Column: Bringing hope to Northern Cheyenne Tribe

"Located in the south central corner of Montana, Lame Deer is situated on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation (30 miles west, on the edge of the reservation, is the site of the Little Big Horn battlefield, where Gen. Custer made his infamous “Last Stand”). The reservation in total has only about 5,000 tribal members. Lame Deer itself, just a few hundred. It is a place of great, great poverty. 55 to 70 percent of the people are unemployed, depending on the time of year. Close to 50 percent of the people live below the poverty rate. Malnutrition is rampant and blatently obvious in the children of Lame Deer. The high school drop out rate has never been accurately determined, but is somewhere above 50 percent. Drugs use and alchoholism are seemingly everywhere. It is a place, and a people, with little hope.

And that is what brought 15 area high school students and three adult counselors to Lame Deer. To bring these people, and this place, a message and vision of hope.

On June 30, members of the Senior High Youth Group of the Covenant Congregational Church of North Easton boarded a plane for Denver, arriving right after midnight. They immediately piled into a couple of vans and drove north, straight through the great plains of Wyoming for a week of missions work in Lame Deer.

Joining with 45 other youth from churches in Iowa, Virginia and Minnesota, they spent the week painting and repairing homes, leading a Kid’s Klub, and participating in nightly cultural events hosted by members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. These events included a visit to the reservation’s Buffalo Jump (which included a detailed explanation of the role that the buffalo did and still plays in the lives of the Plains Indians), a buffalo feed, a visit to the Little Big Horn battlefield and the Northern Cheyenne’s annual PowWow.

Lame Deer is a place of extreme poverty. It is a place of little hope. And that hopelessness is reflected in the lives of many of the tribal members of the Northern Cheyenne Indians. There are however many on the reservation trying to make a difference in the lives of their fellow tribal members. And for one week, they were shown that they are not alone in caring. For one hot week in July, those who came into contact with this group of high school students from the Easton area, heard and saw and experienced that there are some who do care, and some who are willing to come and help. That there is indeed hope. Thay they are indeed loved."

Get the Story:
Rev. Johnny Agurkis: A visit to bring hope (The Easton Journal 8/3)