By Amy Ray
I am at St. Mary’s Lodge in beautiful Glacier, Montana. There is a crazy rushing creek outside my door making me want to stay up all night. This land up here is so awesome it makes the heart ache.
We had a full day in the Blackfeet community. It started out with a bus ride from Missoula chock full of information from watching a DVD on board and hearing words from Winona and Jodi Rave. Jodi is a Native journalist who is along for the ride to give us an overview of the Blackfeet Reservation, the Cobell lawsuit, and Indian sovereignty issues.
Elouise Cobell is one of our favorite activists and was the lead plaintiff in the recently-settled Cobell v. Kempthornelawsuit which was filed against the United States for the mismanagement of trust funds belonging to over half a million Native people. She was also the treasurer of the Blackfeet Tribe and also went on to establish the Blackfeet National Bank, the first ever national bank on an Indian reservation and owned by a tribe. Right now she's the Executive Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, the nonprofit affiliate of the Native American Bank which is currently owned by a collection of 26 Tribal Nations, Tribal Enterprises and Alaskan Native Corporations. It's always inspiring to meet and talk with her again.
We went back to a familiar place called the Cuts Wood School to see how their language immersion program is doing. We were especially pleased to hear from a couple of young girls, who spoke in their Native tongue and were totally impressive. There are so many reasons why these language programs work - the kids are so brilliant and do so well in life plus the culture is preserved for future generations.
We had 2 yummy feasts today complete with traditional food. We went to a wonderful Blackfeet art gallery - The Lodge Pole Gallery. We heard 4 presentations on Native Justice and Sustainability from The Blackfeet Wind Project, Elousie Cobell, The Blackfeet Constitutional Committee, and a Native herbalist. (See the top photo!)
We ended the day at the new Browning High School with a feast and a show with the killer drum group, Blackfeet Confederacy, Montana’s own Jack Gladstone, and a presentation to honor Elouise Cobell’s work.
My head is full and I want to tell you so much, but now I am about to fall asleep. I know we will be writing more on all these issues and featuring them on the Honor website. So delve deeper if you want to know more. One thing I am struck by - we heard from activist Lona Burns speak about writing a new constitution for the Blackfeet Tribe, instead of adhering to the old Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitution that was written for them. She deconstructed the situation in a very compelling way and showed how this imposed IRA constitution and government have wreaked havoc in this and other Indian communities - a brilliant analysis.