By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Thousands of miles typically separate the Chippewa Cree from the Maori, an indigenous tribe from New Zealand. But for the first time in both tribes' histories, the two groups are coming together to share their cultures with one another, face to face on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Several Maori tribal members arrived in Montana on Friday for a weeklong summit on the health and well-being of the Chippewa Cree and Maori. The meeting of the tribes is called "Dancing on the Rim of the World - Weaving the Threads of Indigenous Destinies."
"It's a great honor to meet other tribal people whose way of life is so similar to ours in both culture and traditions," said Nadine Morsette, a Chippewa Cree elder who helped greet the Maoris in a welcoming ceremony at the Pah-nah-to Recreational Area on Sunday afternoon.
When entering another nation, it is a Maori tradition to be invited to "step out onto the land" by the leader of the nation. Chippewa Cree Chairman Alvin Windy Boy Sr. extended that invitation Sunday, accompanied by several Chippewa Cree community members. The Maori welcoming ceremony was followed by a Cree sweetgrass ceremony and sweat lodge.
"We want them to experience our culture so they have something to take home with them to share with their people," Morsette said.
Maori elder Nina Buxton is participating in the cultural exchange with her daughter Angela Smith and 19-year-old granddaughter Tuirina.
"We believe our peoples have been linking together spiritually for many moons," Buxton said. "We've had a connection with these indigenous people here for years."
That's a sentiment shared by members of the Chippewa Cree tribe as well.
"We are connected," said Ruby Stump. "I feel overwhelmed to have the opportunity to meet another tribe that's so similar to my own. I feel so fortunate and proud to have my tribe host these people."
Several discussions and work sessions are planned for the coming week at Rocky Boy. The forums will give both tribes the opportunity to share their history, culture, tribal concerns and health issues.
"We are connected by a common thread," Smith said. "Our histories are so similar and we've been through so much, but we've both managed to retain our tribal sovereignty."
The tribal forums will conclude on June 25. The Maoris will continue their stay at Rocky Boy through the Sun Dance Festival.