Lodge Grass nonprofit works with local community action groups to fight virus

Luella N. Brien
Thursday, September 3, 2020
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Alden Big Man Sr. smiles as he waits for an elder care package from Mountain Shadow Mountain Shadow Association, a Lodge Grass-based nonprofit, who received grants this summer to serve the reservation. The elder care packages included masks, disinfecting supplies, soap and sanitizer, cedar tea, sage, as well as information about how to isolate in a multigenerational household.

Several grant programs designed to provide immediate relief to some of the most underserved communities in the country and grassroots and community-response organizations came together early on during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve the Crow Reservation.

The Mountain Shadow Association, a Lodge Grass-based nonprofit, was awarded grants in April and May from Hopa Mountain, NDN Collective COVID-19 Response Project and Decolonizing Wealth’s Native American Community Response Fund to invest in COVID support for the community of Lodge Grass.

“Working in coordination with all of these organizations has been such a blessing and we’re so thankful for each and every one of our partners,” said Megkian Doyle, Mountain Shadow Association Executive Director. “It’s incredibly encouraging when funders recognize that ‘ordinary community members’ have the ability to do amazing work and when they have a little funding to work with, it magnifies what they are able to do.”

The grant from Hopa Mountain’s COVID Response Fund, made possible by funds from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Kendeda Fund, M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Meyerson Family Foundation, O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation and other donors, made it possible for Mountain Shadow to purchase personal protective equipment and distribute it to families and elders on the Crow Reservation.

NDN Collective’s intent is to quickly distribute resources to frontline organizations, tribes and individuals to provide gap services during this health crisis and to artists and entrepreneurs who have suffered the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NDN Collective is uniquely positioned to respond in a quicker and more proportional way than the federal government. We are more flexible, we co-design programs directly with our Indigenous people, and have an extensive ecosystem, both inside and outside of Indian Country,” said Nikki Love, Managing Director of the NDN Fund. “In our response, we also recognize this is not just a time of triage, but to prepare the way for growth and regeneration over the next generations. Our COVID-19 response looks at how we can support Indigenous people during these hard times and position them for long-term abundance through our Defend, Develop, and Decolonize lens.”

Mountain Shadow Association’s mission is to support families to reach their goals for health and to make Lodge Grass a place where children and families thrive, Doyle said.

Partnering with Biiluukè Strong, directed by Ember Hogan, Mountain Shadow provided daily incentives to those who showed curve-flattening practices like hand washing, social distancing and following the stay-at-home orders and conducted a social media campaign to give credit to families who consistently engaged in protective actions.

The organization has used the funding they received alongside other area non-profits including Plenty Doors Community Development Corporation, Center Pole, Hopa Mountain, The Fund for Community Vitality and the Lodge Grass Boys and Girls Club, all groups working very hard to support the Crow community and to anticipate gaps in services and areaspecific needs.

“Small community-based organizations are able to be much more responsive to community needs because they can move quickly and funding puts greater power behind their actions. I would encourage citizen groups all over to apply for grants like these,” Doyle said. “You know what your community needs better than anyone else and you probably also know the most efficient way to get it done.”

Traditional Camp Crier Tilton Old Bull was employed through the funding to provide daily messaging for the communities of Lodge Grass and Wyola to help inform residents of events and updates related to COVID-19.

Mountain Shadow also deployed two trailers to provide isolation housing for COVID-positive cases in multigenerational households and, aided by the Crow Tribal Opioid Response, to allow families access to residential treatment facilities, Doyle said. If families have a place to quarantine for 14 days, they are then able to enter the treatment program that is otherwise closed to new clients because of COVID.

“The incredible response from local groups and community volunteers has made all the difference in how we are making it through this experience. We’re doing okay as a community. People are fed, we have supplies for cleaning, large numbers of people are being tested, and families are committed to protecting each other by following CDC guidelines,” Lodge Grass Mayor Quincy Dabney said. “If we can love each other well and support those who are struggling without reacting out of fear, we’re going to win this thing. We’re working across agencies well, we’ve got a renewed desire to be selfsustaining, and we’re looking out for each other in positive ways. I’m proud of the fact that I know we can continue to fight this and be even more united as a community in the days to come.”

Decolonize Wealth has launched a fund to support Native communities in crisis stating.

“Money can be medicine, and it has never been more important for us to make it so. The lives of millions across the country depend on it,” Decolonizing Wealth’s Edgar Villanueva said. “This about solidarity, not charity.”

To date, Doyle said, Mountain Shadow Association has distributed more than 1,500 masks to community members and front-line workers and volunteers. B.Yellowtail, 406 Masks, Flathead Masks, the Unitarian Mask-makers of Bozeman and Mountain Time Arts all contributed masks for distribution. Mountain Shadow has also sent out 550 elder care packages with masks, disinfecting supplies, soap and sanitizer, cedar tea, sage and information about how to isolate in a multigenerational household.

“The impact of these organizations and funders has been key and will continue to be important as communities create strategies to respond to the immediate and long-term needs and gaps created by this dynamic situation,” Doyle said. “Our greatest assets are people who love their communities through action. It’s our belief that you should be empowered to take action and there are funders out there who will help you do that.”