Friday, July 29, 2016


MTCC AmeriCorps at Little Bighorn College
The wind was unforgivingly whipping across the plains while a young native woman with long black hair flowing in the wind rode a bare back on a horse up a hill riddled with white markers at the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  The stories of the battle echoed throughout the rental car over the radio speakers synced to a cell phone. Each historical marker had a corresponding stop number which changed the story to that location. Being surrounded by the narrative of this clash of cultures and being placed in the story by proximity, “over the ridge to your left, the soldiers advanced.  The cluster of white markers mark were the soldiers fell…” made for a surreal experience. The Crow People were not part of the battle at Little Big Horn that was the Sioux and Cheyenne, but that does not stop the Crow people from wanting to learn more about this struggle for independence as one Crow woman shared she focused her college thesis on the Native American perspective of the battle.  She was instrumental in setting up this tour of the battlefield for the AmeriCorps members.

Little Big Horn College welcomed the MTCC AmeriCorps Leaders from around the state for a Close of Service Training.  The training included opportunities to learn more about the Crow people through their games, food and stories. Crow games go above simply being fun. The games teach skills for hunting to young boys while another one helps woman control their destiny.

The training also included opportunities for the Leaders to learn about teen depression from Joan Nye with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, learn more about the work and resources available via of Reach Higher Montana (formerly Student Assistance Foundation) as well as the ins and outs of the Education Awards earned with National Service. Bringing together members to reflect on their service and how they can leave a legacy for future teams deployed at their campuses is important aspect of AmeriCorps Close of Service events.  MTCC AmeriCorps Leaders are deployed at campuses around the state including Montana Tech, Bitterroot College, MSU Northern, Little Big Horn College, Dawson College and with Girls Scouts of Montana and Wyoming in Billings (MSU Billings) and Great Falls (University of Great Falls).  Those interested in hosting a College Access focused AmeriCorps team at their college should apply via the website.

While watching three young boys’ race miniature horses in the courtyard of the Little Big Horn College in preparation for the Pow Wow later that night, Shakira an AmeriCorps Leader and Crow woma,n told us that when a Crow boy reaches three-years-old they begin to learn to ride bareback. Boys start on small horses to fit the child’s size, but graduate to full size horses in due time.  It was clear these boys had been riding for many years even though they couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 years old.  They were riding fast, making sharp turn-a-rounds and switching riders quickly much like a relay race.  An older boy was coaching the younger two.  It was clear he would be moving up in horse size soon as he dwarfed the horses and struggled to keep his feet off the ground as he rode on these tiny horses.  

Water is Life!” was the theme of the week at Crow Agency as the Crow Tribe celebrated an historic settlement for water rights.  The celebration featured a parade including floats, Crow men in headdress’ riding horses and women in native dress juxtaposed to young men wearing t-shirts and baseball caps and playing the drums and chanting.  Beautiful woven blankets covered truck hoods and beds, songs, candy, and water balloons were highlights of the parade.  It was a cornucopia of Crow people, tradition, culture all mixed together to embrace Water is Life! We were honored with the opportunity for a rare look at a celebration of the Crow culture and be sent off on our travels with a traditional travel prayer spoken in the Crow language that doesn’t say ‘good-bye’ but rather ‘when we meet again’.  Sadly, we had to miss the celebration continuing at the Pow Wow later that night, but the leaders were off to their respective campuses to complete their service and the MTCC staff was heading to MSU to spread the word about the great work the teams are doing around the state in the lives of first generation and low income students they are privileged to serve in hopes they too would like to host a team.

Piece by Dannette Fadness, MTCC Program Manager