Crow officials offer thanks in aftermath of recent tragedies

2011-06-21T18:00:00Z 2014-08-25T11:53:54Z Crow officials offer thanks in aftermath of recent tragediesBy SUSAN OLP Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

Officials of the Crow Nation came to Billings on Tuesday afternoon to offer thanks and extend an invitation.

The 30-minute ceremony in front of the Billings Chamber of Commerce also included tribal drumming, dancing and a celebration of the first day of summer.

Scott Russell, secretary of the Crow Tribe, first thanked the Billings community for help during the recent flooding that devastated the Crow Reservation and elsewhere. Nature's fury doesn't discriminate by place or the color of skin, he said.

"From the valley of the Little Bighorn all the way up to the Yellowstone on up to the Musselshell, Montanans have suffered," Russell said. "But we've also endured and we've come together as community. We've helped one another."

He gave thanks to the Billings community, including local governments, organizations and businesses that reached out when help was needed.

"On behalf of the Crow Nation, I express our gratitude to all who have helped, and it's not over," Russell said, with temperatures rising and high levels of snowpack. "But I'm confident that we will get through this together."

Vice Secretary Darrin Old Coyote also thanked the city of Billings, as well as Montana State University Billings, which offered shelter to flood victims, and the Billings Food Bank.

"We'd like to thank you for helping the Crow people in a time of need," Old Coyote said.

Russell also took the opportunity to thank another individual for help during a second recent tragedy. On May 28, two 19-year-old women, members of the tribe, died in a single-vehicle accident on Zimmerman Trail.

Russell told the small crowd that Billings Police Officer Terry Bechtold offered comfort to a 3-year-old girl who survived the crash.

"He's very humble. He said he was just doing his job," Russell said of Bechtold. "But when it comes to our children, no matter if it's Crow or from any other community, a child represents the future."

Russell presented Bechtold with a certificate, some other small gifts and a pin with the tribal emblem, which is a symbol of the Crows' identity, Russell said, and one of the highest honors the tribe can bestow on a person.

As the Night Hawk Jr. drum group played a song, Russell then invited tribal members to come and shake Bechtold's hand and thank him for his service.

Russell pointed out that Tuesday was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.

"In the ways of old, in the way we were taught, today is a new beginning, where the sun turns back around and we look forward to a new day, a new year, to a new season," he said. 

Russell invited the Billings community to come to the Crow Reservation for Crow Native Days, which began Tuesday and goes through Saturday. The series of events, which range from rodeo and parades to a warrior challenge, an anti-meth trail ride and a powwow, is a celebration of the tribe's culture and history and a way to promote healthy lifestyles.

During the week, a re-enactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn also takes place at Garryowen, Russell said. It's put on by the Real Bird family on land where part of the battle actually took place.

As part of that, a number of re-enactors came to the ceremony, dressed in their cavalry uniforms and American Indian garb. The young girls who are members of the royal court for the Crow Fair also came to the event.

At the end, the district princesses danced with others in a push dance as the drum group played one last song.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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