LBHC graduates advised to not forget their culture

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Photo by Luella Brien

Jason Kills Pretty Enemy tilts his head down as Dean of Academics Frederica Left Hand turns his tassel to signify the completion of his journey at Little Big Horn College. LBHC distributed 48 degrees and certificates to graduates with many, including Kills Pretty Enemy, receiving multiple degrees.

Photo by Luella Brien

Angel Birdinground accepts a hug after the graduation ceremony. Each year LBHC graduates form a receiving line after the ceremony for friends and family to personally congratulate them for their accomplishments.

Several speakers urged LBHC graduates to not forget their Apsáalooke culture Friday at the graduation ceremony in the Health and Wellness Center on the Crow Agency campus.

The three-part graduation celebration began on Wednesday, May 1 with a student awards banquet and ended on Saturday with a celebratory powwow.

“The hours, days and years of dedication are a cause for celebration,” LBHC President David Yarlott Jr. told graduates. “Here they are with the light shining bright at the end of the tunnel.”

LBHC distributed 48 degrees and certificates to graduates during the ceremony with many students receiving multiple degrees.

“They worked so hard, let’s celebrate their academic achievements. Sleepless nights, hard days, and random breakdowns have all become worth it this moment today,” Marvin Dawes, LBHC board chairman told the audience.

Dawes urged students to use the tools given to them by their instructors reminding them that their instructors could work anywhere, but they chose to work at LBHC primarily for their students.

“Today is a great day,” Dawes said. “It’s a key to the future, the key to what you’re going to be, and who you are going to be.”

Regardless of the path each graduate takes, Dawes urged them to hold on to their identity as Apsáalooke people.

“We must keep the mountains sacred; we must keep the water sacred, we are fortunate we still have the mountains, and the river in the heart of Crow country,” he said. “Don’t forget you are Crow.”

Llyod Hogan III, Center Lodge District representative congratulated graduates and encouraged them to help their tribesmen.

“When you’re out there doing good things you and you see one of our fellow Crows say, ‘Hello’ reach out to them, help people,” he said. “I’m asking you to go out there and achieve your greatness in whatever field makes you happy, but I’m also asking you to help your fellow Crows.”

Kenneth Deputee gave congratulatory remarks to graduates as a representative of the Crow Tribe’s executive branch.

“You made it and that’s so important. Some of you probably thought you’d never enter the world or business or education, but you are here,” he said. “You have come into something no man has done for you.”

The theme of embracing cultural identity and practices continued during Tim McCleary’s keynote address. Mc-Cleary, general studies department head at LBHC, told graduates that traditional Apsáalooke leaders always wanted their people to seek education to be competitive in the changing world.

He reminded the graduates that Chief Plenty Coups famously encouraged his people to be educated. But he also discussed Chiefs Medicine Crow, Old Crow and Gray Bull, among others, who helped secure a day school in Lodge Grass so that Crow children could attend school at home and not in government-run boarding schools. The school was eventually built in Lodge Grass on land donated by White Arm in 1910.

“You are the culmination of the desires of these leaders,” McCleary said.

McCleary went on to give students advice steeped in Apsáalooke cultural beliefs and practices.

“Be Apsáalooke,” he said. “I can go any other place in the world if I want to know about Germans, Japanese, or the Irish, but here, only here, nowhere else, are there Crows and Crow culture. Be proud of who you are.”

McCleary also noted to students that it’s important to believe in something.

“Hold something sacred. It doesn’t matter to me what you are – Catholic, sweat, Baptist, Sun Dance, Pentecostal, or Peyote or even just a prayerful person,” he said. “All prayer is good and you must have something sacred in your lives that you can cling on to.”

He then gave some advice on behavior that stems from traditional Apsáalooke beliefs.

“Say a kind word to someone every day. They say even a dog knows who speaks kindly to her, and even the seemingly lowest person has a heart and soul and may be more powerful that you imagine,” he said.

He also mentioned for graduates to dress well, because that will evoke respect from others, and to not intentionally mark their bodies with tattoos.

“Remember what I said first, ‘Be Aspáalooke,’” he said.

McCleary told the story of when anthropologist Robert Lowie was researching the tribe in the early 1900s he asked a war leader named One Blue Bead if he any tattoos.

“(One Blue Bead) answered, ‘I’m Bíiluukaa (Crow), the only marks on my body are from the weapons of my enemies and as you can see I’m alive and they are dead,’” McCleary said.

McCleary added two more gems of advice to his address, no matter what problem a person is facing there is a solution and the best things in life aren’t material objects.

“You can’t replace people, so don’t seek property or things,” he said. “Strengthen your bonds with other people, go hang out with your basbapiite (grandchildren, nieces and nephews), kaales (grandmothers) and kaages (grandfathers). That will be more much more fulfilling.”

In one of his final pieces of advice McCleary urged graduates to have integrity and generosity. He told a story about an Apsáalooke village and an enemy Lakota village that came into contact with each other, and they worked together and traveled alongside of each other until they reached a certain point along the Little Big Horn River, where they then went their separate ways.

Being young, McCleary said, Big Shoulder Blade and Plenty Coups wanted to gain war honors, so they decided to attack the village on their own. The two found a Lakota scout on a hill. Plenty Coups charged straight at him and Big Shoulder Blade attacked him from behind, leaving Plenty Coups with four war honors and Big Shoulder Blade with one, he said.

He continued, Plenty Coups offered to give Big Shoulder Blade a coup to claim as his own, reportedly telling his friend no one else was there to see the actual events, but Big Shoulder Blade denied the offer, saying that someday someone would ask him to name a child based on his accomplishments and he didn’t want to lie.

McCleary advised students to embody the integrity of Big Shoulder Blade and the generosity of Plenty Coups.

“You’ve worked hard, accomplished a major step in your lives,” he said. “Thank the people who supported you, family has supported you, friends have supported you, fed you, took care of you and lectured you.”

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