Harold Monteau: Recalling winter on Rocky Boy Reservation

"Growing up on the Rocky Boy Reservation in north-central Montana was, I think, a character builder. One does not enjoy a Great Plains winter as much as survive it. Yet, winter was a time of adventure for rez kids. At least it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Of course, the winters were colder then, there was way more snow and distances were much longer. Alright, the last part is a little bit exaggerated. Poverty, hardships and adult drama aside, winters were fun.

Winters on Rocky Boy centered around a couple of common activities. The first was playing in the snow and on the ice and, of course, and those activities that were work, such as gathering wood, hauling water and shoveling snow. (My dad used to say that we worked harder playing in the snow than we ever did moving it for a real purpose.) We would complain about having to go out on a snowy, cold winter evening when it was already dark to gather wood which was our only source of heat unless my dad was able to keep the fuel stove working and was able to buy fuel. My dad would cut up old tires to burn in the wood stove. We gathered wood in the dark because it was dark before we got home from after school activities, like basketball (the major indoor activity). Gathering wood was a “daily” struggle and it was a rare occasion that we were able to have someone bring us a load already sawed and ready to split. If we did get a load it was in “pickup bed” length and had to be sawed. These lengths would be set up vertically to keep them from getting wet during thaws. They looked like wooden teepees. We had to haul water in also. That meant a quick 75 yard trip to the spring to fill up the buckets."

Get the Story:
Harold Monteau: In the Midst of a Warm Spring, Remembering Winter on the Rez (Indian Country Today 4/6)

Related Stories:
Harold Monteau: Unity should benefit all of Indian Country (3/30)
Harold Monteau: Tribes should do more for Indian business (3/14)

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