Havre Daily News
For Petty Officer 1st Class Raymond Gopher, working for the U.S. Navy is something he does because it makes him feel good.
He joined the Navy right after graduating from Great Falls High School in 1990, and has been in the military ever since. In 15 years of service, he's traveled the globe, met his wife while stationed in Everett, Wash., has supported his family, and helped out during one of the worst human disasters in recent history, the tsunami in southern Asia.
So for him, being honored this weekend as part of the 41st annual Rocky Boy Pow-Wow for his military service is icing on the cake.
"I do it because it's something I like to do," the 33-year-old said about serving his country. "Being honored for it, it's something I wish everybody who is in the military could experience."
This weekend's powwow will honor all active-duty service members as well as veterans, both living and dead. Military men and women will carry flags and lead the grand entry tonight at 7 p.m., as they did at Thursday night's youth powwow grand entry.
Powwow coordinators have also asked the families of deceased military men and women to bring their burial flags, which will fly on the powwow grounds' six flag poles throughout the weekend.
Native Americans have a long tradition of serving their country, powwow coordinator Russell Standing Rock said.
"Native Americans won many battles for America," he said. "There's a lot of turmoil in the world where our veterans have been involved."
This weekend will be a chance to honor these Native American veterans in a traditional manner.
"There has been a lot of recognition politically, but nothing has had anything to do with honoring the veterans traditionally," he said. "We feel a lot of our young men and women have not been rightfully recognized for their deeds and military service to America."
Special songs will be sung out of respect for soldiers living and dead, he said. These won't be sad songs mourning their sacrifice. Instead, traditional victory songs will be sung in their honor.
"They're not memorial songs," Standing Rock said. "They're songs for brave deeds that our people used to have many years ago." Gopher said he feels a sense of pride in being a Native American soldier, "being there and representing where I come from."
This is the second time in the past three years Gopher has brought his immediate family to Rocky Boy for the powwow. His favorite events are the jingle dress dances and the boy's grass dance, he said. Coming back for powwow isn't always possible, but he enjoys the trip when he can.
"I come home so I can see all my family at one time and watch the dances together," he said. A highlight of coming back is seeing his grandmother, Delia Demontiney, he said.
Gopher's mother, Yvonne Demontiney, is one of this year's powwow coordinators. Her family's history is filled with military service, from her great-grandfather Chief Little Bear, who was one of the reservations founders, to her father, WWII veteran and former tribal council chairman Joe Demontiney, her uncle, Vietnam veteran John Demontiney, and all the way down to two of her sons, Gopher and his younger brother, Paul. She is very proud of them all, she said.
"This year, we wanted to honor our active-duty servicemen and women because of what's going on in the Gulf," she said. "I felt it was important to honor these people in this trying time for dedicating their lives to protect our country."