Feeding the hungry with prayers, a lot of hope, and a community.
Western Native Voice works year-round to inspire Native leadership so our communities flourish. We are excited to share with you Western Native Voice Community Spotlight, designed to highlight grassroots organizing and individuals creating change from across Montana and in Indian Country.
This month, we would like to introduce Harry Louis Beauchamp, an Assiniboine member of the Fort Peck Tribes, who resides in Oswego, Montana. On Thanksgiving day in 2017, Harry and his wife Missy, opened the Beauchamp Kitchen to feed the hungry in the Wolf Point Community. The soup kitchen was one of the organizations that received a Mutual Aid grant from Western Native Voice which celebrated and honored those in our Native communities who have quietly gone above and beyond caring for and giving to those most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is his story in his own words:
Tell us a little about yourself.
My Assiniboine name is Shakes The Spear, which was my grandfather’s name. My English name is Harry Louis Beauchamp and I am from the Red Bottom clan and was raised in Oswego, Montana on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. My dad grew up in Hilger, Montana and my mother was a Standing from this area. I had 14 brothers and sisters growing up, so we always had to have a big house. My grandpa pretty much raised me because my dad worked all the time. My mom worked also, sometimes riding her horse into town to work at the hotel for extra money.
Tell me about your school days.
I attended school in Wolf Point which was about 13 miles away so we had to ride a school bus. I loved playing basketball and ran track in school. I stayed in high school as long as I could until I felt like I was a burden and decided to drop out of school in my junior year in high school. There were 14 of us at home, so in the 70’s I rolled up my sleeping bag and backpack and left. I felt like there was nothing there for me and I needed to do something different. So, I went to the mountains and went to work on a ranch. Later on, I tried to go back to college, but by that time, I was a dad and had kids and was way too busy. I did end up teaching hide tanning at the Fort Peck Community College some time later. I was also a cultural liaison for a company who did excavation work.
The Beauchamp Kitchen was completed in 2017.
Who was your role model growing up?
Grandpa, Shakes the Spear, his English name was Joe Standing. When I was a little guy, we would go on long walks and he would always tell me stories. Grandpa taught me gentleness and compassion…he was a big man but he was a gentle man. People would come to him for help and answers. He had powers. He would help people. He taught me how to survive on cold days, like how to get leaves and put them in your pant legs to stay warm. He was also a lodge man from Arapahoe country on the Wind River Reservation. I instilled that same compassion that my grandpa gave me in my two boys Dennis and Harry. My son Harry, would give his couple dollars he had from dancing to homeless people when he was little. He also knew how to pray for people at a young age.
“Grandpa taught me gentleness and compassion…he was a big man but he was a gentle man. People would come to him for help and answers. He had powers. He would help people.”
During the Covid-19 outbreak, Harry safely delivered food to people in their cars..
What struggles did you have and how did you overcome them?
When I was a little boy, I followed my dad everywhere…and in my 30’s he passed away…I drank for one whole year straight. Somehow I made it through that year. One day I met a man, an Ojibwe man in Helena. He asked me why I was doing this to myself. He told me I didn’t need to live that way. He told me to knock it off. This man gave me a job and I worked for him for a year and a half. I went to a lot of AA meetings back then…I started living again. I am 28 years sober today.
Tell me how you started dancing?
When I was young, we were in Ethete Wyoming. I met some young kids that danced and they all sang too. They did this every weekend on Saturdays. That’s what got me wanting to dance. I started dancing again when I moved back to Oswego in my 30s. Francis Lone Child gave me my first eagle to make my regalia. Another person gave me a fan, another a belt and side drops. Assiniboine are very giving people. Everyone suited me up and told me to get out there and dance.
Have you ever run for office or sat on any committees?
I was asked all the time to sit on committees and to run for tribal board. I never ran for council, but I got talked into a lot of committees. I was on the Looking Eagle Manufacturing committee, Wolf Point Community Organization committee, Silver Wolf committee, on the School Board in Frazer, to name a few.
Cooking begins around 2 pm, Monday through Friday.
Where did you get the idea for the Beauchamp Kitchen?
It was a painful one. It had to do a lot with my two boys that had passed. In 2010, my family and I were on vacation near St. Ignatius. My eight year old son Dennis was standing by a canal taking pictures when he fell in. My older son Harry,15, jumped in after him and both drowned. The insurance company offered us money, but we didn’t want to take it…it was blood money. We didn’t ask for it. We just wanted them to make the canal safer so it wouldn’t happen to anyone else. When we did get the money, my wife Missy and I talked about what we could do with it to help people. We decided to build a soup kitchen in Wolf Point.
My wife and I run the place along with family members who volunteer on occasion. One little girl comes in every day and picks up eight meals and takes them home. She is only 7 or 8 years old. This past Thanksgiving, we fed 280 people. We go in at 2 pm Monday through Friday and feed at 4 pm. A lot of them are relying on us to feed them every single day. We mostly buy our food locally as well.
“One little girl comes in every day and picks up eight meals and takes them home. She is only 7 or 8 years old.”
Are you a non-profit?
With the help of Hopa Mountain, we got our 501c3 status. We now have a non-profit board. If people want to donate, we will provide them with a receipt for their tax deductible donation. If anyone wants to donate, they can mail a check to: Beauchamp Kitchen, PO BOX 561 , Wolf Point, Montana 59201.
Beauchamp kitchen depends on community donations and volunteers to keep the kitchen open.
Where do you get the funds now to operate?
The insurance money is mostly all gone now. Many times we are low on food and we scrounge around. There is lots of praying and lots of hope to keep it going. Like “I hope to get a check today” (laughs)…and then all of a sudden, one will show up. Like one day, out of the blue, a little lady from the community came in and handed me 500 dollars. And that is what keeps it going…the community. When we first opened, the tribe would pay people to come and help us…now it’s mostly us and my family. We have received some small donations from the Fort Peck Tribes, Hopa Mountain and a few other donations from Wolf Point organizations and churches and individual donations. Western Native Voice gave us a grant last year and it sure helped us out. Every once in a while we get donations like coats and caps.
“There is lots of praying and lots of hope to keep it going. Like “I hope to get a check today” (laughs)…and then all of a sudden, one will show up.”
What is your vision for the future?
I would like to see a home built here, with beds for men and women. Maybe a two story, with washers and dryers, 7 to 8 beds for each. I would also like to see someone in the community open the food bank again.
What would you like people to know about your community?
The Assiniboine are very giving people, they give comfort, advice, and they will give the shirt off their backs. These are the real people here. Most of the community is real, that’s what I like. The ones that come get the food are good people, they carry our prayers for us.