Rocky Boy’s Shining Star Has Deep Rooted Connection to Elders, Community, and Culture

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 Laurie Sun Child, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located in Rocky Boy, Montana. In 2020, Laurie was the recipient of one our Caregiver Awards 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 are are few excerpts from the many nominations we received for Laurie:

We need a lot more Laurie’s in this world … we would have more dedication and commitment to our people and tribes!

Laurie Sun Child has a deep rooted connection to elders, her community, and her culture.

She is a full time college student, grandmother, and part time worker; but none of those day-to-day duties slow her down when it comes to helping people.

She is our shining star for our elders in our community, they know that they can count on her, day or night! 

I’ve known this lady for years and she’s always been a ‘talk the talk, walk the walk’ type of person.

We all know that if we want something done, we can call on Laurie and she will make sure it happens.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a single Mother of two beautiful girls, Serene & Anjel and Grandmother to six; Alyxandria, Khenadie, Ah’varie, Braxton, Cambre’iah, and Da’Vante.

I  was raised in the ways of the Chippewa Cree people and firmly believe in the rich culture, traditions, and ceremony that have sustained my people for eons and eons…this is something I hold onto and will carry forward with my children, grandchildren and family.

Tell us about your education, either traditional or non-traditional?

I went to Rocky Boy Public elementary school and continued onto Box Elder public school, and graduated from there as a proud “Wah-kah-yoos”, which means Bear in the Cree Language. I, like many other Natives, went directly onto college but didn’t finish with a degree, yet! Now that I have “grown-up”, I have gone back to college at MSU-Northern to obtain that piece of paper which I know is important to be able to “walk in both worlds”. One is never too old to learn new things and learning should never stop. I am a big advocate for higher education, as were my parents and I push my children and grandchildren to continue on this path.

You have to know where you came from to know where you are going. That is my mantra.

Who were your role models?

Growing up, my role model was my father, the late John Roddy Sun Child. I watched and learned from him as his love for our family and people was of utmost importance to him. He instilled in me his respect for others, being honest and true to self and others, treating people the way you wanted to be treated, and his love for the community…the people. 

Tell me about any volunteer projects that you are proud of. How did you get started?

It was through my dad’s teachings that I learned to always give back, even in the smallest of way, to those who ask, and don’t ask. Beginning in Head Start when my children were wee ones and continuing through high school, fundraising projects were constant. My employment/jobs within the community were always filled with the need to help in any way possible but most importantly, elders and youth. These two sectors of folks hold a special place for for me as I look to them as the past and the future of the tribe. The firm belief that culture is a must in order to continue our way of life consistently lead me to always promote the use of our elders in everything I do.

Have you ever run for office? Who inspired you to run?

Currently, I am the chair for the Rocky Boy school board. Having been encouraged by my brother Rick and sister-in-law Mona to run, I was ambivalent to do so, but went ahead and threw my name in the mix. Having always been involved in the school functions, this only enhances my being able to work directly for the teachers, staff, and kids.  I enjoy being on the school board and love the rapport that I have with all.

Why is it important for people to get involved in their community?

I am an advocate for getting involved, being involved, and staying involved. If you don’t get involved, then don’t complain. Oftentimes, I feel that people sit back and complain about all kinds of issues, but they don’t want to be a  part of the solution. There are times when the community assumes instead of verifying and that’s how miscommunication and rumors begin. During the last tribal election cycle, candidate Ms. Jody Lamere, suggested that a community board be established to ensure communication at every level. I’m thankful she made it in and it’s now happening. The community board is being established so that our community will be better and more informed, and we won’t have to rely on the ‘moccasin telegraph’ for questions and answers. There are many good things happening within the tribe and this would benefit everyone. Be the change you want to see happen! 

What would you want the outside world to know about the community you consider home?

I would like to let the outside world know that we are just like everyone else. Our local community provides so much to our neighboring town and yes, there are issues although we are only 26 miles apart. We can’t always call it racism as sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. There are good people in Rocky Boy and there are good people in Havre. We need to bridge the gaps and do good things as communities instead of keeping ourselves separate. Let’s open lines of communication, share things with each other, and work together.

What change would you like to see in your community in the next five years?

The change in my community I would like to see is to bridge the gaps of communication, respect for one another, and honestly. I would love to see everyone love one another and take care of one another. We are a small tribe and we should be supporting one another instead of talking each other down. We should be thinking of ways to build each other up. We need to change for the better. 

I feel that although COVID-19 has devastated everyone in the world, there has been a positive side for our tribe. It has brought us back to where we forgot we were supposed to be…together!