Havre Daily News
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Candace Denny remembers happier times, when guests would gather in her family's house, and somehow there was always room and food enough for everybody who came. Sometime in the past 15 or 20 years, drugs and alcohol changed that, and the social dynamic at Rocky Boy changed, she said.
Denny, a student at Stone Child College, wanted to talk with several elders about repairing the rift between generations. Student Virgil Big Knife wanted to hear about their opinions on a proposed liquor license on the reservation and other tribal issues. Through the Elder on Campus program, the students had that opportunity in their family issues class Wednesday.
This is the second year of the Elder on Campus program, Stone Child College President Melody Henry said. An office on campus is reserved for the visiting elder and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless the elder has been invited to a classroom, he or she can be found in the office. Students can seek out the elder to talk about whatever subjects they choose.
“I feel a little on display,” joked Videl Stump, this week's Elder on Campus. Stump added that he enjoyed the opportunity to talk with students.
He made up a display of visual aids to help him explain Cree culture. The bear skin, he said, represents the bear clan of Chief Little Bear, one of the founders of Rocky Boy. A sculpture of people standing in a circle holding hands signifies unity. Stump also displays a talking feather he beaded for his wife, Ruby, that the two often pass around in talking circles. Another item in Stump's display is an eagle feather fan like one pictured in an early 20th century photo of Little Bear and others.
Stump said 15 students came to the office to see him Tuesday. Many of them wanted to talk about the same issues that came up in Ann Johnstone's family issues class Wednesday - social connections and problems.
In addition to Stump, elders Dorothy Small and Theresa Tendoy joined the Wednesday class.
In response to a question from Denny, the elders shared some methods they had tried to get younger family members to take them seriously and to change their own behavior. Stump said he had a grandson who had been misbehaving.
“We put our arms around him,” Stump said. “We hugged him. We showed our emotional feelings to the kid.”
Stump said he and his wife found that their display of affection worked and that the grandson's behavior improved.
Denny said she thought that Stump and his wife had happened on a good method.
Small told about the extreme measures she and a sister used to show some of their family members that they mean business.
“I hate to face a weekend. The phone rings, I don't want to pick it up,” she said of the worry of hearing that some of the children in the family have gotten into trouble.
Small said she and her sister devised a plan this fall. One weekend night they pretended to get drunk. The two old ladies carefully upended furniture and lamps in the house. They mussed their hair and put out empty beer bottles. Then they invited over their nephews and other youths and pretended to be drunk.
“We said, ‘Since you guys won't listen to us, we'll join you,'” Small said.
She recalled that a nephew was horrified at the scene. “It's a dirty shame. Look at these old ladies,” she remembers him saying.
After everyone, with the exception of one relative, had left, the women stopped their deception. Small told the relative that next time the women would really get drunk if nobody listened to them.
The story got a laugh from the students in the class, but also a serious response from the teacher.
“I hear your pain and yet I know your children love you,” Johnstone said, wondering out loud about how the generations could be brought together.
“It's the best way you know how,” Stump said.