By Robert Lucke
Pat Chief Stick is a Rocky Boy elder and historian for the tribe. He spends a lot of time serving on committees and traveling around the United States sharing Rocky Boy experiences and trying to glean things that might be of use to his people.
"I have been going to meetings all over the country," Chief Stick said. "I just spent a month in D.C. at the Smithsonian researching our tribal history. I got seven reels of tribal history. Government correspondence from the beginning of this reservation, even to the money they spent on rations during the Depression."
Chief Stick explained how Rocky Boy's Reservation came into being.
"There was a lot of land at Plentywood. Over a million acres and our chiefs looked at that land and didn't like it. That was what I call the second option. The first option was some land by Ovando. That was too far out of Missoula. There were no stores close by and we would have had to go to Missoula or Deer Lodge to buy anything so we refused that option."
Then thanks to the foresight and work of several prominent Montanans of the day, a third option opened up.
"That was Rocky Boy. It was part of Fort Assinniboine and we liked it. There was plenty of timber, water and good hunting. You know during hard times Indian people lived pretty good because of the wild game out here. When my dad took me into Havre we saw a long line of people just to get a bowl of soup. Rocky Boy had it better because of the wild game," Chief Stick said.
The problem was that some Havre people did not want the reservation nearby.
"Three Havre people went to Washington to testify. They called us dirty Indians and a bunch of thieves. Havre people put us down for a long time. One thing they never thought about was all the money that comes from the reservation. All our federal money goes into Havre and has made some Havre merchants rich. And still they don't care about Indian people."
Chief Stick is not afraid to jump right into the middle of the fray when needed. Take the Sweet Grass Hills, for instance.
"I worked with many people to keep mining out of the Sweet Grass Hills. And we got first a two-year moratorium, then a 10-year moratorium and now a 15-year moratorium," Chief Stick said. "The people in the surrounding country were with us. We didn't want to happen there what happened in Zortman. Cyanide is just plain poison and would kill all the animals. I wish they would just forget about mining there forever. You know that is a sacred place. There were even sun dances there years ago. Did you know there were over 3,000 teepee rings counted that surround the mountains?"
Pat Chief Stick was born at Rocky Boy in 1925. His father was Grant Chief Stick, his mother, Marion. He and his wife, Amy, have four living children, Calvin Jess, Pat Jr., Gloria and Minnie.
Chief Stick spends as much time as he can getting to meetings, sharing ideas of what is happening in Indian country.
"I go to most all the Indian meetings. I am going to be in Edmonton at the end of July and I belong to five different Indian organizations. The trouble is that all those meetings cost money. I was called just lately to California and to Washington. But we did not have the money to send me," Chief Stick said.
He is adamant about government treatment of Indians.
"There is another story every Indian knows. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S. is religious freedom," Chief Stick said. "Indians were not included in that. Why? Indian people tell that way back the government sent troops to villages, grabbed all the medicine bags they could find, put them in a big pile and burned them. They wanted to convert the Indians to Christianity. That didn't work. As Indian people we were put on this earth of have our own religion and procedures for doing them."
What Rocky Boy is looking for is better government-to-government relationships. Even today they have to ask and propose before the government acts and those proposals have to be very good for anything to happen, Chief Stick said.
But still, in spite of all the problems, it is the mountains that give Chief Stick his strength.
"I like these mountains and the good water and the timber," Chief Stick said. "The mountains are beautiful. It is a good place to live."
And like so many other residents of Rocky Boy, it is education that is on his mind.
"The mountains and the timber and the wild game, that is the reason the elders wanted to have a reservation here," he said. "They wanted to have homes and their highest priority was education. And it still is today."