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Fair recognizes tribe's successes


ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - For the second year, representatives from community programs and organizations at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation came together for the Rocky Boy Community Fair.

The two-day event, Thursday and today in the gymnasium of the old Stonechild College, features booths from about 45 organizations distributing information about their programs, and also food, a student art auction, prize drawings, and live music.

It ends at 3 p.m. today.

The theme of the fair this year was "The Founding Fathers: A Grateful Nation," and is meant to recognize tribal leaders like Chief Rocky Boy and Chief Little Bear, who helped get the reservation established in 1916.

"Our forefathers worked tirelessly to obtain a place for their people where they could live and worship in harmony and peace and for this we are grateful," wrote tribal council chair Alvin Windy Boy Sr. in a letter to participants of the fair.

"We have a lot to be grateful for," said tribal planner Lydia Sutherland, who helped organize the fair with a committee of representatives from tribal programs.

"I feel our young people need to know our history," Sutherland said. "We have a homeland now, which a lot of people don't have."

Most of the organizations that set up booths were from the reservation, but guests from outside included U.S. Navy recruiters, the American Red Cross and the Native American Bank in Browning.

Other booths included Rocky Boy Schools and Stonechild College, the tribal social services department, the Rocky Boy Health Board, and the tribal council.

The event opened just before 10 a.m. on Thursday with a flag ceremony accompanied by the Young Chippewa Cree Nations Singers.

John Sunchild, the CEO of the tribal development association, spoke to the group after the flag ceremony, sang an honor song, and said a prayer in the Cree language.

"Communication is so important, and this (gathering) is one of the quick ways to show people what we have, and the direction we're going," Sunchild told the crowd.

One of the guests from outside the reservation was Bonnie Weaver of Native American Bank.

"It looks like it's quite an impressive fair, and our bank is getting progressive with some loans on Rocky Boy reservation," Weaver said. "Hopefully we'll have a branch of the bank here in the future."

Isabell Dotts of the Rocky Boy Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative had a table set up to sell paintings, moccasins, beadwork and other crafts made by various Rocky Boy artists. She said the fair would help "to let everybody know the program exists."

"Hope I sell out," she said.

A committee of about 15 representatives of tribal programs has met once a week for the past month to plan the fair.

"Everybody's pulled together and worked very cooperatively and I just can't thank our people enough," said Sutherland, who headed up the committee.

Tribal transportation planner Kevin Parisian, who helped set up the booths on Wednesday, said both tribal members and visitors were welcome at the event.

"I think it's important because it brings unity within the tribe and the tribal government, and we can all work together and showcase our successes," he said.

For visitors not from the tribe, Parisian said, "It would show that we are part of the regional community, and we have lots of people, resources and services that we can offer for economic development."

Sutherland estimated that about 400 people showed up to the fair on Thursday, as well as 200 elementary students from Rocky Boy and Box Elder schools.

"We expect a good turnout today also," she said, adding that there was a "great closing ceremony" Thursday afternoon in which the two oldest tribal members were honored, and two visiting Navy officers participated in the honor guard ceremony to retire the flags.

Canadian country western singer Terri Ann Strong Arm and her band played throughout the day Thursday until about 2:30 p.m., Sutherland said, and was scheduled to perform again today.


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