A crowd gathered in the rain this morning in the former Stone Child College parking lot, trying to stay dry under tents while advocating a different kind of dry living.
More than 120 people signed up for this year’s Rocky Boy Annual Sobriety Walk, which stretches from the former college up to the powwow grounds, a few miles away.
Coordinators said that past years, with more cooperative weather, had seen crowds of up to 400 people, but today’s crowd was dedicated.
Chippewa Cree Business Committee Chair Bruce Sunchild Sr. kicked off the walk with a ribbon-cutting and ended it with a few words at the crowd’s destination.
“We’d like to send a message out there to encourage people to be sober, to keep our kids healthy, to keep our community together, ” Sunchild said.
This year’s event added another focus — wellness — to the walk’s purpose. It was the first time this walk was coordinated by the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation’s diabetes and wellness programs, rather than the Chemical Dependency Center.
Jackie Houle, the coordinator of the reservation’s diabetes prevention program and one of three coordinators of the walk, said the CDC would probably resume their prior role in future walks.
The business committee brought two special guests to the walk this year from among their associates.
Jason Harvison, executive vice president of Fort Worth, Texas-based Think Finance, was at the ribbon-cutting. Harvison helps the Chippewa Cree with their various financial endeavours and investments.
Another guest, Ernest Stevens Jr., is the chairman of the Washington D. C.-based National Indian Gaming Association, which represents 144 casinos across the country.
While Stevens is from the Oneida nation in Wisconsin, he said he has a daughter and son-in-law who live, work and coach basketball on Rocky Boy, Maria and Jazz Parker.
Though he had never been to Rocky Boy during the powwow before, Stevens said he is very excited to stay through the weekend and check out the festivities.
“This is awesome. I don’t care about rain, ” Stevens said. “There’s no better place in the world than the middle of Indian Country. ”