of guiding big game hunters and the tourists who visited the region.