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Mendota Mdewakanton Newsletter


Seldom seen headdress transfer ceremony Conducted by Bruce Wolf Child

St. Mary was site of memorable Blackfoot Confederacy Conference, Sobriety Campout By John McGill Wednesday, July 1, 2009 10:10 AM MDT

This year’s Blackfoot Confederacy Conference was remarkable in several areas, including the Southern Piegan’s hosting the event. But what was even more remarkable was its being held inside Glacier National Park at St. Mary.

With Divide Mountain providing a backdrop, traditional Blackfoot lodges made the perfect setting for tipi shops, tipi transfers and the headdress transfer ceremony at St. Mary last week. Photo by John McGill

A group of traditional Blackfoot lodges graced a space near the St. Mary Visitors Center in Glacier Park, also near a newly made medicine wheel of rocks. This year’s conference was combined with the Blackfeet Chemical Dependency’s Sobriety Campout, and while Confederacy related issues were being discussed and displayed, and ceremonies conducted, the auditorium at Glacier Park’s Visitor Center hosted a series of lectures about chemical dependency, organized by Crystal Creek Lodge.

The Conference opened with painting the rocks at the medicine wheel. Bruce Wolf Child later explained the wheel has an entryway on the east, that being the only proper way to approach the wheel. Blackfeet Councilman Peter Tatsey conducted the opening ceremonies Monday, June 22, with welcomes from Joe Old Chief and Blackfeet Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. Tipis were transferred that first day, under the direction of Herman Yellow Old Woman, and the Blackfeet Manpower program hosted the lunch.

The weather wasn’t very cooperative Monday, but the Conference-Campout continued on Tuesday, with the leadership and elders meeting and breakfasting at the Cattle Baron in Babb. Lunch on Tuesday was presented by Crystal Creek Lodge under sunny skies and cool, windy conditions. The highlight of that day’s activities was a traditional Blackfoot headdress transfer ceremony. Conducted by Bruce Wolf Child, the seldom-seen ceremony was witnessed by a crowd of more than 100 people, surrounded by Glacier County Sheriffs and National Park Service personnel for security.

Because the ceremony is rare, organizers allowed photographs to be taken, but not for profit. The pictures, said Wolf Child, should be used to instruct the nations’ children so the knowledge will not be lost.

Several men were chosen to be honored with the transfer, including Blackfeet Chairman Willie Sharp. Four veterans, representing each of the four bands of the Blackfoot Confederacy, danced and ceremonially "captured" the four men; then the elders painted their faces and conducted an elaborate transfer of the traditional, upright Blackfoot headdresses.

A powwow, stick games and horseback riding into Glacier Park completed the second day’s activities.

Meanwhile, Crystal Creek Lodge began their campout with lectures from Darrell Rides At The Door, Herman Whitegrass and Marilee Crow and ended the day with storytelling. Lectures continued on Tuesday, all of which were conducted in the auditorium at the St. Mary Visitors Center, and Crystal Creek Lodge also turned out to barbecue up a luncheon for everyone in attendance at the twin events.

Breakfast on Wednesday was presented by Crystal Creek Lodge, and leadership meetings and tipi workshops headlined that day’s events in the Confederacy Conference. Stick games and horseback rides were also featured while Crystal Creek continued its lecture series throughout the day on such topics as suicide prevention, healing through humor, youth mentoring and more.

On Thursday, both events came to a close, with the focus slated to have moved to the Stampede Park in Browning.

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