Weaving Tradition with Innovation: A Journey of Creativity and Cultural Empowerment

This month we visited with Rebekah Jarvey, an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Rebekah is a fashion designer who has used her creativity to take the world by storm. Last year, she designed the 2023 N7 Nike shoe and took her unique collections all the way to France to walk the red carpet. Currently, Rebekah is designing a collection for Native youth as part of Western Native Voice’s 2024 Beyond Survival Youth Conference.

Please start with your background, tribe, where you grew up, family, schools attended, what you are currently doing now, etc:

I’m Rebekah Jarvey, an artisan, fashion show coordinator, and designer, proudly representing my Chippewa, Cree, and Blackfeet heritage as an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe in North Central Montana. I was born and raised on the Rocky Boy Reservation, attended Rocky Boy public schools, and graduated from Rocky Boy High School in 2005.

After high school, I pursued higher education at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, earning a dual degree in Business Administration and Psychology. Currently, I am a full-time employee for the Chippewa Cree Tribe, serving as the Human Resource Generalist while also dedicating my time to my passion for fashion on a part-time basis.

My love for fashion has been a constant in my life, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, I created the Night & Day Mask, which gained viral attention. This unexpected success led to a calling for my work, prompting me to start my business and launch my website officially. Now, I’m excited to share my designs with the world. 

What does community organizing mean to you?

It takes a community to help put on a community event. 

Every time I plan the Honor Our Legacy Fashion Show, the community is my top priority because I’m putting on the fashion show for them. The fashion show engages the community by having them participate in various ways, such as singing (host drum group), flag bearers in our local post, and local announcers. 

Community members are the judges for the categories and also take registration. The show’s target market is young people, and those are usually the people who enter the fashion show as models. They usually enter both the competition piece and showcase. These events give them a lot of motivation and fun drug-and-alcohol-free events to look forward to. Some of them have been modeling since the first fashion show. 

I pride myself on taking on this meaningful community project; it’s incredible to see the fashion show grow and expand every year. This year will be the 8th annual Honor Our Legacy and it will take place on Saturday, September 21, 2024, at Northern Winz Hotel and Casino.

Caitlin Ironman models Rebekah Jarvey‘s Night & Day Mask.

How can young people use creativity to organize and change their communities?

Young people can drive change through their creativity. As an Indigenous person, embracing one’s cultural identity is a powerful way for the youth to contribute positively to their communities. In 2022, my “Being Indigenous is So Beautiful” collection aimed to convey this message.

The collection’s narrative revolves around the idea that every Indigenous person harbors unique gifts, whether in beading, sewing, singing, language learning, or dancing. Even if individuals are unaware of their talents, the key lies in practice and exploration. The essence of being Indigenous is beautifully encapsulated in the process of discovering and nurturing these gifts.

Encouraging young people to explore their cultural heritage and express it creatively fosters a sense of pride and serves as a catalyst for positive change. Whether it’s through art, storytelling, or other creative mediums, young people can effectively communicate their experiences, challenges, and aspirations, thereby mobilizing their communities toward collective progress and understanding. By embracing creativity, Native youth can amplify their voices, promote cultural richness, and contribute significantly to the betterment of their communities.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that shaped your journey?

A pivotal moment that significantly shaped my journey occurred on June 4, 2020, when the Night & Day Mask I designed went viral on social media. This unexpected surge in popularity became a turning point, serving as a powerful motivation for me to take my passion for fashion design more seriously and make the leap toward establishing it as a business in fashion and design. 

Within a month of the Night & Day Mask gaining widespread attention on social media, I took the initiative to start my website, enabling me to showcase and sell my designs internationally. 

Going from a cool social media moment to having my own international platform was a big deal, and it showed me that when you go after your passions with dedication, cool things can happen!

By embracing creativity, Native youth can amplify their voices, promote cultural richness, and contribute significantly to the betterment of their communities.

Rebekah Jarvey and her RJ models in the streets of Cannes, France during the Cannes Film Festival.

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Navigating the journey in a rural area posed its own challenges, particularly the lack of spaces or venues for vendors to sell their products. Additionally, participating in vendor markets required extensive travel, often spanning several hours, which came with its own financial burden.

To overcome these challenges, I had to get creative and resourceful. Establishing an online presence through my website allowed me to reach a wider audience without geographical limitations, which reduced the need for physical spaces and opened up global opportunities to connect with customers.

Adapting to the limitations of a rural setting requires strategic thinking and finding innovative solutions. Embracing the digital landscape and finding cost-effective ways to participate in markets were key steps in overcoming these geographical challenges.

Who were your role models or sources of inspiration when you were younger?

My role models were powwow dancers. I enjoyed watching them when I traveled to powwows, especially if they had beautiful outfits and were champion dancers.

What advice would you give a young person unsure about their future career or goals?

For a young person unsure about their future career or goals, I suggest considering traveling as a valuable and enriching experience. Joining youth groups or clubs at school and participating in fundraising activities can open up travel opportunities.

Traveling as a youth has played a significant role in shaping my character and helping me identify my interests. These experiences broaden your perspective and help you discover what resonates with you. Moreover, the connections you make during your travels can become valuable resources in your journey. Networking with people from different backgrounds can offer mentorship, guidance, and potential career opportunities.

My advice is to embrace the physical and social opportunities to explore. Traveling can catalyze personal and professional growth, helping you understand your passions and aspirations.

Rebekah Jarvey trying on the SB Nike Dunk Lows x N7 .

How do you stay motivated and driven, even when faced with setbacks?

I stay focused on the biggest goal. Motivation can be lost quickly, and when things happen, it could be an easy reason to quit. But resetting my mind and focusing on the bigger goal can be a game changer. It has allowed me to stay focused on my biggest goal. 

Can you share an example of when you had to step out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?

Sharing my designs and putting myself out of my comfort zone was a significant step. I never pursued it earlier in my life due to the fear of judgment and what people might think of me. However, as I began sharing my creations and traveling the world, I learned a valuable lesson.

Stepping beyond my comfort zone allowed me to discover a supportive community and like-minded individuals who appreciated my work. The fear of judgment gradually faded, replaced by a sense of empowerment and fulfillment. I realized that by embracing vulnerability, I found my voice in the fashion world and connected with people who resonated with my journey.

This experience taught me that growth often lies just beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones. It’s where we find the courage to express our true selves, pursue our passions, and connect with others who appreciate our authenticity. Sharing my designs has become a source of joy and inspiration, proving that taking risks and stepping into the unknown can lead to meaningful and transformative experiences.

Sharing my designs has become a source of joy and inspiration, proving that taking risks and stepping into the unknown can lead to meaningful and transformative experiences.

RJ Models from left to right: Leiloni Hugs (photo: Les Fly); Dawn Trapper (photo: AMA Imagery).

What skills or qualities are most important for young people to develop to succeed in their chosen paths?

One crucial skill for young people to develop to succeed in their chosen paths is discipline. It’s no secret that friends and family might invite you to various social events, and while those are undoubtedly enjoyable, balancing social life with your aspirations can be challenging. Discipline becomes the key to navigating this balancing act.

The discipline to stay focused on your goals, even when faced with tempting social invitations, is essential for long-term success. It requires putting in the hard work and dedication consistently. While saying ‘no’ to certain social events may be tough, the rewards of staying committed to your dreams can be incredibly fulfilling.

How do you balance personal passions and professional responsibilities in your life?

I’ve found creating and adhering to a structured schedule, attempting to allocate dedicated time for both aspects of my life. I have been navigating this for four years. It’s an ongoing journey of finding harmony between personal and professional pursuits, recognizing that adaptability is key to navigating the complexities of a busy life.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges or opportunities for young people today?

There are a bunch; however, drugs and alcohol are still the most pressing challenges. 

I feel like if our communities had control over drugs and alcohol, our young people could have more opportunities in life. Most challenges in my life came from drugs and alcohol, and that’s why today I’m proud to say that I live a drug-and-alcohol-free life. 

How do you envision the future, and what role do young people play in shaping it?

I envision a future marked by numerous successful Indigenous individuals seamlessly integrated into mainstream spaces. Young people play a pivotal role in shaping this future by actively contributing to and participating in these spaces. They can break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and redefine what success looks like. By embracing their unique perspectives, cultures, and talents, young people can pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse world. As I see it, the future is a canvas waiting to be painted by the aspirations, achievements, and collective impact of the younger generation to prove that being Indigenous is so beautiful. 

Can you share advice or a mantra that has guided you throughout your journey?

Growing up, my mother often instilled pride in me about my tribal identity. She would say, “You are a Chippewa Cree girl.” I carried this pride when I left home to attend university in North Dakota by bringing my traditional clothes. Through this encouragement, I began to understand the importance of representing my people and being proud of myself as an Indigenous woman. 

Today, some Native American youth do not receive similar encouragement. They are lost and do not have confidence or pride in their identities. To combat this issue, I want to continue implementing fashion shows across Indian Country by promoting self-confidence and pride in our identities. The mantra of being proud of who we are and where we come from serves as a guiding light in my mission to empower and uplift Indigenous voices.

Royce Jarvey wearing the Nike SB Dunk x N7 Shoes.

Don’t let self-doubt hold you back, and be ready to seize opportunities that come your way. Embrace the unexpected, trust in your abilities, and know that sometimes, the most extraordinary paths are forged from the most unexpected turns.

What projects or initiatives are you currently working on that could inspire or involve young people?

I am working on the “Survival to Fashion” collection, a project designed specifically for youth empowerment. This collection features upcycled elements as part of its ready-to-wear line, combining sustainability with style. The aim is to blend tradition and modernity, seamlessly weaving cultural elements into everyday fashion. Through this initiative, I aspire to inspire confidence and nurture a strong cultural identity among young individuals who wear the pieces. The “Survival to Fashion” collection serves as a platform to celebrate heritage, encouraging the younger generation to embrace their roots while staying fashion-forward.

What is one thing you wish you had known or done differently when you were younger?

One thing I wish I had known or done differently when I was younger is not to listen to the negative things people told me. As a teenage mother, I faced numerous challenges, and unfortunately, I let the negative opinions of others affect my mental health. Believing and internalizing the judgments of adults had a significant impact on my well-being during that time. Looking back, I wish I had been more resilient and confident in my abilities, disregarding the negativity surrounding me. Learning to trust my instincts and believe in my own strength could have spared me unnecessary mental stress and empowered me to navigate challenges with greater resilience.

How can young people balance their ambitions with self-care and a healthy lifestyle?

Juggling big dreams and self-care is all about keeping it real with a schedule and discipline. Balancing ambition and self-care is all about finding your chill while chasing those dreams.

What message would you like to convey to young individuals facing self-doubt or uncertainty about their potential?

Just keep creating or working on your craft. And if you are around people who don’t encourage you, stay away from them. Or if you can’t stay away from them, find someone who believes in you and then take that belief they have for you and start believing in yourself.

Is there a story or lesson from your journey that you’d like to share to inspire young people?

In the early stages of my career, I faced self-doubt and hesitated to embrace my passion for fashion design fully. It took a pivotal moment—the viral success of the Night & Day Mask during the COVID-19 pandemic—to propel me into taking my dream seriously. This unexpected turn of events taught me the power of embracing opportunities, even when they come unexpectedly.

The lesson here is to be open to unexpected twists in your journey. Sometimes, it’s the unplanned moments that lead to the most significant breakthroughs. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back, and be ready to seize opportunities that come your way. Embrace the unexpected, trust in your abilities, and know that sometimes, the most extraordinary paths are forged from the most unexpected turns. Your journey is unique, and every twist and turn has the potential to shape an incredible story.

Rebekah Jarvey (hair: Tawiyaka MUA~ @char_moon_beauty, lashes~ @brandysangwais). 

Preserving culture and language through passion and resilience

This month, we visited with Jacob Brien, an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe. Jacob is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Rocky Mountain College.

Please start with your background, tribe, where you grew up, family, schools attended, what you are currently doing now, etc:

I’m from the Crow Reservation, specifically from Benteen in Montana. I went to Crow Head Start. Believe it or not, I went to Lockwood School for two years. My mom got a job here in Billings for the Gazette. She was a reporter. It was a pretty cool thing for my mom. There were not many Crow women with journalism degrees back then. Then, in 2008, she got laid off. After living in Billings for a while, I went to Crow School. Then, I went to Pretty Eagle from third to eighth grade. Then, in my freshman year of high school, I went to St. Labre in Ashland, Montana. From there, I went to Lodge Grass High School. That’s where I graduated. But my home base is Benteen. It’s where I grew up. It’s out in the country. It’s off the frontage road, and it’s in between Nest Creek and Reno Creek. I love it. I mean it’s the best, the country. It’s not loud except for the train, but that’s just life along I-90. There’s always the train, but most of the time, it’s really quiet. I love it. Growing up, I was an outside kid. I played with my dog. I have a twin brother, and we would always make up games. We used to try to ride my dog like a horse, but he’s a dog, so it never worked out. One of my favorite memories of growing up in Crow, I remember we had a toy box. It was big, and we used to keep our toys there. Once, we poured our toys out, went to the deck onto the wooden steps, got in the box, and slid down the stairs. These days, I’m studying sociology at Rocky in Billings, and I plan to go to grad school for sociolinguistics. My endgame is to be a part of language revitalization for my tribe. A couple of years ago, I was one of the editorial staff for the Crow Dictionary. It was pretty cool. I got to interview people and ask, ” What does this word mean? How do you say it? Where’s the inflection?” Things like that. Linguistics terminology is not mainstream, so it was really fun to make those questions seem natural, to make it something an everyday person can understand. One thing that was really fun about that job was asking questions.

Jacob Brien stands outside of Western Native Voice’s office in Billings, MT.

What got you into linguistics? Why do you like it?

As a kid, I was always interested in the Crow language. In school, we had a teacher. When she got mad at us in class, she would say, “We’re going to lose our language and our culture, and it’s going to be all your fault.” I was nine, so that was pretty extreme. It must’ve worked because I was always interested in the Crow language from then on. So when I went to St. Labre, I had an awesome teacher. Her core language class was really good. I was speaking some Crow by the time I was done. It really helped that I was the only one in her class. At St. Labre, it’s Cheyenne kids and Crow kids, and you could choose your own elective, and nobody chose Crow language. I was the only one there, which was a lot of fun. At the same time, in English class, our teacher taught us grammar and how to understand the subject and object of a sentence and the direct object and indirect object. I saw the connection and thought we could do the same for the Crow language. We were in class one day, and I said I wished there was a job where you could study the Crow language, and my teacher said there is a job. She said she worked with people on the Crow Dictionary Project, and that’s what she does. They ask her questions about the Crow language. I asked her what that job was called, and she told me people who study languages are called linguists. That’s how I knew I wanted to do linguistics.

What are you currently doing now?

Right now, I’m trying to graduate. There are fun things I like to do, too. I like to go to hand games and sing. I really like to do all kinds of stuff, but my main focus is school. I’m also doing an internship with Western Native Voice and got connected with a Native Organizers Alliance, and I’m working on a data project survey through that program. The survey asks about voter affiliation, demographics, race, and where you grew up. It asks if you grew up in the country or the city. The whole point of the project is to understand the Native voting population in the United States.

What motivated you to pursue your current career or path?

Crow language has always been important to me. Ever since I was in third grade, we used to get yelled at for not speaking Crow. The thing about getting yelled at for not speaking Crow is that it turns a lot of people off from trying to learn it because they expect a negative reaction. But when I took learning the language into my own hands and tried studying it, it was pretty good. My only real barrier is that I don’t live with any fluent speakers. My mom doesn’t speak Crow, and my grandparents don’t speak Crow. It’s unusual on the Crow reservation when your grandparents aren’t fluent in Crow. Most of my friends’ grandparents can speak Crow, and for many of them, their parents can also speak Crow. My friends always ask me, “Jacob, how did you learn to speak Crow?” First of all, I wouldn’t call myself a fluent speaker. I’m just trying. I’m trying to ask questions. I ask, “Hey, how do you say this? How do you say that?” Knowing how to form a basic sentence is important, too. That’s a barrier. Many people don’t know how to structure a sentence in Crow because you learn numbers, colors, and shapes in most Crow language classes on the reservation. Everyone 30 years and younger can count from one to 10 in Crow, but they don’t know how to speak a sentence. 

Jacob Brien getting ready for NADC’s Holiday of Giving.

Do you think embarrassment stops people from asking those essential questions that they need to ask in order to learn the Crow language?

That’s been the rhetoric that many people have used, but at this point, that’s not the case anymore. Some people grew up on the reservation their whole lives, and the Crow language is still not a part of their daily lives. So they don’t even know what to ask. That isolation, that separation from the language, is at the point where people don’t even think about it. People want to hear the English translation if someone tells a story. They never want to hear how it sounds like in Crow. But then there are a lot of words in Crow that aren’t used in English, and there are a lot of old words that people don’t use anymore because our lifestyle has changed. One time, I was listening to a recording, and when the speaker was telling the story, he said a word for when an arrow ricochets off of a buffalo rib. We don’t use that word anymore because of our lifestyle. We don’t use arrows. We don’t chase buffalo. So that word becomes lost in time. That happens as part of a language’s evolution. That’s one thing about sociolinguistics, language documentation, and understanding the barriers to speaking a language. The biggest barrier, even though it’s an ugly way to think like this, is that there’s no concrete reason why anyone would need to learn the Crow language. There’s a symbolic reason because it’s who we are, but all of the schools on the reservation operate in English. Every business on the reservation operates in the English language. I went to a ceremony where they used English to swear the new Crow legislators into office. The English language dominates our lives. The Crow language is important, but we need to create opportunities to use our language. We need to create environments where our language is the only language used, and we need to use it. Crow could be the mandatory language of instruction on the reservation, or street signs could be made in Crow language like they do up in Flathead. They have a handful of tribal language speakers up there. I did a survey when I was at the University of Oregon two summers ago, and I found that almost half of Crow people speak Crow, so there’s no reason we can’t implement initiatives as they do in Flathead.   

What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?

The two biggest things I’m trying to do right now are graduate school and speak the Crow language. I went to college during Covid in 2021. In my first semester of college, I had two relatives pass away from Covid. It was hard. And then one of my relatives, one of my Crow sisters, died from cirrhosis at 24. That was all in the first semester. And then, the very next semester, my mom’s brother passed away. He was only in his 40s, and he died from Covid. He left behind five kids, and none of them are adults yet. Those kids don’t have a dad, which was really tough. That first semester, I failed two classes. Coming from high school, where I always got A’s, getting an F was pretty big.

I don’t like to say it, but I thought I was really the smartest person around because I was for so long. Failing classes challenged me. I had an identity crisis. I thought, am I not smart? Now I know that it’s not about how smart you are. It’s about how hard you try. But that was a tough part of my life. That first year, I wondered if college was even for me. But then I just kept thinking about my goal: to get a linguistics degree to help my language. That’s the goal. I just kept focusing on the plan and trying to figure out how to be a good student. I also had to learn time management. That’s hard. I figured out that going to bed and waking up at the same time is the key, but oh man, it’s hard. 

So organization and time management helped you with your class, but how did you overcome all the death and tragedy you experienced that first semester?

After that first year, I went to Oregon as a part of Research Experience for Undergrads. There was a great group of people there, and it was in linguistics, which was so much fun. It was a class for no credit, and then we did some research that we published. I made some good friends there. Every day, every hour, we were laughing. It was the hardest I ever laughed. It was just a great summer. It helped me get over the tragedy in my life. I still think about the people I’ve lost, and I get sad, but I understand that I have to move on. That’s a big part of life.

Jacob Brien at WNV Billings Office.

Who were your role models or sources of inspiration when you were younger?

A big influence in my life is my big brother, Aaron Brien. He has a master’s degree in anthropology. He graduated high school in 2001, went to SKC, and was there a little while before he stopped going. Then he lived in Arlee, Montana, for 20 years, but in 2015, he went back to college. He got his bachelor’s degree right after he got his associate’s degree. Then, he earned his master’s degree. I like to think about that. Even if you think it’s over, you can go back and finish it. Aaron’s taught me a lot. He teaches me songs and things about the Crow culture and language. He’s pretty good. 

And then there are people like my grandpa, Eric Brien. I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without him. And then I have to mention my mom; she’s had a big influence on my life. I also have to throw in Lauren Fatlip. She’s the coolest person ever. She could sell water to a whale. She taught me how to drive. She taught me how to use my mirrors while learning to drive. When I was going to school at St. Labre, Lauren visited our house every day. She taught me how to cook deer meat by cutting it into strips, breading, and frying it. She taught me how to do all of that. 

What advice would you give to a younger person who is unsure about their future career or goals?

Find something you’re actually interested in. The path to success is different for everyone. I almost didn’t even go to college. I thought about being a machinist, and it still would’ve been something I would’ve enjoyed. There are different ways you can get into a career. There are apprenticeships or accelerated programs. For machinists, there’s a program at Sheridan College. After a nine-month program, you’re a certified machinist. It looked like a lot of fun, but my love for the Crow language is strong, so I wanted to do that. But find something that you wake up in the morning and you think, man, I can’t wait to do that. It will look different for everyone, whether it’s college, trade, school, or even working at a Head Start or maybe it’s cooking food. Love something with the same intensity every day. There are going to be days where you’re mad about something, but as long as there are more days that you’re excited about it than days you’re not. I think that’s pretty good.

Can you share an example of a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?

When I went to Oregon two summers ago for REU [Research Experience for Undergrads], I learned that disagreeing with someone’s opinion doesn’t mean I have to try to argue with them. Growing up, I was taught to win a conversation, but that’s not how conversations work. Even if you don’t agree with somebody, you can talk to them without the goal of changing their mind. When you figure that out, you realize that it isn’t uncomfortable to be next to someone who doesn’t have the same opinion. It could be little things, too, whether you think this movie is better than that movie or even political things. For me, the difference of opinion was about language. My friends and peers in Oregon grew up in cities, so they had that pan-Indian attitude. We’re all one people. I was like, no, I’m from the Crow tribe. I’m not part of your people. I realized I didn’t have to hurt their feelings to make my point. I started understanding that if I sit in the uncomfortable position of a different opinion for a bit, I might learn something new. That’s what I did. I learned that I don’t have to win a conversation. Sometimes, I have to remind myself, especially when people talk about something they don’t know about. For example, people who talk about language have these archaic attitudes about it. They will say, oh, this language is better than that language. Or if they say, well, there are no other languages related to this language, and there are. I have to constantly remind myself, especially when it comes to language, to calm down. I don’t have to change people’s minds. I can enjoy life. I don’t have to argue with people.

What skills or qualities do you believe are most important for young people to develop in order to succeed in their chosen paths?

Time management and organization. That’s it, and understanding how to read a room. How you present yourself is important, but that’s the next level. The basics are waking up at the same time, going to bed at the same time every night, making sure you have clean clothes every day, and having food in the fridge. I get in ruts sometimes. Even now, I’m in a rut. I don’t think I’ve washed laundry in two weeks. I look at the pile of clothes on my floor, thinking it’s disgusting. Someone should really do something about it, and I remember, oh yeah, it has to be me.

What strategies do you use to continue learning and growing in your field?

Knowing your limits. There was a while when I wouldn’t say no to anything. Sometimes, I still have problems with this. At school, they would ask, do you want to be on the student council? I was like, sure. And they’re like, Hey, you want to be president of the game club? I was like, sure. And they said, Hey, you’re on the track team now. I was just like, oh, yeah, I’ll do that. I kept saying yes, and then I was spread so thin that I couldn’t move. One strategy I learned is before saying yes to something, say let me check my schedule, or I’ll get back to you. Usually, people want a yes or no, so if I have any worry at all, I can’t do it. I say no. Then if they’re like, oh, you sure? That’s when I say let me check my schedule. That way, in their head, they already have no, you’re not going to do it, so they aren’t disappointed if your schedule doesn’t allow it.

Jacob Brien on his first day as Western Native Voice’s fall intern.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges or opportunities for young people today?

The most pressing challenge is to be successful in your own way and to find something you enjoy doing. It’s also the biggest opportunity because there are so many ways to do it. It’s a lot of trial and error. For me, in college, my first semester, I got an A and no Fs, but I got a B. I got two Fs in my second semester, a B and an A. I wasn’t used to that. It wasn’t until my third semester that I started to find my own way. I started to get As. It comes back to knowing your limits, knowing what you can do, how you can do it most efficiently, and what you actually enjoy. If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, you won’t want to do it. Let’s say your job is digging holes; you dig a hole and then fill it back up. If you don’t love digging and filling holes, you’re going to ask yourself, what am I doing? I’m just digging a hole and filling it up to get paid. 

How do you envision the future, and what role do you see young people playing in shaping it?

Hopefully, it’s better. Where I live, I really would like to see the Crow language become an everyday thing for people because even when my mom went to school in the 80s and 90s, half of the kids she went to school with spoke Crow as their first language. When I went to school, no kids spoke Crow as their first language. She went to kindergarten in 1985. I went to kindergarten in 2008. In that time period, it diminished by that much, so I really hope that Crow language becomes an integral part of your average Crow’s day-to-day life. The only way to do that is to bring the Crow language back to the schools. If someone’s first language is Crow, and then they go to Head Start or Kindergarten and the instruction is only in English, pretty soon they’ll only speak English. Their parents may speak to them in Crow, but the child speaks back in English. So they grow up understanding the Crow language, but they can’t speak it. If the language of instruction in Crow schools was Crow, and you’re taught to speak Crow at a young age in the schools, you’re going to speak Crow. Sometimes, people make the language crisis a mystery, but I think what’s happening is pretty clear. When my grandparents were kids, there were still people who couldn’t speak English, so a lot of their friends just spoke Crow out of necessity. Now, everyone speaks English.

Can you share a piece of advice or a mantra that has guided you throughout your journey?

When I was in high school, one of my grandpas showed me the song his grandma had made, and it said whatever you do, don’t back down. So I think about that. My grandpa died when I was a senior in high school, and I think about that song. I have a recording of it, and I sing that song to myself and remind myself, especially when I’m having these low points at college. I always remind myself, don’t back down and don’t be afraid. Especially when I have a bunch of assignments due, don’t be afraid of these assignments. They’re just pieces of paper. They’re not even pieces of paper. They’re just pixels on a screen.

What projects or initiatives are you currently working on that could inspire or involve young people?

One thing I’m doing that could inspire the youth is going to college, which is a big one. Many people don’t even graduate high school back where I’m from, so going to college and graduating is a big thing. I hope it inspires people. Getting this internship role at Western Native Voice is a big deal. People see what I’m doing on Facebook and think, oh, wow, if Jacob can get an internship, I can do it too. 

How can young individuals get involved in causes or fields they’re passionate about, even if they feel like they’re just starting out?

This answer will sound obnoxious, but even going to an office. I’ve knocked on doors before and said, “Hey, I want to get involved. How can I do this?” I got an internship at a museum because Aaron, my brother, suggested I ask them if they had any openings. He said they had a lot of Crow stuff and did a lot of interviews with Crow people. So I walked up to the office, knocked on the door, told them I was going to Rocky, and asked, “Hey, is there anything I can do?” It worked out because they had a work-study contract through Rocky, and I got the job. That sounds like a BS answer. It’s one of those things; there is some luck in it, but if you’re just motivated to do something, you’ll find a way to do it. Even if you’re going to college, and once you have a degree, that can open up a lot of doors. It starts with figuring out what you want to do and then being like, okay, this is what I want. What are the ways to get there? Because the path I took to get where I am now was not conventional. Figuring out different ways to get to the same thing is key. If knocking on doors and getting offered internships isn’t something that happens for you, find another path. It takes effort. It’s not just going to fall into your lap. You still have to put in the work. 

In your experience, how has mentorship or guidance from others contributed to your success?

Whenever someone gives me advice, I evaluate if it’s good. Most often, the advice I’ve gotten is pretty good, and I try to live by that. One good piece of advice I got was that you don’t have to learn the hard way to realize something’s bad. I know some people I went to high school with who started drinking when they were 14. But you don’t have to wind up in jail or something drastic to realize, oh, I shouldn’t have done that. You can listen when someone says, “Hey, don’t do that because this is the consequence.” Part of my success is not drinking. I don’t do drugs or smoke, and a big reason why I don’t is just listening to the advice I’ve received since I was young. I’ve made a conscious effort to stay away from things like that and from people who go out and party and drink.

What is one thing you wish you had known or done differently when you were younger?

This answer will sound really funny compared to just my last question, but I wish I had broken the rules more because I realized I felt like I was under a lot of strict rules growing up. Not that I wouldn’t have done anything bad, but just I wasn’t allowed to leave anywhere. In high school, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go anywhere. I went straight to school and back home. I didn’t dare go anywhere else. I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I wished I had just taken more risks like that. 

Jacob Brien (left) and Western Native Voice’s Youth Program Director Tristen Belgarde (right) celebrate the holiday festivities.

What message would you like to convey to young individuals who may be facing self-doubt or uncertainty about their potential?

If you asked me last week, I would’ve had a good answer, but now this week, I don’t know because I’m facing self-doubt. I mean, with self-doubt, you’ll never know unless you try. So you might as well try. That’s my opinion on that. Developing a routine is really important. When I have a routine, my life is easier. And it just helps you manage what happens in a day more. If your life is already unpredictable and something unpredictable happens, it’s a mess. But if your life is predictable, if you have a routine, when something unexpected happens, you’re more easily able to handle it. I took three winter classes when I was attending Rocky, so that’s nine credits. I would go to my class at nine in the morning. It was a four-hour class, and I had 30 minutes between that class and my next class. I would eat real fast and run over to another four-hour class. Then, I would go straight to my dorm to start work on my online math class, which usually had a daily assignment due at midnight. Because I had a routine and a schedule, I did all the work by 7 pm. So when my mom came to town and wanted to go out to eat, it felt good because I could do that with her. I would have more time for myself and my mom, which gave me something to look forward to. It was nice compared to semesters where I didn’t have a schedule, routine, or anything like that. Those were times when I was constantly on edge, and it felt like it just gave me more self-doubt. 

Is there a particular story or lesson from your own journey that you’d like to share as an inspiration to young people?

Some of the best advice I ever got was from my big brother; he said to be ready for the day, not the event. When you wake up, dress nice, put your shoes on, have everything ready in the house, and then start your day. If I sleep until noon and then wake up,  I’m not showered; my hair’s crazy. Then, if an opportunity comes up, I’m not ready. It’s like, I want to go, but I look like a mess. I should have been ready. And then you end up going late. But if you go to bed and wake up the same time every day and have that predictability, then stuff like that, you can just be okay. And then you jump in your car and head out. So take advantage of every opportunity.

What is one change you would like to see happen in your hometown community?

I would like to see more economic opportunities for speaking Crow. If you spoke Crow and were looking for a job, the only position that skill would set you apart would be as a Crow language teacher. And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but teachers aren’t paid anything. There needs to be economic opportunities for our language. Even if the tribal government were to incentivize people, if you speak crow, you get this much more in your paycheck or something like that. And it would encourage people to speak Crow. We need to create environments where our language is needed. That’s what I would like to happen in my community.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to have a graduate degree, and I hope to be working for my tribe on the language crisis. That’s what I want to do.

Journey of resilience: celebrating heritage on the field.  

This month we visited with Myltin Bighorn, an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe. Myltin is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Sport Management at KU.

Please start with your background, tribe, where you grew up, family, schools attended, what you are currently doing now, etc:

Háu Mitákuyepi, Aŋpétu Wašté yuhá. Dakȟóta čhážepi kiŋ Canku kiŋ Kaga. Wašíču čhážepi kiŋ Myltin Bighorn. Waȟčíŋča Wákpa Dakȟóta Oyáte ed wathí, phidámayayedo. Good day, my name is Myltin Bighorn, and I am from the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe in the state of Montana. I was born and raised in Poplar, Montana, graduating in 2015. Since then, I have attended Fort Peck Community College, Montana State University-Northern, Montana State University-Billings, Haskell Indian Nations University, and the University of Kansas- earning an associate degree in Automotive Technology from MSUB, a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education plus Health from KU, and now currently pursuing my master’s degree in Sport Management at KU.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that shaped your journey?

There was a night I was laying down in my dorm room during my second semester of college. All I wanted to do was drive home and never come back because the thought of doing this higher education routine for three more years was dreadful. After a long night of overthinking, continuous praying, and a lonesome feeling, I soon found out that I was putting my mental energy into the future instead of the now. That is when I found out the power of living in the present, the power of taking life one day at a time. 

Myltin representing his tribal flag outside of Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas.

What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?

My first challenge was not understanding how the college system worked. I had no clue what financial aid was or how to access my class schedule but from my experience, the college advisors and personnel are there to help you succeed in any way they can. After some in-person meetings, I began to understand each department that accommodates a university. 

Who were your role models or sources of inspiration when you were younger?

Kobe Bryant and his Mamba Mentality have instilled the determination factor in my journey. When the days were hard I was determined to make it out of the storm. When the days were bright I was determined to find a way to improve on my weaknesses.

Myltin after graduation at Montana State University-Billings (Associates Degree in Automotive Technology)

What advice would you give to a young person who is unsure about their future career or goals?

Write down what makes you happy. If it makes you happy, there’s a chance you have a passion for it. If you have a passion for it, there is a career for it. 

How do you stay motivated and driven, even when faced with setbacks?

I learned that setbacks happen for a reason. A setback is meant to guide you in a different direction that you may not understand now but will ultimately take you down a greater path toward your success. 

Can you share an example of a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?

Leaving the reservation was uncomfortable. Attending the University of Kansas was uncomfortable. Being in a room full of non-natives was uncomfortable. I am not the person I am today if I stayed in my comfort zone. Growth does not happen when you’re comfortable. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Myltin in the locker room during his colligate football playing days at Montana State University-Northern.

What skills or qualities do you believe are most important for young people to develop in order to succeed in their chosen paths?

The most important skill one can have is work ethic. Your work ethic will determine your value. The value that you bring to the table, to others, and to yourself. Here is a great creed that I have learned throughout my journey “Wake up in the morning, Get ready for the day, Do your job first, Then you can play”

How do you balance personal passions and professional responsibilities in your life?

Every day I make time for at least one personal passion and one professional responsibility. Some days there are five personal passions and one professional responsibility and other days there are 9 professional responsibilities and one personal passion. No matter what type of day it is, your passion or responsibility deserves 100% of your focus. Be all in on that moment throughout the day.

What strategies do you use to continue learning and growing in your field?

Knowledge is Power. Our ancestors and our elders became wise because they never stopped learning. Never let a day go by where you don’t learn something new that will benefit your future self. Read a book, watch a formal YouTube video, visit with mentors, and understand that there is always something new to learn that pertains to your field. 

Myltin cheering his first KU football game after three days of experience.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges or opportunities for young people today?

The biggest challenge that you will need to overcome is learning how to remove distractions from your mindset. No matter what you do on your journey, people will do their job and be resentful towards you. Teach your mind to put mental energy into positive benefits rather than having a focus on what people are saying. Let them do their job while you do yours. 

How do you envision the future, and what role do you see young people playing in shaping it?

The youth is our future. As educated Indigenous adults, we need to protect and serve our youth. We need to learn more about our culture, language, and traditions. This begins by teaching the young people the old ways in a re-indigenized environment. 

Can you share a piece of advice or a mantra that has guided you throughout your journey?

There is a passion instilled in me to do what I need to do to make my people proud and provide the opportunities and resources to a Native community in rural Montana. When it comes down to it,  “Someone gotta do it.”

Myltin observing GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

What projects or initiatives are you currently working on that could inspire or involve young people?

Currently, I am in the planning stages of creating a non-profit through the Shades of Thorpe. The purpose of Shades of Thorpe is to lead by example,  honor the greatest athlete of all time- Jim Thorpe, and create athletic, leadership, and educational opportunities for Native youth. 

In your experience, how has mentorship or guidance from others contributed to your success?

There is only so much you can do by yourself. I encourage our youth to find a mentor who will help guide them throughout their journey. The knowledge and wisdom from a mentor will only add to your success. Without my mentor, Melissa Peterson (Navajo/Dine), I would not be the person I am today. Without Melissa, I don’t get the opportunity to have connections with the KU Chancellor, KU Athletics, or the Kansas City Chiefs.

Myltin next to NFL Tight End (Travis Kelce) and Quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) after the American Indian Heritage Kansas City Chiefs Game in 2022.

What is one thing you wish you had known or done differently when you were younger?

I don’t have any regrets in life but if there was a chance to go back in time to visit with my younger self, I would tell him to listen and understand the stories that are spoken by the elders. More importantly, put my phone down and visit with my grandparents. They are a walking library with wisdom and knowledge that higher education cannot teach. 

How can young people balance their ambitions with self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

You have to create time to take care of yourself. There are times when you need to work 15 or 20-hour days but know there are also times when you need to prioritize self-care. Burnout will happen and taking time to reset is necessary. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to self-care. It can be reading a book, working out, going to bed early, watching your favorite movie, turning your phone off, or going for a drive. Do what makes your spirit happy and be selfish with your self-care. 

What message would you like to convey to young individuals who may be facing self-doubt or uncertainty about their potential?

I know it’s hard. I know you want to give in. I know it seems like there’s no way out but I promise you there is success after the hardship. Don’t worry about the future. Take life day by day. If you have to leave home, know that home will always be there-it ain’t going nowhere. And above all, understand that it is okay to be out of your comfort zone. All you need to do is take that first step. 

Myltin on the field of the 2023 Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Is there a particular story or lesson from your own journey that you’d like to share as an inspiration to young people?

I am just a kid that was born and raised on the Fort Peck Rez. I grew up in a single-parent household. Grabbing change from around the house to buy a bag of hot Cheetos was normal. I had no special talent but I was in control of my work ethic. A kid from the Fort Peck Rez is on the verge of earning his Master’s degree, was a Division I athlete, and is a Super Bowl Champion through the business side of an NFL organization. It doesn’t matter where you grow up or how you grow up, you are in charge of your journey. 

What is one change you would like to see happen in your hometown community?

I want to see the same faces of an 8th-grade class four years later at their high school graduation

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I wish there was an educated answer for this but to be honest, I take life one day at a time and will acknowledge the future when it arrives. 

Connecting with community through music and dance.  

This month we visited with 18-year-old Neveah Killsnight, an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Neveah is heading into her first year of college at the University of Montana, a celebrated violist, and the Summer 2023 Intern at Western Native Voice. 

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I was born in Bozeman, and my mom was graduating then. She graduated two days before I was born. So I lived in Bozeman for two years, and I don’t remember any of it because I was so young. But then, we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I lived there until I was ten. Growing up, I loved the food and the culture, but New Mexico was really hot. And then that’s when my mom decided she wanted us to be connected to our culture and know where we come from. That’s when we moved back up to Montana, and we lived in Busby for a little bit with my grandpa for two years. And that’s when I started to jingle dress dance again and learn about my family and everything. I went to St. Labre for two years, and then we moved up to Billings. That was a culture shock because it wasn’t as diverse. I went from being in a classroom of Natives to just me being the only one. That was hard to get used to. Being different isn’t a bad thing.

How was the experience of being the only Native in your class when you moved to Billings? Do you feel like it shaped you in any way?

People didn’t understand why I was quiet or the way my family was or stuff like that. I was different from other people. And because I was in the minority, it felt like nobody really understood me. But as I grew older, I understood that’s just who I am, and I got used to being different. 

Neveah celebrating graduation with her family.

What made you want to apply as an intern at Western Native Voice?

I wanted to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone, especially before college. I felt like it would be a good way to prepare. And also, I like the work that Western Native Voice does within the tribal communities.  

What’s the most interesting part of being an intern at Western Native Voice?

I’ve learned about many issues in my community that I didn’t know were problems, like the census and voting. I didn’t know about that until now and didn’t realize how huge those were. 

Neveah in her role as an intern at Western Native Voice.

How did your journey into music and playing the viola begin?

I’ve been playing the viola for eight years now. At first, I wanted to quit, but my mom wouldn’t let me. So I didn’t. I’m actually really grateful she said she didn’t let me stop because I’ve traveled a lot because of the viola. I also met a lot of my friends through orchestra, and I love playing music. It’s the main way I make connections with other people. Music can bring people together. When I play music for people in my community, I can bring people together. 

How did you come to choose the viola and what did that journey look like for you?

The violin is too high. It hurts my ears, and everyone plays the violin. Nobody knows the viola, so I decided to play it. 

I didn’t have lessons when I first learned how to play the viola. For the first three years, I watched YouTube videos and taught myself. I made a lot of progress, which was surprising because it was hard. I also learned how to play the violin and a little bit of the cello. For a lot of families, it’s different. It usually runs in their family if they want to make a career, especially in classical music. Most people start early, when they’re four years old. I got a late start compared to other people trying to make a career out of it. I didn’t get private lessons until eighth grade and made even more progress. But yeah, it all started with YouTube videos. 

Neveah performing viola.

What does the future look like for you and your music?

I’m starting at the University of Montana in Fall 2023 and will study music performance. 

I want to play in different symphonies, ensembles, and gigs. And I want to look more into composition because there aren’t many Indigenous composers, artists, or musicians in classical music. I met another Indigenous violist this month, but that was my first time playing with another native in a professional orchestra. When we were talking, she said she only knows of three violists who are native. 

How does your culture and community impact the way you play or how you want to play in the future? 

My culture and community definitely impact the way that I carry myself. 

I represent my whole community while playing in an orchestra, so I have to carry myself well and represent well. 

As far as what I play in the future, in classical music, most of the music you learn is 200 years old and written mostly by white men. I know that many new composers are coming out these days from underrepresented communities, and I want to learn and study that kind of music more.

Neveah performing in the Fancy Shawl Category.

Talk about an experience (good or bad) in your life that was challenging.

I used to dance a lot when I was little and was really into it. But then, when the powwows stopped during Covid, I stopped for a while and got busy with school. I just started dancing again this year, and it’s a lot more challenging than I remember. I used to do Jingle, but now I started doing Fancy, and that’s probably why because Fancy’s like a workout. It’s also hard to put yourself out there when you’re learning and have everyone watch you, but also it’s really fun.

Why do you like to dance?

It’s not just about dancing. It’s also about the powwows. My family is there, and it helps me reconnect. It’s a nice little break from when I’m always in Billings. It’s nice to go back home and see people and dance. 

What advice would you give to another Native woman around your age wanting to pursue music, an internship, etc.? 

I’m working on getting out of my comfort zone right now. It’s weird but also good for you. Being super uncomfortable can be a good learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because that’s part of learning. I’m a perfectionist, so I have a hard time making mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, and I’m learning that. 

Neveah getting ready to perform with her fellow violists and friends.

A lifetime of community activism.  

This month we visited with Jodi Hunter, an enrolled member of the The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Jodi is Salish Oreille from Polson, a member of Western Native Voice, and part of WNV’s Membership Committee.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Jodi Hunter. I grew up in Ronan, Montana, on a farm about 15 miles from where I reside now. After I graduated from High school, I moved to different states and explored a bit before settling down, getting married and having children. I have three children and one heavenly child and three grandkiddos.  

When did your interest in politics begin?

I attended my undergraduate degree at Salish Kootenai College focusing on Business Entrepreneurship. I was very active in politics at this time, and so I was pretty involved in the school’s extra-curricular activities, including American Indian Business Leaders, SKC Student Congress and AIHEC (American Indian Higher Education Consortium). I often went with our college president Joe McDonald to Washington DC to lobby on behalf of our college for educational purposes. This is when my interest in the political realm began, and I had noticed we needed more indigenous representation both in government sector, statewide, and county wide. Although I never ran for a public office, I have always been in the background somewhere helping others do so. I feel my role is to educate and serve as a leader in this area. I also attended Grand Canyon University for a Master’s Program for Life Coaching. I am currently in school now brushing up on some business areas, which we didn’t have when I went for my undergrad, and I’m focusing on graphic design for my own business. I own a small business helping others as a personal/virtual assistant.   

After college I went on to work in the educational field in our tribal organization, having worked with families, to High School and Job Corp Students, to students in local programs such as Big Brothers and Sisters and Boys and Girls Club.  I have always been active in our community to assist in any area to help educate. One thing I would always point out to students is they are capable of being a leader and often helping them get engaged in their extra-curricular activities.  

Jodi with her family.

What has inspired you to pursue leadership roles?

Now that I think about it, I think I’ve always had a niche to be a leader, as when I was younger, I was involved in 4H serving as the student president, and Girl Scouts serving as a leader. So it’s pretty much been instilled in my brain and heart.  

I feel there is so much that is needed for our native people, and we need our people to be more involved and speak up on matters that affect them personally, their tribes and homelands. We need people in these leadership roles who can make a positive impact and engage with both our people and the non-native people in a proactive way. I would love to see more of our youth become more involved and serve as a leader, whether it’s running for a board membership, school board or commissioner, or any role in their community to serve. I don’t want anyone to be afraid and know they can come to me for support and/or ideas. I’m filled with them!

Who are your biggest supporters?  

I think my biggest supporters are certainly my immediate family. Having gone through many struggles in my life, from being in Foster Care, to being a single mom going to college, to losing a child, it has given me that support of my family. My friends are also my family, so I have a lot of support from them as well as many of the community members, both native and non-native. 

Jodi with her family and friends.

How can people get involved in making change? Where do they start?

Change comes with ideas and motivation! You must want to see the results and be committed to making change. I see a lot of folks out there who are wise with words and have quite the talent to run for these roles or be out in Helena or DC to Lobby. Or just a simple letter to the editor or video explaining why change is needed. Share your story! Everyone has a story. I’m always down to video someone with their story or help them write a letter or be their cheerleader if they should choose to run for an office. I’m that girl who will help you get your moccasins off the ground! 

What kind of change do you want to see in your community five years from now?

In five  years, I would like to see more of our youth engaged in the political realm and more Natives in our community spotlights representing and standing up for our people and our rights. I often think the idea of being intimidated or scared and perhaps historical trauma plays a part why we don’t have the representation we so desire, but with the help of Western Native Voice, engaging with our communities and speaking up, we will be making a difference. Let’s see our Natives on these commercials, these billboards, these mailed out pamphlets, let’s get our people making those phone calls educating our people how to talk to someone running for office, and what questions to ask.  Knowing and how to read a ballot. These are areas we MUST work on and get our people engaged. But I know in my heart of hearts it will happen! Call or email me if you ever want to chat about running or how to become involved. My name is Jodi and I’m here to help you! 

Jodi Hunter, left, and Shelly Fyant, who work with Western Native Voice, spent Election Day calling voters from the Kwataqnuk Resort & Casino in Polson trying to get more people to the polls. Photo credit: Antonio Ibarra Olivares, The Missoulian

A Young Father Finds Purpose In Family, Culture and Community Action.

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. It’s designed to highlight grassroots organizing and individuals creating change from across Montana and in Indian Country.

This month, we would like to introduce Brandon Fish of Great Falls. He is Amskapi Pikuni and an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation. Brandon has spent many years community organizing and advocating for several causes affecting indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada. He currently works for the International Traditional Games Society.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Okii Nitaaniko Atsimpieta pokaa, I am an enrolled member of the Amskapi Pikuni ( Southern Peigan) one of three tribes in the Siksikkaitsiitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy). I descend from a long line of chiefs, warriors, medicine people, and knowledge keepers ranging from Fish Wolf Robe, Littledog, Many Hides, and Weasel Tail. I have three children; my youngest son, Ohmak kiestu-mim, my daughter Itsiinuaki, and oldest son Iniskim tsakomapii.

My mothers are Philistine Running Crane, Georgianne Fish, Verna Fish, Cleora Little Yellow Kidney and my fathers are Donald Peter Fish, Gabriel Running Crane, Aloysius James Fish, and Merle Yellow Kidney. I was born in Missoula, Montana, and was raised by my mom Philistine in my infant years. From what my mom has told me, we lived as a family group with my mother being the second oldest and my uncle Goobers being the oldest, along with my aunt Roberta Running Wolf, Phillip Many Hides, Jenny Many Hides, Bernard Red Tomahawk and Janet Red Tomahawk. My family was formed like this because they were orphaned at a young age. We moved from Missoula, Montana and lived in Las Vegas and then moved to Portland, Oregon. As a child one of my fondest memories was being carried on the shoulders of my eldest brother, John Red Tomahawk, and walking with my sister Alberta. We would hop a fence and go berry picking in a nearby orchard and munch on those vines for hours on end.  It was at the age of six I believe, that I would meet my nina Donnie, who lived at the foothills of the backbone of the world. It was during this time when I started to really become connected and unknowingly more aware .

I was around the age of 9 when I started my journey on the red road in the sun dance lodge and continued to learn the inner workings of different lodges. When I was younger it was about getting through the fasting, but as I got older, it was about the people and where the extra prayers  and suffering was needed. From this, I learned how to suffer for the people we love.

Through these lodges, I had the opportunity to know and love the teachers that took me in and showed me what it was to be a human being in this world we live in. My adopted lodge parents Merle Yellow and Cleora Yellow Kidney played a significant roll in the songs, prayer, and guidance I needed to keep going on with this life.

Tell me about your role models.

I would always look to my Nina Donnie for strength and guidance. My Nina saved my life in so many ways but also taught me compassion, humility, and unconditional love. My sister Alberta gave me a lot of inspiration also…she had my back the most and plus we had a similar upbringing. I could talk to her about anything and she encouraged me in my life but also cussed me out when I needed it…when I was being a knot head. I miss that.  Most of my siblings are gone now. My older brother hung himself, my younger brother died of a fentanyl overdose, and my sister Alberta died from malpractice. My family has been going through a rough transition with all this loss. They all were instrumental in providing me guidance in my life. Terrance taught me that family is what it is all about and any man is beatable as long as you stand your ground. My brother Fish taught me that the only life that is worth living is one that is free of fear. 

“Through these lodges, I had the opportunity to know and love the teachers that took me in and showed me what it was to be a human being in this world we live in.”

Brandon and his family.

Tell me about your traditional and non-traditional education.

I went to grade school in Great Falls, when I was seven or eight and then jumped back and forth from Browning to Great Falls and then back to Browning. It was just a mess with parenting plans with who wants to have the kids etc. Eventually I ended up running away when I was 17, and I went to Missoula where my girlfriend lived. I sought this as an opportunity to leave the dysfunction in my childhood. I ended up moving in with my sister at the age of 19 in Arizona to get away from all the issues and trying sort out my emotions in my life. I ended up staying there until I was 22 years old.

While in Arizona, I got to experience a different culture with the local Dine’ tribe. I got to see how familiar they were with their language, customs and culture. I felt ashamed because it wasn’t like that back home. Yes, we kept what we could hold on to but it wasn’t as intricate as them. They made fun of me for not knowing my language and even my own people and relatives would shame me.

I went to Blackfeet Community College and received my Associates in Criminal Justice a the age of 27. During this time in my life, I was going through a terrible divorce and my adopted parents were tremendous in helping me transition out of it. Wishy and Verna geared me toward a better way of thinking and helped me get through college. I can’t thank them enough for stepping up when I felt as though there was no one else.

This push and drive helped me get through the University of Montana where I studied Native American Studies and Environmental Studies. I graduated in the Spring of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, and well…nobody showed for that. So I guess it wasn’t too much of a loss. (laughs)

Can you talk about community involvement?

Growing up, I was lead by my nina and we were involved in a camp called “return of the buffalo camp”.  My family would go to the mountains every year and camp out and have ceremony. I was involved with that as a kid and would see our family and people from all over the world come to the camp. I would gather wood, be the fire man, or rock man and would eventually join the men in their responsibilities when I was older. A lot of my community work ethic came from that time in those lodges…being a cook, setting up the lodge, learning how to set up teepees and helping without asking. This is how I learned to function in a healthy community. My family tried to instill those values in me. 

What inspired me to be more involved, was when I went to the prayer camps at Standing Rock in 2016. I lived in that camp for about a month. Being there was an experience that would be a catalyst of what I did thereafter. Being in that large of a camp and it being a community of prayers, gave us hope. I believed that this is how you heal your people to have courage. I heard the words  “we are praying for you”, “we want you to see what you are doing”, “think about your children”, “we love you”.  I saw the pipes raised and smoked for all the people that the water gave life to and it gave me a sense of purpose. I look at all those memories and I can see how much one person can move a movement. I experienced deep compassion and love for our people and our ways of knowing and survival, and of how we want to live. We want to live in a time where we don’t have to fight…fight on a daily basis.

I was part of the Montana students for Equality Initiative at the University of Montana. We worked on it for a class and it went a lot farther than I expected it to go. It started when, as students, we went on a tour of a place called the Chippy house in Butte, Montana. It was a place where native women would get raped and murdered. The tour guides, when telling us this history, made it sound like they wanted it, they wanted to be whores. Chippy was a coded wording and an explicit language that was used to cover up the way our people in all tribes were treated during the relocation to ghettos and war camps. The city of Great Falls tried to remove the Chippewa  people, because they are a reminder to what they could not kill. So they stole our women and children and killed our men and brought them into those mines. After a generation of rape, murder, and cover up, we are still wondering where our people are that have been missing for years. 

I had a bad reaction to that place after hearing the jokes that were said and laughed about, see the women’s clothing stuffed away in the entrance of what they call the chippy house. I heard that the State of Montana had known about this place. I saw the pieces of our past come together…I started hearing women crying, children screaming, pleading for help in that place. I felt like souls of thousands of our people passing through…speaking out for help. I internalized this and know we had to do something. So we held five Truth and Reconciliation meetings with the University of Montana, Silver Bow County, Butte Historical Society, Little Shell Chippewa members, University of Montana Provost, students, administrators, and the presidential cabinet. We asked Little Shell families that knew the stories. Our stories are very, very, important. If they are going to talk about our history then they need to talk to us about our perspective. I am still very salty about this whole experience but it also taught me a valuable lesson. Keep persevering and stand your ground.

I was also an officer on Voices for Change, Rez Edition. We saw how George Floyd was murdered in front of the country. Some local kids and others staged a protest on Juneteenth. We marched and chanted and showed our signs and talked about what this means to us and what we want to do in the future. We invited the college, the BIA, and different candidates and asked them to come out and speak and listen to what the kids had to say. 

We also held a community feed and voiced our opinions on what we wanted to see with our tribal council. The Voices For Change also protested the strip mining of Napi’s playground. This area is located in Crows Nest Pass. The Nitsitapi utilized these areas for thousands of years with fasting and cultural sites. 

Along with another group from Canada, the Nitsitapi Water Protectors, we conveyed our message to support our northern brothers and sisters to protect our mountains and waterways.

In Great Falls, we developed the “Remember Us, We Are Still Here” movement after we saw that 250 children were re-discovered at Kamloops Alberta residential boarding schools. We started this event with a group of three people. At one point we had over 40 people at one meeting, which then tapered to a core group of 10. We marched and expressed ourselves with over 200 people showing up. We had veterans, Heart Butte high school, Krazy Dog Society, Little Shell tribal members, and a community of support pushing back the agenda and opening up meaningful conversations for our future.

Would you consider running for office?

Yes, it has crossed my mind. Many of the policies that are in place don’t benefit Native people, such as the Major Crimes Act and Indian Civil Rights Act. However, I hold myself back from running because I worry about who will be taking care of my children if I am gone all the time. I have responsibilities both culturally for my community and for my family. Who would take my place in my absence to love my kids and be there unconditionally for the people?

What are you doing now?

I currently work for the International Traditional Games Society (ITGS). Since June 2022, ITGS has advocated and developed an event called the Gathering of Families 2023. A unification of many grassroots organizations have been called upon and have developed partnerships, initiating a movement toward a healthy, and organized way to celebrate indigenous people through the Gathering of Families 2023.

On October 8th – 14th  2023, ITGS will celebrate with a powwow, art shows and galleries, have events such as indigenous education, film, entertainment, and a traditional tournament style of gaming.The grand finale will be an indigenous-themed parade in downtown Great Falls. 

Historically, traditional games have always been a vital part of our teachings and in our knowledge. ITGS is offering a healthy solution to our youth and anyone who wants to learn our ways of understanding. Meaning, we evolve back into our ancestors with the changing of times…the ways in which we approach youth development matters because of how much this world has bred an environment without identity. We need to be that change that is needed in our world by coming together to celebrate cultural exchange and to offer healthy solutions to this identity crisis.

In the first year, we hope to lay the foundation to be able to host the World International traditional Games Olympics. That will co-align with the World Nomad Games in 2026. ITGS has formed partnerships with the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Montana United Indian Association, the Great Falls Public Schools Indian Education Department, Alliance for Youth, Montana Children’s Museum, Charles M. Russell Museum, the Square Art Museum, Montana Department of Commerce, Montana Department of Tourism, State Tribal Economic Development Commission, Visit Great falls, Helena Indian Alliance, Little Shell Cultural Director, Western Native Voice,  Seattle based organizations,  Mopistaan Four Directions and the Washington United Indian of all Tribes Foundation. 

We are still seeking sponsorships for the Gathering of Families event. Support will be needed by all tribal nations for this to be a successful event. You can contact me at Itgslead@outlook.com for more information.

What is one change you would want to see in your community within the next five years? 

I would like to see the city of Great Falls have equal representation and rights for indigenous people. I would like to see the school district re-evaluate how its treating indigenous people. I would like to see our city officials, county commissioners, and state officials educate themselves on treaty rights and state and federal responsibilities when it comes to education and the lateral violence that is being used against our children.

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. 

If you are interested in volunteering to help with fundraising, cooking, cleaning, or serving, please call Harry at 406-650-6131.

Prayer, Grandmother, and Community

Using “language” and “old ways” to build a thriving 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 Kenneth “Tuffy” Helgeson, an Assiniboine member of the Fort Belknap Tribe, who resides in Lodge Pole, Montana. In 2020, Tuffy was one of the many people nominated for our COVID-19 Caregiver Grants 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 what was written:

“Kenneth ‘Tuffy’ Helgeson has contributed to our community in many ways. He has taken a lot of our young people and showed them the important things on how to live a good life and who we are as Indian people. He shared his knowledge of the plants that come from grandmother earth and how to make medicine out of them. He would share the medicine with our community members when they were sick with COVID. He would also purchase groceries and deliver to the people’s home who were quarantined. Our young women and men now have the strength and knowledge to overcome the problems that they face in life through the language, songs, and ceremonies that Tuffy has shared with them.”

Here is his story in his own words:

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Kenneth “Tuffy” Helgeson and I was born and raised in Lodgepole, Montana. My parents were Gene and Nancy. Along with my parents, I was raised by my grandmother, Dora First Chief Helgeson, who is the great, great grandaughter of Chief Nosey. I was also raised by  Gus and Florence Helgeson. I remember when I was little, Gus and Florence had a TV and a car and didn’t have any kids so I hung out there all the time. I would go from place to place. 

Those three places were my home.

Tuffy with his dad, Gene.

How did you get the name Tuffy?

I was an early baby…months early. Living in an incubator. When they were finally able to bring me home from the hospital, I developed a hernia. They ended up having to take me back for surgery. After the surgery, they said that I would be pretty docile, but I started moving around trying to crawl. My grandpa Raymond who lived only one year of my life said “ he’s a tuff little guy”!

What was it like growing up in Lodge Pole, Montana?

I was raised on a ranch which taught me how to work at a young age. We were always on horseback. We were poor. My mother was the main breadwinner until I was in second grade. She had emphysema really bad. I traveled with my grandmother a lot back then. She would take me with her to the senior citizen center. I was always in old people’s places and spaces. In those days, there were a lot of old folks still, they spoke Nakoda. I always heard the language growing up. They talked a lot about the culture of the Assiniboine people. Through the love of language, our connection grew. I started talking Nakoda about 10 or 11 years of age. There were only about 20 total fluent speakers of the language at that time. You get close to the people who speak the language. 

In the mid-80s, there was a resurgence of our ceremonial ways. Gus and Florence starting exploring the religious side of sundance and sweat. As those things were happening, I was being introduced to speakers, and leaders, and it took me all over Canada and Montana. 

In middle school, I was looking at the kids at my lunch table and it struck me that no one was participating in any cultural activities like I was.

Tuffy with his niece Justice, and nephew Byron.

Tell us about your education. How did you get started teaching?

I had scholarship opportunities in high school, but I decided to stay home to take help care of my grandmother who was 89 when I graduated. She needed around-the-clock care. The school needed an Assiniboine teacher, but my grandmother told me I didn’t know enough. Finally, after some time, she gave me her approval. So I began to teach the Assiniboine language at 18 years of age.

Tuffy teaches Nakoda at Hays/Lodgepole school.

What were some of the struggles in your life and how did you overcome them?

I really believe that some of our people’s struggles, trauma, and social ills, come out of sexual abuse. It really raised hell with me for a long time. I never told anyone. They say hurt people hurt people. When I was about 18 years old, I just decided to talk about it. It really changed a lot of things for me. 

Alcoholism and drug abuse were around me all the time, but because I was around ceremonies, I knew there was more. I had the sweat and grandparents…we were always busy and we were working all the time. 

How did you get started being involved in your community and who are some of the people that influenced you to do so?

When I was little, my grandmother would take me up to the cemetery every year to clean graves. I learned the value of prayer, grandmother, and community. She would also take me to the New Year’s dance and Milk River Indian Days. As she started to age, she was so proud of the community and her people. I watched her do so many things with so little money like hold garage sales and bake sales. She used the money she made to put a new fence around the cemetery. I watched my dad get involved with the school board. He also served a term on the tribal council. I watched Gus and Florence’s involvement with the mine. I attended all those meetings as a little boy and listened to all the conversations at the meetings. After I graduated, their ranch was foreclosed on. In our area, if you were going to make a life, you had to have cattle. Most families were cattle people. You had to make a living. 

I watched as Gus and Florence became heavily involved in the Keeps Eagle Settlement which had to do with discrimination against Indian farmers and ranchers. That showed me that you have to take care of yourself and always take care of each other. Gus and Florence were so paramount in so many discrimination efforts.

Florence Helgeson and Tuffy.

While I was caring for my grandmother, she would tell me stories…about how the community was supposed to hold things together. At that time, some of us in the community got together and organized. One of the first things we did was start a pow-wow…which has been going for about 15 years now. Then we moved on to a rodeo…a kid’s series rodeo in Lodge Pole. We then got involved with a convenience store and gas station. We learned so much about coding, zoning, etc. when we built that convenience store.

About five years ago, our community started gardens with an earth-friendly greenhouse and a 60 tree apple orchid. The idea was to take food and prepare it and we would be able to sell it in our store. We have canning classes and network with the local extension programs. We are learning about medicine and healthy ways of living. We have a daycare emersion center that opened on September 6 and will house up to 53 children. My sister was the driving force behind the grants to start some of the projects through the Island Mountain Development Corp. Now we are looking at housing, rent to own housing for our people.

Who inspired you and/or who were your role models? 

Joe Ironman, Bob Fourstar, Kenneth Ryan, Tommy Christian, Max White, Selina Ditmar, Harris Rock, Gilbert Horn, John Allen, Jr., and others. My life has grown so much through language. We translated all our old stories and I get to reshare stories with others now. We started to take all the stuff that was there and make it useful to our people by creating a dictionary and curriculum of the Nakota Language for K-12.

Why is it important for everyone to be involved in their community? 

I always think this is the best place in the world to live. When I was growing up, nobody wanted to live here and no one wanted to be here. But now, by taking action in our community, our poverty rate has dropped by 40% in Hays/Lodgepole.

Photo: Tuffy and Wilma Kennedy, reviewing the curriculum that was newly made. She is from Carry the Kettle.

What community and social organizations do you currently belong to? 

Vice President of Island Mountain Board, Hays/Lodgepole school board, Assiniboine Treaty Committee, and Medicine Lodge.

Board Vice-Chair of Island Mountain Development Corporation

What or who inspires you to keep on doing what you are doing?

My grandmother. Everywhere I work I have a photo of her. She was such a strong person. She came through a lot. They tied her ankles and wrists and threw her in a wagon when they took her away to boarding school…she was crying. In the end, she went on to get her GED and even took some college classes. It’s our responsibility to keep pushing forward because our ancestors struggled really hard for us.

Grandmother Helgeson (Artist Shannon Fox)

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? 

Being a husband and a dad. Your homefront has to be strong. We always want better for our kids. My wife and I have helped raise 32 kids that have come through our house. There are no safe homes or social services in our community.

Tuffy holding grandson, Ohaziya Racine.

Why is it important for young people to be involved in the decisions being made for their community?  

We need to empower young people because the narrative hasn’t been written right. We need to teach our kids about boarding school trauma. We need to talk to elders because there are the people that really know what happened. The youth need to have their place, they need to have a voice. We think we are doing the very best with the students, but we are so out of touch with them. The world that we lived in is so much different now with the Internet. They don’t identify with being Native now. They might have dark skin but they don’t have an identity. They need to get involved.

Tuffy and his son, Gary.

Have you ever thought about running for office? 

I ran for tribal council when I was 25 years old. A Gros Venture person was running and he needed an Assiniboine to run on his ticket for chair and vice-chair. However, I believe you don’t always need the tribal council to get things done, you can do it yourself, you don’t need to depend on anyone. Maybe one day I will run again.

I have also gone to DC and lobbied numerous times. You have to be over there to get your story heard. You can’t be sitting in the middle of Montana whining and expect things to get done. 

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

That this is the greatest place in the world to raise kids. People come together to help each other.  When my parents died, my wife and I were running 370 head of cows. I was tending to my mother, and when I got home, there were a whole bunch of pickups at my place. My friends and community members got together and had branded all my calves. People just step up to help each other. 

What is one change you would want to see in your community in the next 5 years? 

I want to hear our language spoken more.