As L. Ron Hubbard told it, he was 4 years old when a medicine man named "Old Tom" made him a "blood brother" of the Blackfeet Indians of Montana, providing the inspiration for the Scientology founder's first novel, "Buckskin Brigades."
But one expert on the tribe doesn't buy Hubbard's account.
Historian Hugh Dempsey is associate director of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada. He has extensively researched the tribe, of which his wife is a member.
He said that blood brothers are "an old Hollywood idea" and that the act was "never done among the Blackfeet."
As for "Old Tom," Dempsey has informed doubts. For one thing, he said, the name does not appear in a 1907 Blackfeet enrollment register containing the names of hundreds of tribal members.
For another, "It's the kind of name, for that period (1915), that would practically not exist among the Blackfeet," he said. "At that time, Blackfeet did not have Christian names."
In 1985, church leaders produced a document that they say proves Hubbard was not lying.
Typed on Blackfeet Nation stationery, it states: "To commemorate the seventieth anniversary of L. Ron Hubbard becoming a blood brother of the Blackfeet Nation. Tree Manyfeathers in a ceremony re-established L. Ron Hubbard as a blood brother to the Blackfeet Tribe."
The document actually is meaningless because none of the three men who signed it were authorized to take any action on the tribe's behalf, according to Blackfeet Nation officials.
The document was created by Richard Mataisz, a Scientologist of fractional Indian descent. Mataisz said in an interview he tried to prove that Hubbard was a Blackfeet blood brother but came up empty-handed.
"It's not," he said, "something you go down to the courthouse and look up."
So Mataisz, using the name Tree Manyfeathers, said he held a private ceremony, made Hubbard his own blood brother and, along with two other men, signed the commemorative document.
"You should not give it (the document) very much credibility," said John Yellow Kidney, former vice president of the tribe's executive committee. "I don't."