Published on September 8, 2013 by Amy
Old Tom is the name of an alleged Blackfoot medicine man who lived in Montana during the early twentieth century. Some sources suggest that he may have been Piegan or Sarcee.
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In 1910, Harry Pollard photographed a member of the Sarcee or Tsuu T’ina Blackfoot tribe in Calgary Alberta whom he identified as Old Tom.
In 1924, T. J. Hileman photographed a member of the Piegan Blackfeet tribe of Montana whom he identified as Old Tom. Hileman’s photos are notable for showing garments and hairstyles of the Kainai and South Peigan. The Glenbow Museum has 107 of T. J. Hileman’s photos of Montana Blackfoot people in their archives, dating from 1924 to 1940, and the 1924 T.J. Hileman Old Tom photo is among them.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard claimed that as a four-year-old boy in Montana, he became the protégé of a Blackfeet Indian medicine man named Old Tom, who made him a blood brother of the tribe in 1915. Hubbard’s claim has been disputed by tribal officials and archivist Hugh Dempsey, associate director of the Glenbow Museum. In addition, Dempsey stated that the name “Old Tom” does not appear in the 1907 Blackfeet enrollment register. However, the name does appear in the Glenbow Museum’s photo archives, of which Dr. Dempsey was archivist.