November 5th is a special day I hope with be commemorated long into the future in the hearts of people everywhere, especially in Montana and for those occupying indigenous lands throughout the United States of America. November 5th, 1945, Yellow Bird Woman was born. Known as Elouise Cobell, Yellow Bird Woman was one of my role models and colleagues. She never failed to express her gratitude for all that she had been given. It is indeed an honor to be the UM College of Humanities and Science’s first Elouise Cobell Fellow.
I grew up in Browning, the heart of Montana’s sprawling 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Indian Reservation. I am an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe and a descendant of the White Clay people located at Fort Belknap. I received a M.S. in Environmental Studies from UM. My thesis portfolio focused primarily on an interdisciplinary approach to traditional ecological knowledge (tek), with emphasis on tek’s ethical and cultural foundations that help to develop and support a community’s social-ecological resiliency.
Prior to relocating from East Glacier Park to Missoula, I attended Blackfeet Community College, obtained a B.A. from University of Great Falls in Elementary Education and was the first state-certified local to teach at De La Salle Blackfeet. I retain a MT Class 7 Native American Language and Culture License and have served on the Montana Arts Council’s Cultural and Aesthetic Trust, since 2006. Over the years, I have collaborated with a number of diverse organizations, including Piegan Institute, The Native Science Field Center, and Hopa Mountain. I am the mother of four children, a grandmother, an artist, and an advocate for Native American language recovery and Native American student success.
When I attended the dedication ceremony for the new Elouise Cobell Land and Culture Institute, I was reminded of Elouise’s honesty, tenacity and effort against a seemingly impossible task. If there’s one thing Elouise taught me, it’s to stand up for what you believe in and never give up believing in what is right. I applaud Elouise’s diligence and I look forward to promoting awareness and gaining support for some of the many legacies she left us with.