By Tim Leeds
About 50 people gathered at the Olympic Room of the Duck Inn on Monday to show their support for Jonathan Windy Boy's candidacy in state House District 92.
His brother, Alvin Windy Boy, chair of the Chippewa Cree tribal council, topped a list of speakers endorsing Windy Boy after a buffet was served. Alvin Windy Boy said a candidate's qualifications, rather than his race or party, should be the reason to support him.
"What I am a party to is whoever's there who can help me, that's who I'm a party to," he said.
Jonathan Windy Boy, an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, told the crowd that if he's elected, he will "represent you 110 percent, both Indian and non-Indian." He is running as a Democrat.
HD 92, which contains much of the southern sections of Hill and Blaine counties, is represented by Democrat Matt McCann of Harlem, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits.
The district contains both the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap reservations. Windy Boy, whose father was from Rocky Boy and whose mother, Katherine (First Raised) Windy Boy, is originally from Fort Belknap, said he is well-equipped to deal with issues both on and off the reservations.
He said that once he is in the legislature he will not be afraid to speak up; he doesn't want to miss any chances to help improve the state.
"There's only a window of opportunity and if it slips by, you might not have it again," Windy Boy said.
In an interview after the speeches, Windy Boy said his main focus would be on health, education and welfare. He has experience in protecting the environment and in agriculture as well, he said.
He also opposes deregulation of electricity. He said deregulation will hurt Montana citizens twice, first with increasing power bills, then with inflation as local businesses raise their prices to pay higher electrical costs.
He invited Neil Heuckerman, a former Choteau and Big Sandy resident who now works in Washington state as an electrical engineer, to speak at the event Monday.
"I cannot express strongly enough that deregulation is not the best for Montana," Heuckerman said.
Windy Boy said his experience in agriculture and politics goes back many years. His father, John Windy Boy, began ranching at Rocky Boy more than 50 years ago after returning from military service during World War II, and entered politics in 1966.
Jonathan Windy Boy has a large political resume himself. He is the chairman of the Montana/Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, spent three years as a Chippewa Cree councilman, is co-founder and president of the Council of Large Land Based Tribes and is co-chair of the American Indians Data Management Work Group.
Many speakers at the event addressed Windy Boy's ability and experience in politics, citing his lobbying of Congress and his working with both Gov. Judy Martz and Gov. Marc Racicot and the Montana Legislature.
A wide range of speakers endorsed Windy Boy on Monday, including Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, and Ray Peck, who held the seat in HD 91 before Musgrove. Other speakers included Ethel Bear, a member of the tribal council at the Fort Belknap Reservation, Tuffy Haugeson, chair of the Fort Belknap Tribal Youth Council, and Frank Hayes of the Hill County Democratic Party.
The last Indian to run for the Legislature from the Havre area was Bert Corcoran from Rocky Boy, who lost to McCann in the Democratic primary in 1992. There are six Indians, all Democrats, in the Montana Legislature.