Head Staff Biographies
Chief Earl Old Person
Mr. Earl Old Person, Blackfeet name - Cold Wind (Stu Sapoo) and Charging Home (Ahka Pa Ka Pee), a full blood member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was born April 13, 1929, to Juniper and Molly Old Person, a prominent member of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Earl was raised on the reservation in the community of Starr School where he attended grade school and graduated from Browning High School in Browning, Montana.
The Browning High School Basketball team first played for a State High School Championship Title in 1963 in Great Falls, Montana and Earl was selected to entertain on behalf of the team and the Blackfeet Tribe. This would mark the beginning of many presentations and speaking engagements that Earl would be involved in locally, nationally, and internationally for the Blackfeet Tribes and the American Indian people.
In 1954, Earl was elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council as the youngest member ever to serve in this capacity. In 1964, he was elected Chairman, a position he has held for 16 of the 22 terms he has served on the council, with the exceptions of 1978-1980, 1988-1990, and 1998-2000. Earl became Chief of the Blackfeet Nation in 1978, a lifetime appointment, by family of the late James White Calf, and in 1991, he was inducted into the elite Kainai Chieftainship in Canada.
Earl has also been elected to participate in and lead numerous local, state, national and international organizations including the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest, the National Congress of American Indians, the World Committee to represent the American Indians, the Governors Task Force on Indian Affairs, the National Council of Indian Opportunities, the Board of National Indian Banking Committee, the National Advisory Council on Aging, the task force for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Reorganization, the National Organization “Save the Children,” the conference on United States Security and Soviet Challenge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Citizens Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunity, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Advisory Committee for Exceptional Children, the Board of Directors for Museum of the Rockies, the National Security Council, and the Board of Directors for the Montana Community Foundation, as well as numerous others.
In 1994, Earl received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The University of Montana in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions. In 2008, he ended his 50th year as a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and then began the Blackfeet Tribe’s first ever “Archives” Project dedicated to preserving documents of the Blackfeet Tribal Governmental system. Today, Earl leads the Charging Home Society for Pikuni Education and Cultural Preservation Program, which is designed to preserve Blackfeet History and Culture to teach young members about their ancestors.
Twin Cities, MN
Coeur d'Alene, ID
Acorn Holds The Enemy is an enrolled member of the Great Apsaalooke’ Nation. His name Ishbaxxuwashaa Aziidaa best translates to “Owner of Outstanding Livestock”, given to him by Howard Shane. Acorn is a Bad War Deeds and a Child of the Big Lodge Clan. Within the Crow Tribe, Acorn is honored to hold the rights to the Sacred Tail Feather Bustle and neck hackle. Acorn was adopted into Bahshushaa, (Sacred Tobacco Dance Society) By Eva Bulltail and was given the rights to the drum. Acorn is also proud member of the Reno District.
Acorn’s parents are the late Gladys Jefferson and Myron & Sandra Shield. Acorn grew up in Crow Agency, MT along with his sisters, Rhonda and Janell. He now resides in Hardin, MT with his wife, Anastasia, and children, Alyias and Brandee Rhae. Acorn attended Salish Kootenai College and received a certificate in Highway Construction.
Acorn has been involved in powwows since he was a young boy. Growing up, Acorn and his sisters traveled with their mother, Gladys Jefferson, across United States and Canada. Acorn enjoys dancing and has traveled to numerous celebrations. He competes in both the Chicken dance style and Crow Traditional style. Acorn enjoys singing at powwows, handgames, round dances, and karaoke . He is very thankful to the many people that have always encouraged him to dance. Acorn enjoys traveling on the circuit as it provides the opportunity to meet new friends and visit old friends.
As a fan of the University Of Montana Grizzlies, Acorn is very honored to have been chosen to serve as arena director for the 50Th Annual Kyi yo Celebration.
Friday Evening: Bob Tailfeathers, Browning, MT
Saturday Afternoon: Dustin Whitford, Rocky Boy, MT
Saturday Evening: Leon Old Elk-Stewart, St. Ignatius, MT
Friday Evening: Iva Croff, Browning, MT
Saturday Afternoon: Gisele Forest, Missoula, MT
Saturday Evening: Cher Old Elk-Stewart, St. Ignatius, MT
Rocky Boy, MT
Dustin Whitford is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe in Rocky Boy, MT where he resides with his wife Winter, son Watson and daughters Dinay, Miyoskamin (Minnie) and Kisikoskwew Whitford. He attended school there through elementary to 10th grade. During his Junior year of high school he attended the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, NM. Dustin moved home for his Senior year of high school and graduated from there as the Salutatorian in 2000. He went on to receive an associate’s degree in Native American Studies from Stone Child College in Rocky Boy in 2005. In that same year he started his studies at the University of Montana. In 2008 he was elected to serve as President for the Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association. That year, along with a strong committee, Kyi-Yo NASA held various fund raisers throughout the school year such as: the Native American Dance Theater; Cowboy Santa; Native American/Kyi-Yo awareness at Southgate Mall; Frybread Sale at the International Food Festival; a Multi-Art Raffle; and solicited to over 300 potential Donors. He earned two baccalaureate degrees in Native American Studies and Anthropology from the University of Montana in 2008.
Soon after, Dustin moved home and began his career in Tribal Government with his tribe and served as a Drug Court Coordinator, Chippewa Cree Tribal Court Associate Judge, a Tribal Councilman and now currently serves as the Tribe’s Self-Governance Coordinator. He also taught Cree Language I and a Writing course at Stone Child College for 8 semesters.
Dustin has been dancing since he was 2 years old and throughout the years he has been given the right to dance Grass, Northern Traditional, Prairie Chicken Dance and Crow Style. He grew up participating in the various ceremonies and traditional ways of the Chippewa Cree Tribe along with the Grass Dance Society (Painted Drum Ceremony) and Native American Church.
“I would like to thank the Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association, the University of Montana, and all of the sponsors of the powwow for inviting me to serve as the Head Man Dancer, of which has been a huge honor. I would like to wish safe travels to everyone travelling to and from the powwow, good luck to the competition dancers and singers and a good powwow year of good health and happiness. Hiy Hiy.”
Cher and Leon Old Elk-Stewart
St. Ignatius, MT
Cher Old Elk-Stewart is an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Tribe of Fort Belknap, born and raised in Montana. She’s the daughter of Dr. Deborah His Horse Is Thunder (BA ’78, Ed.D. ’92 UM) and the late-Rick Desjarlais, Sr. One of her favorite role models is her older sister, Michelle Desjarlais (MBA ’93 UM) who is also the founder of the American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL) which is nationally headquartered on the UM Campus. Cher is a multiple state champion high school runner, and a UM collegiate scholarship athlete who competed for the Lady Griz from 1988-1993 in cross-country and track. She’s a UM graduate earning a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication (UM ’93) and her juris doctorate degree (UM ’96) from the University of Montana, School of Law. She served as a UM Presidential appointee to the Student/Athletic Advisory Committee. During law school she served as President of the Native American Law Student’s Association.
Cher is a former Staff Attorney for the National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, DC, a former Staff Attorney/Prosecutor for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and has owned and operated her own Indian law practice since 1999. She is licensed to practice law in the State of Montana, the State of California, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Tribal Court, the Fort Belknap Indian Community Tribal Court, the Crow Tribal Court, and the Chippewa-Cree Tribal Court. She previously served as the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, legal counsel to the Fort Belknap Indian Community, and currently serves as in-house counsel to the Tachi-Yokut Tribe of the Santa Rosa Rancheria.
Leon Old Elk-Stewart is an enrolled member of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation, raised in Crow Agency, Montana. He’s the son of Walter E. Old Elk Sr. (’07 MSU-B) and Donna Stewart. Leon actively served 8-years in the United States Marine Corp (1988-1996). Leon was honorably discharged as a Sergeant from the U.S.M.C. in 1996. Returning as a combat veteran, Leon attended the University of Montana. Leon earned a degree in Social Work (UM ‘05).
Leon has served in a variety of social work capacities, which has included being the Director of Social Services of the Apsaalooke Nation, to mentoring Indian youth. He has served as a counselor for the UM Upward Bound Program and as a Counselor at UM American Indian Student Services. Leon is also a nationally recognized Crow-style dancer. He spent many years traveling and competing at powwows in the United States and Canada.
Leon and Cher established the L-Heart-C Friesian Horse Ranch in 2010, and co-founded the Rocky Mountain Friesian Horse Chapter, and are recognized breeders of the Friesian Horse Association of North America. They remain active with their extended families, running (both are USMC Marathon finishers in 2015), powwows, and ceremonies.
Cher and Leon are the proud parents of Frederick, Delora, Jeremy (UM ’16), Naomi, Maleea, Shaniya (ASU-Freshman), Evan, Deea, Malana, and Wyatt (UM-Sophomore).
We would like to thank the UM Kyi-Yo Indian Club for all of your hard work! Also, thank you for inviting us and our families with the honor of being the head man and woman dancer on Saturday night of the 50th Annual Kyi-Yo Celebration. As Alumni, our wish to all the dancers, singers, students, spectators, families, and friends: a good celebration while you are in Missoula and hope you find lifelong friendships, good health, good knowledge and prosperity while at the University of Montana!