Havre Daily News
A meeting of a group working on forming a Hi-Line Human Relations Commission had many members wondering: If the commission members can't get along with each other, what kind of example are they setting for the rest of the Hi-Line?
A few people left the meeting and one man had a bottle of water thrown in his face. But by the end of the meeting, most in attendance had figured out a way to get along.
About 30 people met, including U.S. Department of Justice mediator Grace Sage, Havre Police Chief Mike Barthel, Blaine County Commissioner Dolores Plumage, Opportunity Link's Leah Noel and Rocky Boy tribal council member and state representative Jonathan Windy Boy, who headed the meeting.
Plumage said the example for human rights starts with the commission itself.
“We have to honor all civil rights for each one of us here. Professionalism - we have to have that here,” she said.
Windy Boy said the main focus of Thursday's meeting was to form committees, which it did.
“It got heated but it was a good dialogue and I think we accomplished a lot, Windy Boy said after the meeting.
At the meeting, five committees were formed: education, justice/law enforcement, cross-cultural awareness, business/employment and housing.
Toward the middle of the meeting Chuck Grant said, “At first, I was hostile and now I am actually beginning to like everybody.”
By the end of the meeting he had a bottle of water thrown in his face after he offended a woman with his statements.
A few people left, one stormed out, when they took offense by what was said during the meeting. One man was called a “wind-bag” and then said he was being mocked by a woman attending the meeting and left in disgust.
Items on the agenda included defining specific goals, responsibilities and authority of the commission. Also, structuring the organization in terms of funding and membership.
The commission will address concerns of the residents of Hill County, Blaine County, Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and surrounding communities. The mission statement of the planned commission is to improve communication, collaboration and race relations between communities through effective outcomes, education, community building and conflict resolution.
The group established goals for the commission including to expand and encourage community dialogue, to identify points of contact within communities and to expand the capacity for educational opportunities outside of the commission.
Any interested party can join the commission.
“Come one, come all,” Windy Boy said.
The membership roles are to participate and be an example.
The creation of the commission was sparked by discussion of racial issues after an article on racism in Havre, written by a University of Montana journalism student last year, was printed in the Great Falls Tribune.
Sage, who left mid-meeting, said she thought the commission has gotten off to a good start and will “miss coming to Havre.”
Darrel Hannum, director of employment and training at District IV Human Resources Development Council and an Opportunity Link board member, said the role of Opportunity Link in the commission will be discussed at a board meeting today. The Havre-based organization works on reducing poverty in the area,
Hannum reminded the group that all were there voluntarily because they wanted to be a part of the commission.
“We can't put all of the responsibility on one person or one agency,” he said.
Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette said she agreed.
“We need to take ownership and do our own work like taking minutes. Maybe we are expecting too much ... from Opportunity Link, for example,” Bessette said.
“Bingo,” Windy Boy added.
The guiding principles discussed at the meeting included “be open to everyone,” “stay enthusiastic” and one which was added at the meeting was “agree to disagree.”
The committees will meet on their own and the group will come together as a whole on June 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the District IV Human Resources Development Council board room.