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Obituary - Phyllis Mae Pond Culbertson

October 20, 1939, to August 23, 2012


Last updated 8/27/2021 at 11:24am

Phyllis Culbertson, Red Horn Woman, 81, passed away due to natural causes at her Littleton, Colorado, residence on Monday, August 23, 2021.

Her funeral service will begin at 1:00 p.m. today, Friday, August 27, 2021, at the Chief Nosey Center in Lodgepole.

Holland & Bonine Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements.

Please visit Phyllis’ online memorial page and leave a message of condolence for her family at http://www.hollandbonine.com.

Phyllis Mae (Pond) Culbertson was born on October 20, 1939, on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation to James Bennett Pond and Camilla Marie (Bear) Pond. Her maternal grandparents were Minnie and Frank Bear, and paternal grandparents were Martha Pond Walks Slow and James Pond. As a young child, she lived on the family homestead in Lodge Pole, riding horses all day and getting into mischief across the reservation.

Along with graduating as valedictorian from Flandreau Indian Boarding School in 1958, Phyllis had many talents — she was a gifted writer, artist, seamstress, business woman, and activist. Anything she set her mind on was always accomplished.

That same year, Phyllis married Albert H. “Greek” Culbertson, and they had three children, Albert James “Buzz,” Kay Ann, and Janet Marie. They made their home in Wolf Point and Poplar, but moved to Littleton, Colorado in 1966. From here, Phyllis’ life took an exciting turn. While briefly working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs alongside a group of equally strong and passionate young women, they were able to bring a lawsuit against the BIA that had a huge impact on Indian Country. The case, known as Freeman v Morton, solidified Indian preference in hiring and promotions across the United States. The first celebration to honor this monumental undertaking became known as Denver March Powwow.

Her devotion to Indian people and issues continued to shape her career throughout life. She was on the founding board of directors for the Denver Native Americans United, which later became the Denver Indian Center. While serving as the director of Denver Public Schools, she helped create the Denver Metropolitan Indian Youth Club. It was here she was able give youth the skills and confidence to raise money through cultural presentations and other educational demonstrations. This eventually led to a collaboration and presentation of cultures with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre. Many of those young students still kept in touch with Phyllis through her later years.

Aside from her social justice and cultural outreach, she was known for her antique businesses around Denver, and loved finding unknown treasures at garage sales. She never lost her calling to help her people, and was asked by the chairman of the Fort Belknap tribe to serve as the secretary. She was very proud and honored to be asked to perform this work, which allowed her to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. She was able to connect with so many new and old friends. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she made the difficult decision to seek treatment in Denver. She missed her tribe so much and always kept up with the goings on in Fort Belknap. Her wish was to move home, and we are sad that mom was not able to return back to her beloved homeland.

She has many family members greeting her in the Spirit World: grandparents Minnie and Frank Bear; her parents, James and Millie Pond; brothers, Leland, Kenny, Alan “Jess,” Gerald, and the twins Mary and Joseph, and a special niece, Gail LaRose Henderson.

She is survived by her sister Sharon (Eric) Larose; brother Mike (Wanda) Pond; former husband, Albert “Greek” Culbertson; son Albert “Buzz”; daughters, Kay (Jim Roberts) Culbertson and Janet (Adam) Frederick. Her grandchildren, Aaron and Albert Culbertson, Camilla and Jennifer Falcon, Trevor Roberts, and Ricky and Lauren Ansay were her pride and joy. She is also survived by her nieces Diane Pond, Kim Jackson, Mona Pond, Sheryl Pond, Patricia Bauer and Misty Lovgren, and her nephews, Leland “Jimmy” Pond, Matthew Pond, and Jerrick Parisean.


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