Gov. Bullock travels to Lodge Grass for education visit
Thu, 05/28/2015 - 6:01am admin
Economic development bill signed in commemorative ceremony
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
Gov. Steve Bullock stepped out of his element last Thursday morning when he was introduced to the sport of arrow throwing. He arrived at the high school for an education summit of sorts, bringing along Commissioner of Labor and Industry Pam Bucy and Director of Indian Education Mandy Smoker Broaddus.
“You’re just trying to embarrass me,” he quipped outside Lodge Grass High School as he prepared to try the sport for the first time.
He scanned the field outside the school as students arced their arrows towards the target arrow several yards away. It’s kind of like darts, Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote explained to him.
Bullock held two arrows given to him in the school auditorium – along with a Pendleton blanket – as gifts from the Crow Tribe, which he would soon use for an impromptu match. Standing nearby was his opponent Wales Bulltail, an avid thrower whose family has been involved in the sport for generations, and who has written and illustrated a booklet on the mathematical concepts involved in the activity. They competed for one round and it went about as one might expect.
“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” Bullock asked.
In addition to state officials, members of Jobs for America’s Graduates – an organization for which Bullock serves as vice chair – attended from states including Kentucky, Washington, New Jersey, South Dakota and California. Kenneth Smith, president and CEO for the organization, also joined the meeting.
The meeting opened with the Lodge Grass JROTC posting the colors, followed by a group of dancers in regalia performing a traditional dance and the Crow Hop. Once the dancing and drumming, courtesy of the Night Hawk Juniors, stopped, a softer, more flowing type of melody began: flute music by young Manual Backbone.
“That was wonderful,” a woman in the crowd said.
Visitors were offered a tour of the school by Lodge Grass students where they observed students putting together beadwork and participating in an arrow throwing tournament, where Bullock tested out his new arrows. A barbecue followed organized in a manner described by Superintendent John Small as “Crow” or “chuck wagon” style.
“I hope you enjoy our school, our community and our kids,” Small told the audience. “We welcome you guys to Lodge Grass School and we appreciate your presence.”
During a walkthrough by Bullock, Chairman Old Coyote pointed out his own class picture from 1993. Bullock asked a student if she knew the chairman graduated from the school.
The student nodded affirmatively; she and Old Coyote are related.
Commemoratively signing Bill 307
The natural extension of education is finding one’s occupation, something Bullock has attempted to aid on the Crow Reservation with the April 23 signing of Senate Bill 307, which recognizes tribes as foreign entities. This recognition is designed to better allow tribes to seek loans off-reservation.
Under the arbor at Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency following his Lodge Grass tour, Bullock commemoratively signed the bill once again in front of an audience of about 100 tribal members and officials.
“This really is about breaking down barriers for economic development,” he said, “and to make sure that every business throughout the Crow Nation and the State of Montana can thrive and prosper.”
According to Yolanda GoodVoice, manager for the tribe’s revolving business loan program, tribal businesses would seek loans off-reservation if they required large amounts of start-up money.
“Before this bill passed, an individual starting a business on the reservation could go get an LLC – a limited liability company certificate – from the tribe, but they couldn’t take that to a bank and open a bank account,” she said. “They had to go through another step with the state to make a sort of foreign LLC…which was an extra fee on top of what they already did with the tribal LLC.
“It’s hard to buy a $20,000 or $100,000 piece of equipment when we can only lend ten.”
Tribally-owned businesses have managed to start up despite the lack of recognition, including the River Crow Trading Post. In fact, owner Theo Hugs said she didn’t experience any difficulties when she opened her store in 1992 with the help of a loan from First Interstate Bank in Hardin. The business, she said, was helped with the support of loyal customers.
The main challenge she sees to opening a reservation business is the “lack of prime commercial sites for lease or purchase.”
She doesn’t believe Bill 307 will impact reservation businesses.
Economic Development Commission Chairman Shawn Real Bird disagrees with her assessment.
“This historical signing opens the door for opportunity, it opens the door for vision, it opens the door for a dream,” he said, “so that individuals can go and attain that financing for business ownership.”
Though it’s too early to feel effects from the bill, according to Cabinet Finance Director Marlon Passes, Bullock’s visit is part of something more.
The visit, he said, represents a continued improvement from a time when governors wouldn’t bother to visit the reservation and definitely wouldn’t try their hand at arrow throwing.
“It takes a very honorable man to do that, breaking that discrimination barrier,” he said. “Just like the black people, when they faced discrimination, it took an honorable president to recognize them and give them their rights. I feel the same way today, too.”