LAME DEER — A 21-year-old man was stabbed to death at about 6 a.m. Wednesday in Lame Deer, according to Northern Cheyenne Tribal President Llevando Fisher.
The FBI and the BIA are investigating the incident on the east side of Lame Deer. Fisher said he couldn't release any other details at this time.
Kristen Pongah, a relative of the victim, identified him as Chay Little. Little was stabbed outside a home on the reservation next door to his grandparents' house. The east side neighborhood is across the road from the Littlewolf Capitol Building.
Little was part of the Northern Cheyenne mixed martial arts fighting group, Rez Brawl. His dream was to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Pongah said.
"It's a real big loss to the community," she said. "He was friends with everyone."
Unlike the March daytime gun battle at a gas station that injured three people, including a bystander, Pongah said she hadn't heard Little's death had anything to do with drugs.
"It was just senseless," she said.
Ernest Littlebird, who runs Rez Brawl, said Little was a fine young fighter with a lot of potential. He said Little was a good example of how the group could keep young people from slipping into the wrong track.
"We need to show kids they can be somebody, and we need somebody to show that to those kids," Littlebird said. "We lost somebody who was doing that."
Little's sisters, Tre Backer, 18, and Mackenzie Bixby, 14, said their brother was a hard worker and had only found out a few weeks ago that his girlfriend was pregnant.
"Every time I was down, he'd say, 'Eh, sister, laugh, smile,'" Bixby said. "He was a really good guy."
Backer said when the medical van picked him up from the house Wednesday, she thought he was going to be OK. But later prayers were posted for him online and one comment read, "R.I.P."
"It was so unexpected," Backer said.
Colstrip Schools Superintendent Bob Lewandowski said the school wasn't notified about the homicide until 2:45 p.m. When they called the Colstrip Police Department, they had no information about the incident or if police were looking for a suspect.
He said that BIA police on the Northern Cheyenne told him there is no danger in dropping kids off on the reservation and that this was an isolated incident.
Lewandowski said the Boys and Girls Club in Lame Deer, where the school drops kids off normally, is closed at this time with no explanation. The school will drop kids off at another location.
A suspect has been identified, though it is unclear he or she is in custody.
In March, a state of emergency on the reservation was order by Fisher after a daytime shoot out. The tribe also called for an update to the tribe's legal codes.
In addition to drafting the new laws, Fisher called for the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to dedicate more resources to enforcing laws on tribal land.
Fisher said the reservation still only has five BIA police officers to patrol 444,000 acres of land.
Conrad Fisher, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council, said tribal leadership had been looking at something similar to the measures put in place before the shooting in March.
"That incident accelerated what we needed to do," Conrad Fisher said.
The tribal action plan the council has developed was prompted by other traumatic events in 2015.
"We were at the point that we needed to do something," he said. "We couldn't wait much longer."
The tribal leaders are considering amending the law and order code permanently to include some kind of version of the drugs and alcohol rules laid out in the state of emergency declared by Llevando Fisher two months ago.
Any changes would be subject to a public comment period where tribal members can weigh in, Conrad Fisher said. The changes should be finalized by fall.
The curfew has helped in several ways, Conrad Fisher said. It created a "sense of security that the tribe was doing something."
"We're working on trying to resolve the epidemic of meth, drugs and alcohol," Conrad Fisher said.
A lack of law enforcement resources makes enforcement difficult, but there have been more arrests after the curfew was put in place, Conrad Fisher said.
"It puts pressure on programs like the court system, the jail is burdened." He said the tribe is looking at long-term solutions including treatment for substance abuse to help with the problem.
The next six months will show how much of an effect the curfew had, he said.
"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback. Of course some folks felt violated, but as tribal leaders we are looking at what's best for the tribe."