There have been some hard times on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation recently.
There is an exceptionally bitter battle, over who should lead the tribal government, that has gone into tribal court and will probably end up in civil court.
Federal prosecutors have charged nearly a dozen people — on and off the reservation — for corruption.
The sad goings-on in Washington, D.C., have had their effect on Rocky Boy, too. People have been furloughed and laid off by the tribal government and the school districts. This means even more people out of work in an area that already has one of the highest unemployment rates in Montana.
The repercussions of these events have divided friends and families on the reservation.
The divisions on the reservation have made news, not just here but statewide and even nationwide.
All of this has prompted more than one person to call the Havre Daily News to say that for all the problems, for many Rocky Boy residents, life goes on as normal.
Schools are educating children. Recreational activities continue. Cultural events continue to instill pride in native culture. Families continue to thrive.
Indeed, newspaper stories on Native American Week celebrations were especially inspiring this year.
Programs to help children are continuing despite budget cuts.
Box Elder’s football team, nearly defunct a couple of years ago, did very well this year.
It’s not easy to shun politics these days at Rocky Boy, but many folks are doing quite well despite the butter flaps.
John Demotiney, who from his home in New Mexico knows more about what’s going on at Rocky Boy than many on the reservation, likes to look back at the days in his childhood when people lived in tents on the reservation.
Larry Denny remembers when there were no paved roads on the rez. School buses were just used vans that were usually overpacked with students. Schools were substandard.
“Today, we have fine schools,” he said.
School buses take students to and from classes safely.
“We have some of the finest athletes in Montana, in some cases, even the nation,” he said.
Rocky Boy isn’t what it could be or should be, but the the place is better than it once was.
Rocky Boy and Box Elder high schools are sending record numbers of students off to colleges and careers.
Stone Child College is opening doors of opportunity to young — and not so young — folks.
While money may have been skimmed off by people with sticky hands, much is still going on to help people who need food, better health care and social services.
The housing authority is planning a housing project to help people leave substandard housing.
A program to bring potable water to all parts of the reservation is underway.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems on the reservation.
By all accounts, use of meth and other drugs is substantially high. Schools are still not as good as they could be. Many people live in substandard housing. And, if federal prosecutors are right, there is a culture of corruption that allows all kinds of people to put their hands in the cookie jar, depriving people in need of the funds they are entitled to.
There will be a lot of attention paid to the corruption problems. That’s good, the best cure for backroom corruption is lots of sunlight.
But don’t forget that for many at Rocky Boy life goes on and things are getting better.
(John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-265-6795, ext. 17, or 406-390-0798.)