By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Visitors to Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation this June will learn a lot about the Chippewa and Cree tribes, from religion and philosophy to diapers that were once made from cattails.
Those were some of the many ideas for cultural presentations suggested at a meeting last week to prepare for the National Park Service's Corps of Discovery II's four days at Rocky Boy.
The four-year traveling exhibition, part of the National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration, will weave through Montana in June, stopping at Rocky Boy June 17-20.
National exhibition interpreter Pat Jones traveled to Rocky Boy on Wednesday to lead the kick-off meeting.
"She answered a lot of questions for the community and the community seemed really positive," Rocky Boy tourism coordinator Jason Belcourt said. "They had a lot of great ideas."
Jones invited people in the audience to share negative feelings as well, he said.
"There were a few people that got up and spoke and said, 'First of all, why are we calling this a celebration? This is hardly a celebration for our people,'" Belcourt said.
He said Jones emphasized that the exhibition is a "commemoration," not a "celebration" for that very reason.
Rocky Boy organizers will have their choice about how to structure the four days of events, Belcourt said. While the National Park Service can provide presenters, each site can chose to use many or none of those people.
Lloyd Top Sky, a teacher at Stone Child College and a member of both the reservation's cultural commission and tourism board, said he would be interested in having local presenters.
"There were a lot of non-Indian names brought up and we suggested we should tell our side as well as the presenters who were the authorities," he said.
Top Sky teaches Ojibway, the language of the Chippewa tribe. He would be prepared to speak about Native American language, religion and philosophy, he said.
Others suggested presentations about hunting, artwork, traditional dress, traditional education and the social structure of tribes.
Top Sky said he heard other good suggestions.
Many agreed that the Chippewa and Cree tribes should be discussed separately, he said.
The meeting ended on a positive note, Belcourt said, with the possibility of building bridges between cultures.
Some also asked how many visitors the exhibit will draw to Rocky Boy.
That will depend on the work the tourism board does to market the event, Belcourt said.
"We're certainly open to ideas from the surrounding communities, if they want to present or even just attend our meetings," he said.
Belcourt said he hopes the tourism board finds ways to involve local schools and communities across the Hi-Line as well.
A second meeting is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 22. That date will be confirmed this week.
Anyone with questions or comments about the upcoming event can reach Belcourt at the Rocky Boy Natural Resources Office at 395-4207.