New elected officials continue tribal representation in county government

Small sworn in as first Crow supt. of schools, Bear Don’t Walk as second Crow JP
Thursday, January 3, 2019

Photo by Andrew Turck

John W. Small (right), the new Big Horn County superintendent of schools, poses with his wife Francine and County Commissioner George Real Bird III (left) on Monday in the district court chambers. He is the first Crow tribal member to become county school superintendent.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Ernie Bear Don’t Walk, the second Crow tribal justice of the peace for Big Horn County, meets with his wife, Dulcie, after he is sworn in to his position.

Friends, family and co-workers filled the Big Horn County district courtroom late Monday morning as Commissioner Sidney Fitzpatrick swore in elected officials for 2019. Of those who pledged to “discharge the duties of [their offices] with fidelity,” one is the first Crow tribal member to become county superintendent of schools and another is the second Crow justice of the peace.

Three weeks ago, the Big Horn County News ran a story stating Red Lodge City Court Judge Raphael He Does It was the second Crow justice of the peace. As stated in a correction the following week, this assertion was in error.

Before he was elected as county superintendent of schools, John W. Small told a group of supporters on Oct. 20 that Crow members increasingly have been exercising their right to vote, “and it’s been compounding.”

This doesn’t mean he intends on prioritizing certain areas. Rather, Small said after the ceremony, he wants to bring “connectedness” between local schools. One of his goals, he said, is to “start the conversation” on how both schools and law enforcement would respond to a “tragedy,” such as the February 2018 shooting that took the lives of 17 students in Parkland, Florida.

“I know schools are already doing their best to take care of their students and have school safety,” he said, “but with the uniqueness of Big Horn County and the Crow Reservation,” proper coordination would be important.

Small’s education experience “in the trenches” spans more than two decades; he began as a Lodge Grass teacher in 1993 and moved into the position of Lodge Grass High School principal after “a couple years.” He continued as principal until 2012, then became superintendent of Lodge Grass Public Schools, a position he held from 2012-15.

“[I] want to help all of Big Horn County,” he said, no matter which students or schools are involved.

Ernie Bear Don’t Walk became the second Crow justice of the peace after the first, Leroy Not Afraid, was defeated in the county’s primary election. Armed with two decades’ experience as a corrections officer up to 2011, and further work as supervisor and director of a federal security contract, he is “looking forward to going through the learning curve to make sure I do everything right.”

Bear Don’t Walk “definitely [has] some things I would like to see accomplished,” he said, but wants to “make sure I can speak on them correctly” before he provides further comment.

“At this time, my intent is to throw myself fully into this position and learn everything I can to represent Big Horn County,” he said, adding, “I would like to serve everybody in Big Horn County fairly and with good faith.”

Also sworn in were Commissioner Larry Vandersloot, Clerk and Recorder Kim Yarlott, Sheriff Lawrence “Pete” Big Hair, Coroner Terry Bullis, County Attorney Gerald “Jay” Harris and Treasurer Denise Rios.