By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
ROCKY BOY - Honor guard members from several Montana Indian reservations including Fort Peck and Fort Belknap as well as representatives from the Blackfoot and Crow nations attended a memorial ceremony honoring tribal veterans of the U.S. military at Rocky Boy Cemetery Thursday morning.
"This is our first successful honor guard and color guard here," said Roy Small, secretary of the Chippewa Cree Tribal Warrior Society before the ceremony.
About eighty people attended the event, which featured a newly installed flagpole. Volunteers cleaned the hillside cemetery last week.
The ceremony consisted of a pipe ceremony, and traditional prayers and songs before the flag was raised. The honor guards made a 21-gun salute for each of the six conflicts that American Indians have participated in the United States military, followed by an honor song in Cree and taps on a bugle.
About 130 people from Rocky Boy have been killed in military service in the six wars they have participated, said Judy Houle, who coordinated the ceremony.
The event was the result of a partnership between veterans and the senior citizens program that began about a year ago, Houle said.
"We said, let's start with small goals - something that's really doable. We started with the flagpole." Long-range goals include putting a plaque in a park at the agency in honor of the tribe's fallen veterans and renaming it Veterans Memorial Park.
The tribe is looking for grants to support the project, Houle said.
"It's important that we as Indians always honor the vets of the military," said tribal vice-chairman Bruce Sunchild, who is a veteran. "From way back when we've always been involved in defending out country."