Videos can be an important part of storytelling. We're fortunate to have several videos to share with you, ensuring the oral history of Red Thunder and the winning fight for the Little Rockies lives on.
Overview by Shanti Zaid
Three of the videos in our collection are documentary films. The first and earliest is Indian Tears of Love, which Loud Thunder International (a Native American advocacy organization based in Great Falls, MT) produced with Red Thunder in 1991 to begin garnering public awareness about both the environmental devastation gold-mining wrought on the Little Rocky Mountains and the struggle of Ft. Belknap residents to protect and cherish the land. Read about the inspiration behind the making of the film Indian Tears of Love. The films A River Cries (1994) and Red Thunder (1997), produced by the Missoula-based World Wide Expedition Films, also examine Red Thunder’s struggle for environmental justice, though the former contrasts it with the threat of a larger McDonald Gold Project and the latter decries an impending Zortman-Landusky mining expansion.
All three documentary films detail deceitful intrusions of mining in already stymied tribal history and explain destructive processes and health consequences of abusive mining practices in and around Ft. Belknap. Their release dates also coincide with impending threats of mining expansions and highlight insufficient concern for environmental, social, cultural, or even state economic consequences in political deliberations despite consistent and varied legal challenges. Area residents describe in heartbreaking detail the poisoning of air and drinking water supplies, the rise of illnesses, mutations, and death among people, animals, and plant life, and the demolition of mountainous sites of worship and heritage.
Yet one notices that at the core of activism is not an opposition to commercial interests but an uncompromising valuation of the integrity of life. In Indian Tears of Love, viewers are invited to participate in a worldview that knows Earth and nature not only as life but family, and promotes ritual activities that deepen respect and love for those integrated relations. The divergent orientations between the mining industry and local residents come into sharp relief in their approaches to water. Industrial logic accepts commercial value of gold above water quality and the life it supports. However, as A River Cries introduces so succinctly, Native American fasting ceremonies remove all doubt about the expendability of water in human life and ground its sacrality not in an abstraction of belief but in visceral and personal experience. One wonders what effect such habitual reminders of life’s fragility would have on mining policy if decision makers were so socialized? The films also relate residents’ view of time that anticipates unborn generations’ quality of life with the immediacy of securing food and shelter for one’s own family. These principles are among the cornerstones of the Native American activism around Ft. Belknap and continue to guide the protracted struggle for social and environmental justice in the region. Presentation excerpts from a 2016 roundtable discussion are also included and broaden perspective about mining history and grassroots Native American resistance in Montana and across the country. The roundtable discussions raise important issues around the ineffectiveness of outdated mining laws to protect public and reservation land from environmental destruction, as well as reveal patterns in strategies employed by both commercial entities and activist groups to realize their interests.
Indian Tears of Love (1991) is a grassroots documentary film made to raise awareness about the environmental and health devastation that Pegasus Gold’s cyanide leaching gold mines caused the Ft. Belknap Indian reservation and Little Rocky Mountains. Below is a speech Robert Gopher, Traditional Ojibwa and executive producer of Indian Tears of Love, delivered introducing the documentary film at the premier screening at Hotel Boulderado Conference Center in Boulder, Colorado, March 15, 1992.
Premier Screening Speech by Robert Gopher
Loud Thunder International, Inc., is the organization responsible for this presentation, and this Native American Indian organization was organized based upon Ojibwa traditional original teachings. The elders said I am merely Little Brother to all things. The Teachings said I have the beautiful mother who is female Angel, who travels endless journeys in the cold universe forever, whose warm body temperature keeps me warm and provides life, water, food, clothing and shelter. The beautiful “Mother Planet” is a sacred living Spiritual Mother to us. Our life with her is our natural religion.
Our Mother Planet goes into the dormant to renew her source of energy to give life to all the living things. We’re all like her; we sleep to regain our strength and energy.
The three young Ojibwa women who organized Loud Thunder International are all under thirty. They feel the Indians should have had an organization 100 years ago. These young women were brought up in the middle of the city of Great Falls, Montana, with white girls and boys, and it is unexplainable why they became traditional in the middle of the city. We need our traditions. We need our traditions for guidance.
Back to Loud Thunder International, Inc. It is based upon the teachings of the Ojibwa tribe. You see, I come from a family that spans back thousands of years. They were conscientious objectors. They didn’t believe in fighting or hurting anybody, not to mention murder. Anyway, I was brought up by my mother; I’ve seen part of being an orphan. My father died at an early age; I don’t even know how it is to have a father.
Why I think I am here today to be here with you is to be a servant to your children. Being executive producer of “Indian Tears of Love,” I can say this will not be the last film that we will produce. I so believe that technology can be utilized as a communication, to communicate with each other. We must dialogue. We must understand each other. I think we have a history which is regretful; you don’t want to look back at it, but that’s not where we’re going. Where we are going is our destiny, is tomorrow.
Anyway, back to my mother. She used to cry in the mornings before sunrise in mourning for my father, and in the evenings. She used to tell, me, “Your Indian language is first; your religion, tradition, and culture are first in you - - remember.” That’s why I am here today. An important part of this is that a woman I love dearly, my mother, programmed my life. She also said, “Never take drugs, or alcohol in your life.” I was so programmed, I never had time to go waste all my time at the bingo halls or night clubs. The Teachings were that the environment is our religion. The environment is where we get our names. My spiritual name is Listening Thunder. I so respect this name. In the summer months, wherever I am traveling, whether in Canada or this side of the border, whenever I see a thunderstorm, I accept the thunder beings to be my keepers, my big brothers. To see the lightning flashes, very beautiful, thunderheads, clouds, thundering skies, fresh winds, water coming down…
Many times I weep; how kind the natural law is. The natural law never stops. Before you came 500 years ago, we did have this natural government. This natural government was our provider. No promises and no politics. That’s when you came. Before you came, the hunger, famine were unknown to us. Everything was plentiful. No toxic chemicals, not a single drop was ever dropped in this country before you came. Not like it is now; There are tons of it being dumped day and night.
Listen, I would like to say to you, being born to be a natural environmentalist is our way of life. That’s why I started to say that I am the servant of your children, of all races of children. Like our moderator, Sue Savage says, this is not a demonstration of religion or race versus other races. We have had it too long, without success.
And I think we can take a good look at the 1872 mining law. This mining law is no law at all. It will give any giant corporations and foreign investors the right to come to mine and strip our lands. Being ourselves, the public lands are not available to us because they are public lands. This law here, the 1872 mining law, so-call, allows these major corporations to come into this country to take your children’s land and claim it for $2.50 per acre. It’s cheaper to buy one acre of land than it is to buy one hamburger sandwich.
I urge you. The power is at the grass root level. At this very moment, there is a bill pending in congress to change the laws. We should tell them where to change it, to change these laws. I think that we can be better off if we can, and have the courage to participate in our government. This government --- when you came you established it; you should live up to it. To protect the rights of the children to have the clean soil so they can eat the vegetables that come from the clean soil, and be able to drink the pure clean waters.
Love your children…Participate…Thank you.
This speech is provided courtesy of Loud Thunder International, Inc.
Transcribed by Janice Pearce
Video by Ali Zaid
In this section, we've compiled several videos of raw, unedited video footage collected over the years, including several hours of interviews, testimony, and prayer. The first video is raw video footage of the first encounters with a handful of the interviewees in the documentary. The second video includes a poignant moment in which the Red Thunder community came together to pray at the grave site of Chief Nosy who founded Fort Belknap. Prayers were led by a Spiritual Elder named Wolf Child, and translated by Robert Gopher, before the group toured the sacred sites on the reservation. The third video includes raw footage of Virgil McConnell speaking to the concerns about the mine and demonstrates the process of taking water samples from various sites around the contaminated mine site. In the first segment of the fourth video, Warren Matt, Rhonda Snell, and Joe W. Azure speak to the Tribal Council about the mine. In the next segment a representative from the Water Quality Department talks, followed by footage of the documents that outlined the rights for Pegasus to mine on the land and additional footage with Virgil discussing the mine. The last two videos feature raw footage of reservation residents testifying at the local town hall meetings during this period.
Ali Zaid shares his personal thoughts on the experience of making the film Indian Tears of Love and what it was like to be a part of the Red Thunder community.
I’m so grateful to Creator for giving me this spiritual experience and a tiny glimpse into a world that I would had never known. I've had over 30 years to reflect back on all of the things we've done and experienced, remembering the people, the conversations, and the teachings.
I was first introduced to Robert Gopher in a dream. A familiar presence yet still a stranger until I met him in the physical world, he told me of the Elders, his mother, his father, all of the stories that were passed down to him; all of the songs, all of the teachings of how his ancestors had once lived in harmony before the invasion of the white man took place. When we met in person we became good friends. He'd share stories of how beautiful this land in Montana was: so pristine, so lush, so many buffalo and a way of life that included respect for the Earth, respect for each other, and all living things.
I once heard an Elder speak of the four colors of man: black, white, red, and yellow. He told me: "Everyone was given their own special land and this land, where we stood, was given to the Indians, the Red Man. The Europeans were not happy with their land and they came to this new land not to learn or ask questions, but to kill and destroy. Today not many of the Red Man remain."
When I watch the videos, I feel conflicted. I feel such sadness for all that was lost, the beautiful days passed. But I also feel much happiness from the lessons that were passed on to me. I have been blessed to see the last of the Spiritual Elders before they passed. I think of them often, and I’m committed to carrying on their teachings as they have been passed down to me and my son. Only a lucky few of us were able to experience the original traditional teachings that were once a part of this land and culture. But, we the few, will continue to pass on the teachings, as they were taught to us, to our children and all who wish to learn them.
The Red Thunder community came together in Montana the summer of 2016. They used this opportunity to reflect on the experiences and outcomes of their work to protect the Little Rockies. Listen to the audio to hear about their experiences and read the transcripts to learn more. The transcripts of these conversations have been lightly edited by participants to improve the clarity of their represented speech.
Panel 1: Introductions
Joe Gone: …try to get some people talking with some memories about what happened back in the nineties to get down our ability to get this story told more widely, more broadly so people can learn from it and be inspired by it. So I’ll lay out for you how we can kind of imagine the day unfolding so you have a sense for what to expect here. We’ll get going here, we’re gonna talk for oh about 90 minutes or so, maybe two hours and then we’ve got a break for lunch. For lunch we’re all gonna go across the street over to the Duck Inn. There’s a middle door. We were at the back door last night. Someone was at the front door kind of lost for a while but now there’s a middle door we’ve got to go in. [laughter] We’ll go in there, they got a private room for us set up and we’ll have a buffet style lunch and we’ll all get some lunch over there and then we’ll come back and settle in again and carry on where we left off. In the meantime we’ve got food and coffee here. We’ll have some this afternoon, as well so at any time feel free to help yourself to more coffee or snacks. The bathroom is actually right out this door, you go left until it looks like a pool area actually, but there’s two bathrooms right inside there. I guess if you want to be quick about it you can jump in the pool for a few minutes so. [laughter] Now the goal of today is to record people talking about these events that happened. So as you can see we have a recorder here and a recorder here. And so I'm gonna ask you to try and talk more loudly than maybe you’re accustomed to. Either that or we’ll have to turn off these air conditioners because they blow loud enough that it’s pretty hard to hear. So I guess we could either be hot or we could be loud and we’re not probably comfortable with either of those but we got to speak up or we won’t be able to record what people are talking about. And because we are recording it’s just important to make clear to everyone that the goal is to make this record and so what you’re saying is basically public. If there’s something private that you don’t want to say on recording don’t say it here because this is all coming away; we’re gonna get it all transcribed and typed out. We could use it for materials that we want to put on a website maybe or write an article about or maybe someone wants to write a book about this based on what we talk about here. So it’s all gonna be public in a sense so if you’ve got special things or secret things or private things you don’t want to say don’t say them here, at least unless that’s turned off or later or privately. We thought we would go around first with intros. Now I know this group and groups like this group. We start with intros and a whole two hours later maybe you’re around the ring [laughter] so we want to try to keep it a little bit briefer. But it’s good because there’s a couple of people that joined us recently, just to at least say who we are and what our interest is here and why we’ve come; what we hope to get out of it. But maybe just like 20 or 30 seconds. If you have 20 or 30 minutes you could do that so with that I’ll start and maybe I can model a brief intro. [laughter] My name is Joe Gone and I am a Gros Ventre, Assiniboine; Fort Belknap. Didn’t come back to the reservation till the early nineties. I'm a psychologist by training. I'm on faculty, I'm a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. And this is my dad here, who’ll introduce himself in a minute. And when I first came back to the reservation these activities were going on. So I went out to Big Warm sometimes and learned about what was going on and felt like I missed out on some of what was happening there. But always had in my mind wanting to tell this story more broadly than it’s been known and it’s been throughout a different- a long career where I'm finally at a place where I feel like it fits so that’s why I wanted to help pull this group together. Thank you.
Joe W. Azure: Joe W. Azure, I'm from Fort Belknap. Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce, Chippewa, Little Shell, a little bit of everything; a little bit of French. And I was raised on Fort Belknap Reservation and my mom and my grandmother and my aunties, mostly women, hardly any men, all the men were in jail that were in our family. But grew up there for oh, I don’t know, half of my life I guess and on my way to school to try to get an education. Now I'm retired; semi-retired, I work part-time at the HRDC here in town as a senior volunteer for the Head Start program. And I'm very happy that my son Joe here suggested we get together this year. We kind of semi planned this last year and we were kind of wondering where to have it and we decided to have it here, in the long run. And we’re trying to- he’s trying to record this history for the future generations, I guess for the younger people because one of these days we’re not gonna be here we’re gonna be gone you know. And the younger people are gonna look back and want to know you know what their history is; what their culture is; where this all come from. We started this Red Thunder at the same time they started this Loud Thunder group down in Great Falls and we worked together in conjunction to stand up against a multinational, multimillion dollar mining corporation from Canada called Pegasus Gold. We noticed that they were tearing our mountains, right, adjacent to our reservation down one little piece at a time and we didn’t know what it was. All we know was it wasn’t right. It didn’t fit right with us because the fish were disappearing; the wild game was disappearing. The vegetation was dying along the streams that we used to drink water; you know fresh water out of it and walk along and wash up in and stuff. We figured there was something poison coming down from those mines because that was the only thing was on top of the mountain was the mines. And anyway, that’s where I come from and we’ll talk more about it later. Thank you.
Warren Matt: My name is Warren Matt. My Indian name is Blue Sky Thunderbird Man. I'm a Gros Ventre; part black, but which is not even recorded on the records, part French and I also belong to the American Indian Movement. I have for I guess you might as well say a lifetime and all my beliefs. We have no more warriors in Indian Country. I'm glad that you know this meeting is happening because once Russell Means, our brothers, also Russell Means and Vernon Bellecourt and John Trudell they left, all the warriors in Indian Country are gone. And you know we don’t- even the tribal councils, I sat on tribal council for four years, ’88 through ’91. Our tribal councils, they’re- they’re useless to me. NCAI, MTCA, all these- NRC, all these international or national organizations, to me you know they’re useless. I’ve experienced them while sitting on a tribal council for four years. And we have to go back to our traditional tribal councils. This Indian Reorganization Act, it’s foreign to our people and all the Indian nations should you know get rid of it; go back to traditional Indian leadership. Then we’ll advance. Then we’ll start making headway. But right now we’ve been going backwards from day one, since elected tribal councils took you know- took office. I'm a combat veteran from Vietnam; wounded; a wounded combat veteran. I almost never came back several times. I’ve got a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University. Right now I'm retired and tired. [laughter] Trying to fight the fight, which our tribal councils should be doing; all these Indian organizations should be doing. And like Joe here, when I got involved- Red Thunder, Loud Thunder, my brother Robert Gopher, my sister Dorothy Gopher, they were our mentors; our I guess you know spiritual leaders. Once they left and went to the spirit world we kind of lost our- most of our leadership as far as the religious part of it goes. I’ve Sundanced for nine years; fasted on the mountain by myself for four days, four nights; a few times in the- trying to be a traditional- trying to be a traditional Indian by following our traditional Indian ways, religious ways. If our people go back to our ways and then we- you know then there’s some hope for us. Until that happens you know we’re gonna be spinning our wheels. But I'm proud of Joe here, Joe Gone. I just told him that outside. You know and a doctor; holy man! I mean that’s- that really make you feel good. I told Joe more of our people have to do this; become educated; not only in non-Indian world but the Indian world. Go back to our religious ways. Then we’ll start making progress. Like Mike Gopher said, my nephew, you know he wants to talk longer than me so I better shut up. [laughter] But I'm very thankful to be here with all you folks.
Mike Gopher I: My name is Mike Gopher. I was raised in Great Falls, Montana. My mom was- my dad was Pete Gopher, my mom was Mary Lorraine Gopher. I was brought up down there and then they raised us in a you know like a traditional way you know; like the Indian you know way with the pipe and all the smudge you know. You know always growing up and I was telling my brother Mike over here, I said like when we’d go to school they’d get after us about you know speaking our language you know and they’d punish us for speaking it you know. And I always used to wonder about that; why was it like that. You know why? And I couldn’t understand it you know. And our older sister would always talk to us. They’re trying to change you. They’re trying to change you. But I never let my ways go though you know while I was growing up. And like even though I was small my dad and my grandpas they’d have me sit down you know they would say Sit here, you listen, listen you know. We’re gonna pray you know then we’re gonna start singing songs and they said they give me songs; we pass these songs on to you and didn’t have no kind of recorder or anything you know. I’d ask my dad How am I supposed to remember these you know. He said oh You’ll remember. He said You’ll remember them he said. So but they passed a lot of songs on to me you know and which I still have with me you know and but I’ll never let my ways go. I mean you know it’s just the way I was raised. And I’d like to thank you know everybody that showed up here you know and I’d like to give thanks [clears throat] for, excuse me, thanks for myself here that has allowed me to be here; you know that I was invited here with you know nice people here and Joe; two Joes here and Warren and all the other grandsons here you know. I’d like to give thanks for everybody here and hope everything works out for all of us. Pray- say good prayers for everybody here that’s here and our many travels you know and like not to forget about one another you know. You know we’ll always be here you know for one another. You know the same thing; I don’t want to keep on talking either but that’s all I have to say. But thank you.
Tiya Miles: I'm Tiya Miles and I'm also very grateful to be here and so happy that you all took time out of your lives and traveled distances to come here and to be here with all of us. I only started to learn about this history from Joe Gone maybe a few years ago. But as we’ve been talking I realize that I was actually at Fort Belknap as all this was happening. So all these different storylines and historical lines are kind of coming together in my mind right now. I teach at the University of Michigan and I teach in African American History, Native American History and Women’s History. And there are so many things about this story that move me. One of them is that it is a ( ) in what has been a centuries-long and millennial-long fight for indigenous land rights and also political rights; and also for the protection of the earth. And I'm also very moved by the story because I work at the intersections of different ethnic studies’ areas; black studies, native studies. And this is a story in which people from different backgrounds came together and brought their skills and their passions, their commitment into one place, joined together under the auspices of some really strong spiritual leadership and made something happen. You don’t see stories like that every day or every year. So that’s how I- and I just- I feel just so blessed really to be in this room with all of you and to have a chance to hear your stories. Thank you.
Dylan Nelson: My name is Dylan Nelson. I'm an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. I came across this story in a meeting with Professor Tiya Miles. She was gracious enough to tell me about it and give me the opportunity to do my senior thesis project on it. And the one thing that I just wanted to say; that this whole weekend has been the greatest gift of my undergraduate career; just the opportunity to be with all of you and hear about your experiences with Red Thunder and the mines, but also just to- hear you talk about, what’s important to you and how much you care about saving the environment; about saving the people around you. It’s just been a remarkable gift to be a part of this story. So thank you.
Karen Robertson: My name’s Karen Robertson and professionally I’ve worked about 30 years in the healthcare field and currently manage a infectious disease office. I got involved in Fort Belknap through Ali, my ex-husband here, and Robert, our spiritual teacher; and Joe, who was pulled in. For me I was pulled in quite magically. [short laugh] I just know that people started showing up in our living room and these discussions and ideas were being formulated daily. And I look across here and you know what you don’t see in this room is the army of women that were behind these men. Nadine and Wilma, Wally; incredible women; Dorothy; Robert’s wife, Dorothy and his daughters, Melinda, Mary and Miranda. These were intelligent, strong women that made things happen, too. So I don’t want them forgotten. They were very much a part of this project and their prayer is very much a voice in the ceremonies and lodges and I see that disappearing, too, and it’s a disconnect that I think needs to be realigned for the healing that Warren was talking about; that balance of male and female and empowering and giving women a voice every bit as much as the men. And I see that disappearing as the years go by and I hope that too gets healed. For me, coming from Denver, you know on the black and white battlefield, suddenly we had a new ethnicity of being non-Indian. So that was kind of a nice relief every now and then. The perceptions of culture and what defines an Indian, what that means and if it even really matters. These ceremonies and teachings speak to you in very mysterious ways and I don’t think it really matters what you look like or what your background is or what your blood quantum legitimizes in practicing these ways. I can tell you the exposure to Robert and Dorothy Gopher was invaluable to me and aligning it with a common cause that did go beyond cultural boundaries, tribal boundaries into a unified expression of our love for the planet that sustains us. I really credit Robert for keeping everybody from those lines of division and focusing on uniting everyone in a common voice of here’s what we’re really protecting. If we can get past the egos, this earth is the one that is sustaining all of us. And until we recognize and respect the earth that we live, the rest of this is irrelevant because none of us have a future, no matter who we are and how much education or our gender or race. It’s not gonna matter if we don’t have a planet that’s gonna support us. [short laugh] It’s that simple. So that’s all I have to say.
Rosalyn LaPier: You need to put that on a ( ) [laughter] Well good morning, my name is Rosalyn LaPier. And I am originally from Browning. On my mother’s side of my family my grandfather is Francis Aims Back and my grandmother is Annie Mad Plume. On my father’s side of my family my father is the late Bill LaPier and the late Louise LaFromboise. My family has been from this area of Montana and from kind of all over the Hi-Line for the last, I don’t know, ten thousand years at least; a hundred generations. And I teach at the University of Montana. I teach in the Environmental Studies Department and I have a degree in Environmental History and I write a lot about the religious views of nature; the way native people think of the environment and use the environment. And I also have spent a long time with my grandmother and my oldest aunt learning about ethnobotany. And I don’t really officially teach that at the university but I do share that knowledge with a lot of different groups here in Montana. And in fact starting tomorrow, the next two days there’s gonna be a symposium on the Blackfeet Reservation that’s sponsored by the Blackfeet Tribe and by Crystal Creek Lodge, which is our chemical dependency program. So I’ll be giving a ethnobotany plant talk there. But that’s the kind of thing I do, not necessarily in an academic sense but more just community sharing about knowledge. I want to thank Joe and his family for inviting me here today. I really feel like I'm serving more as a witness to this process and hoping that I learn more about this history that I’ll be able to hopefully share it with students but also share it with community. Because I think it’s really important for people who are native people who are here in the state of Montana to continue to share this knowledge, to share this history before it does get lost. So thank you.
Dave Beck: My name’s Dave Beck. I always tell my students that’s two four-letter words. [laughter] I'm a professor at the University of Montana. I'm also Rosalyn’s husband. I’d really like to thank Joe and Tiya for inviting us to participate in this, it’s been a great honor and pleasure to be here and to learn about the struggles that this group brought positive energy to the community with. I teach courses in both Montana Indian History and Tribal Sovereignty in Community Capacity-Building and I think in all those courses the things I’ve been learning here this weekend are things that I can share with students. We do in the Montana Indians course teach specifically about the mining history here and the 1895 Agreement and how that was destroyed by the federal government and the mining companies. And so for me to learn more about this is directly from people who were involved with Red Thunder is a real honor and a real pleasure. In the books and materials that I write, I like to write about tribal communities to bring stories that people in those communities know- some people in those communities know well and other people know in those communities know very little of in terms of the ways that those communities have been able not only to survive but to direct their communities’ futures. And so I believe that what Red Thunder did can be a real learning point for my students. So once again I’d just really like to thank Joe and Tiya for inviting me to participate in this event.
David Cournoyer: I'm David, as well; David Cournoyer and thank you for having me, it’s an honor to be here. In the late nineties I was visiting the Tribal College back when it was Fort Belknap College and when Joe first met me we were part of this leadership group and Dave and Rosalyn were involved, too, and I always got emotional a lot and I'm still emotional, but I don’t cry as much as I did in public. [laughter] And at the Tribal College the students were welcoming these donors. So I come across pretty strong. I was a TV reporter for the first part of my life and so you stand up like you know it all right and you fake it, really. And when I met Joe I was still doing that. And then after the experience that we had together with these other leaders I went to go work for the American Indian College Fund. That was why we were going to Fort Belknap College. And the students that day, they were speaking about their experience and the community-building in their life and the differences they were trying to make. And I got very emotional as sort of the representative of the College Fund that day and I started crying and Madeline Colliflower was in the back of the room and at lunch she said- she came up to me and she said, I want to give you a name. And it was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had feeling how generous people can be when they want to give. Because we’re trying to create, right, a nest or a circle where we’re all giving our best. And so she gave me a name after lunch, (Abekanan) Big Man. And she said Because if you’re gonna be willing to show your emotions like that, that speaks a lot to you. So it’s been an honor to have that name and it’s been an honor to know Joe, the younger. I didn’t know he was Joe, the younger. [laughter] I’ve always thought of him as just a brilliant warrior and incredible mind and so anybody who’s bringing people together, I’ll come to any meeting you have, Joe, just let me know. Thank you.
Ali Zaid: Well my name is Ali Zaid and I don’t really know where to begin here. You know how it is when you look back on your life and you see how the patterns kind of come together and things have always been for a reason and you were always thought you were in control of things and you find out that you’re not? That’s the way it’s kind of been with me. I just turned 70 years old this year and it make me do a lot of reflecting. I grew up in Chicago, kind of a rough neighborhood and things weren’t that good. I come from a single mom and facing a lot of discrimination, racism, a lot of problems. The same problems going on now happened 40 years ago. And my mother and my grandfather was a Baptist minister, very spiritual, very religious; had some experiences with him. And my mother is the same way. She could have been a minister, as well. But I got turned away from that because I went to a fundraiser one night and I saw the deacons drinking beer and playing Poker and it turned me off. And so I went into gambling and drinking and drugs and everything and did that until I had a- I read a article in the paper about this man that was gonna be speaking at this college and his name was Buckminster Fuller. And I went to see him and it was a five-hour lecture, four and a half hour lecture that he gave. He managed to change everybody’s mind, especially mine. He just kind of broke my brain apart and put it all back together again. That was the beginning. And he told me, he said You’re going to have a son and this is what you have to do; and that’s Shanti who is doing the recording. And he said You have to nurse…you have to have him nurse for three years. Well Karen nursed him for two and a half years and but you see the result. He’s working on two PhDs and I'm very proud of him. And while we were in Israel, he was born in Israel; while we were there I got involved in meditation and that opened my mind up even further. And I'm just looking back all these different things that happened to me and how The Creator has blessed me with all these experiences. And from that coming here, from Israel, I got a job working with a- I was in the military in the Air Force as a heavy equipment operator. So I got a job as a heavy equipment operator for the State of Colorado; and very racist. There was only two minorities in that whole department of 30 people. And I got injured on that job and during the injury I started laying up at home and I started reading a book that a friend of mine had told me about called Medicine Woman. So while reading this book it kind of triggered something in my mind and I went on this search for a medicine man; just all over the mountain, everywhere. Finally after about three weeks I went to this restaurant and the waitress and I was talking and I asked her Hey, do you know a medicine man? I don’t know, let me call my girlfriend. So she comes back and she gives me a piece of paper with this phone number, a guy who was bringing him to Boulder. And so I called him up and he’s like Yeah he’s coming next week, here’s the address. Well I had had a dream about this guy and in the dream he was sitting on one end of my sofa and I was sitting on the other one and in the dream all I remember was his eyes and laughing and crying, laughing and crying. But I remembered his eyes more than anything else. So when I get to the address where I was given, I walk in and he looked right at me and he says Hey, you back there by the door you ready to go sweat? I said Yeah. So we went up to the sweat lodge. I had no idea what a sweat lodge was. And he put me in a sweat, the most intense heat I ever experienced. I had a vision in there. But when I came out he said What’s your name? I said my name is Ali. He said Ali, what took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you. So that’s how it began with me. And then I came to visit him and I came to visit him and he said Well I want to introduce you to your brother, which is Joe W. Azure. And so Joe took me around to all the people on the reservation at Fort Belknap and let these people talk about their experiences from this mining company. And that really shattered me. So I came back to Boulder and sold my car and bought a camera, a professional camera and started filming. It took us a year and a half and I ended up with about 60, 70 hours of footage but I had to narrow it down to 50 minutes and so I did. And that became- the movie became Indian Tears of Love and we got a lawyer. There was just four of us. Joe and Robert, Paul Zogg and myself. It was just the four of us and like Karen was saying, all the people in the background that was helping us; but four main people that was putting it all together. And we ran them out. It took us seven years; keep punching at their legs until they fell down. So we can make a difference you know but I was guided. The whole step of the way I was guided. I didn’t know anything about- 80 hours of footage, having to narrow it down to 50 minutes. And I had no idea where to begin or what it should look like. But my dreams kicked in again and started telling me and showing me what to do and how to put it together. And that’s how it began. That’s what happened. And I had a dream after that and the dream said get up and write this down. And so I got up and I started writing and I made a copy of all the things that I wrote in more detail than what I'm talking about. And people who want a copy of it, I’ll give you a copy that you can take and read. It’s just a short- I haven’t finished it yet, but the main part of the story of how I met Robert and how I got involved in this project is what that writing is about. And then the conclusion is when I come up to Montana and I meet Joe and got involved in the Pegasus with the film. And so we’ll go into more detail later on. Thank you.
Mike Gopher II: My name is Mike Gopher. I'm Scottish, French, Irish. I wish I was Native American. [laughter] But I was- I had my- my time like Ali here with the law and you know but I was raised with sweat and life with traditional parents you know. My mom and dad, they never did drink. There was never parties in the house. There was never- never drunks laying around all over and never anything like that. You know it was just in the mornings I would smell the- my dad would get up and throw some cedar on the stove and I’d wake up to that smell. You know I’d wake up to it and you know- you know how much he loved life you know and you know some of the stories he used to tell me as a kid. One of them that really sticks with me is he was- there was this lawyer by the name of Raymond Gray. He was one of the first Indian lawyers here in Montana. He was a cousin of my mom. He was pretty active back in 1941—in ’57 there was five babies you know that died but didn’t- just days you know. And one of those or both of them were- one of them was (Gandi’s) boy and my Uncle George’s boy; or two of them were my Uncle George’s boy. But that lawyer came and you know he was trying to help- he was trying to help us. Because at that time you know we couldn’t communicate with society you know like Mike was saying. You know we spoke our language. We couldn’t- you know we couldn’t communicate. You know when we would try to go to school they would just put us all in one room. There would be one teacher in there that wouldn’t- they wouldn’t even you know- they would just sit there. Pretty soon those kids would get- they would- they were kids. They would start- they would start acting up and stuff so you know they didn’t know how to communicate with those kids. So they- you know they- they punished them. They punished them you know to a point where- where like when- when we started school you know my- my dad you know he didn’t- you know he didn’t like it- you know he didn’t you know because of his experiences with school he didn’t like it. You know he didn’t- because you can work- you can work all your life and you know he thought- he thought it would be good for us to do that. It wasn’t- it wasn’t till that lawyer came and you know and talked with him. They were sitting in a restaurant one day and my dad said that those waiters and waitresses coming around and that- and that Raymond Gray, that lawyer, he told me father he said How come you have your head down? You know because these ones- these people here you know- How come you have your head down? And hold your head up you know. He said Don’t you- don’t you realize who you are? You know This is your land. This is your- this is your- this is your birthright, this home here. All these other ones are visitors. You know and that guy really- you know he really tore into my dad you know. And my dad was just a young man back- you know back in the forties. And but that- but that really had an impact on him you know because later- later in life he always- you know he always told people- he always- this is what he always told us. He said I want to- I want to give the people or anybody the ability to do things on their own. He said I don’t want- I don’t want people following me you know. I don’t want that, he said Because you know I'm not gonna be here forever. He said I want them to be you know- you know to be who they are and you know and utilize all their God-given talents. You know- you know and he’d tell us that. And you know that’s the way I see it today. I see Joe, Warren, all you here, even Shanti from those down visiting in Denver at that memorial feed, and he’s just a young guy. I watched him do that memorial feed just like my father did you know. And I thought to myself- I thought- I thought Dad you know you were really- you were really building a family of men you know because you know it didn’t matter what color; you know it didn’t matter if they were Indian or not, you believed in God; that God made one family and that’s all of us you know. You know today I'm proud to talk about my father because of what he stood for. You know, I know I can’t- I can’t ever- I can’t ever you know match up to that but you know I ain’t gonna stop, you know because I have my life to live. You know I was talking out here with one of these women they’re having a memorial for I think her aunt this morning. We was out there talking and then she was saying- she was from New Jersey. She was saying- she was saying I heard all these Indians are poor around here. Is that true? Well and I looked at her and I said- and she said Why is that? I said Well, I said This is the way I see it, they’re like that way because they want to be that way. If you want to go- if you want to go get an education or get a good job you can do it. It ain’t- it ain’t like the way it was in the fifties and sixties when we were growing up. It’s not like that today. All the doors are open today you know. I have- I have braids you know today because my father, when he went one day of school. They told him he had to cut his braids you know. He went home- he went home and his dad said No, you’re not cutting your braids. You know they ain’t gonna change who you are you know. So today I have these and I dare anyone to ask me to cut my hair you know because that’s, that's not gonna happen. I know who I am. I'm proud of it. I'm proud to be- thankful; and Joe, and Joe, Warren, all of you; all of you are here because you know if we don’t- if we don’t record these things our- like the smudging outside, I was telling Shanti I said We should’ve recorded that. I know people- I know people- some people are against it but I would love- love right now to see my father you know in a smudging you know. Even his father, I would love to see that you know because you know we’re trying to teach our kids you know how that- you know and what to do. And how we gonna do that if we don’t- you know if we just- you know like there’s a lot of orphans out there. My kids are orphans you know. I- you know and how we gonna teach them if you know- I used to have this with my father, I used to have- I used to tell him Dad, we’ve got to record. We’ve got- No, we can’t- these things are- they’re not supposed to be recorded; not supposed to be. Well we’re gonna lose them if we don’t record it you know. You know and that’s- you know I really- I really thank you, Joe, for getting this- you know getting this together, recording it because you know in twenty years we ain’t gonna be here. You know a lot of us ain’t gonna be here. But these tapes will be though. These tapes will be and they’ll be- you know there’ll be an interest in them because they’re you know- because people want to know who they are. So that’s it for me. Thank you.
Adrian Shawl: All right well my name is Adrian Shawl and Joseph here is my uncle, Joe W. Azure’s my grandpa. I ain’t really too familiar with my native traditions yet but I'm here to learn and you know I want to learn more. I'm really thankful that he invited me over here to join you guys here. And I want to just- I look forward to learning as much as I can and honestly, Joseph, you’re a big inspiration on me right now. I look up to you right now and so is Joe W. Azure there. Appreciate inviting me here. I'm just here to learn. So that’s all I got.
Connie Azure: Hi, I'm Connie Azure. Joseph’s my brother and Joe W. Azure’s my dad. What do I say? I'm just really thankful that Robert came into our family. I'm not even sure how dad met Robert Gopher but it seemed like before that there was a lot of chaos in our family, alcoholism and stuff and when Robert came into our lives it seems like a lot of that went away. There was a lot of peace and serenity and a normal childhood after he showed us our traditional cultural ways. I always remember he’d be sitting at the table early morning drinking coffee and it just seemed like a whole feeling of peace in the air; just serenity, humbleness and I loved getting up in the mornings as a kid and seeing him sitting at the table smiling, joking around, drinking coffee and he was a blessing on many people; a lot of families. And I thank God that our family got to meet him and that my dad took the initiative to learn the ways of the people and I actually believe that it’s our culture and our tradition that heals us, that keeps us going and keeps us strong because Native Americans have a lot of historical trauma and genocide; to smallpox, to reservations. I wish I would’ve learned a lot more. I wish I would’ve paid more attention. And me and my little sister, Laura, we were just talking about that you know. Who’s gonna carry on these ways when these old guys go? I don’t know because I never really learned it and I'm really thankful you guys are recording it and keeping it safe for future generations. With that that’s all I got. Thank you.
Shanti Zaid: Alright. My name is Shanti Zaid. I am a graduate student at Michigan State University. I'm currently pursuing a Doctorate Degree in Anthropology and in African American and African Studies. And I grew up with my parents coming up to Fort Belknap and to Great Falls a lot of times and it really was a profound experience for me to be exposed to, not only the ceremonies and the sweat lodges and pipe ceremonies and kind of growing up with that, that became a normal occurrence; but also this kind of political activism; this urgent effort to make a change and a really coordinated effort. You know, I really appreciated driving around yesterday and seeing all these towns that I had just heard the names of for so long but I didn’t- I couldn’t- I didn’t have a picture of all these places. We’d see a town sign and I’d just think of all the people that came from that town who were a part of what we were doing and you know, this mining problem. But there was just really a lot of people that came together on this project and a lot of people affected in all of those areas. Another element was just to be so young and seeing all this activity and all this coordination. And the other side of growing up, coming back and forth between Colorado and here was seeing a lot of the problems and seeing, you know, problems that I wasn’t familiar with back in Boulder and things I had only heard about. People dying from alcoholism, and everything I had seen around me was that alcohol was for parties and to have some fun. But coming up here and seeing people dying, that made it something very different; seeing people dying from drugs. And then to see people struggling so hard against a lot of odds to have a strong life, a meaningful life and then that whole thing just getting undermined by this environmental damage; just behind their back, poisoning the water; that they can’t even live, and children being affected. And it seemed like none of those issues were ever enough to get attention from beyond this community that was built. But to see how much was accomplished from within this community was really- was really amazing. And my- as I grew up, I certainly had very, very little sense of limits [short laugh] as for what was possible. And I really stand behind this project and I'm really proud and excited to be a part of it; to contribute to it in any way; to share some of those experiences and I'm really thankful to Joe and to all of the people that organized this. Because even as I’ve gone through all of the stages of higher education, it’s kind of been in the back of my head that this really should be- you know, something should be done with it but I really wasn’t sure what to do or how to do or how to put it together in any kind of big coordinated way. And I appreciate you having- working out the vision, and working out the resources to bring us together was a big deal and so I'm really happy to be there.
MR-?:A couple more here.
FR-?:Don’t be frightened by the big microphone. [laughter]
Abaki Beck: Yeah, sure. Hi, my name is Abaki Beck; Blackfeet, I live in Missoula, these are my parents. Graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota last year. I worked in D.C. for a year for Congress and then right now I’m working on a project on Food Sovereignty on the Blackfeet Reservation. And yeah, glad to be here and thank you for all sharing your stories.
Lucien:Hi, I'm (Lucien). I'm Abaki’s boyfriend and I just graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I have a degree in graphic design. And I just want to say thank you for having me here and it’s really informative and eye-opening and seeing all the damage that’s been done. And I also I'm helping Abaki with her project in the end. I'm helping her design her report and I’m helping Rosalyn make some maps for her upcoming book too.
FR-?:So if you need anyone…[laughter]
FR-?:I'm just saying.
FR-?:You need a little sign, [Indian language –neomassiah? - Please Hire Me]. [laughter]
MR-?:Should’ve had them model the intros. [laughter]
Joe Gone: So I think we may have redefined the word “brief” [laughter] but for an Indian group that’s pretty brief so I appreciate your words and contributions so far. I wonder, since some people are using the bathroom, getting a refill of coffee or whatever, why don’t we take just a few minutes to do that and then come on back?
Audio Ends - End of Panel 1
Panel 2: What Do You Want People to Know?
Joe Gone: …People lay down on couches and try to help 'em out. That’s not the kind of psychologist I am. I'm a research psychologist, which means that I write articles and the kind of psychology I do is called Cultural Psychology, a bit of a different form than people are typical with. But even cultural psychologists don’t necessarily write stories like the kind I'm trying to write here. So part of this project came about because my partner, Tiya over here, is a bona fide historian. She’s won prizes for her writing for history including public history. So she’s about to finish up her draft on her fifth book so she’s been helping out a lot with this in terms of coming up with the questions and kinds of things we could ask people so that we’ll have material that could help us to write this down. So I’ll just start with one question and I’ll try to direct these questions over the day to different kind of subgroups among us here. This first set of questions starts to- folks who were more directly involved back in the nineties and I think the guys at this table and Karen and Ali and Mike you know are the good ones to include for this question and we’ll have other questions for others group as the day goes on, as well. I should say I think we have to break for lunch here in probably a half-hour or 40 minutes so we’re gonna maybe have to split these even first question up a little bit. So we don’t have to feel pressure to rush though. We’ll just stop when there’s a break and then come back and resume. So don’t feel like you have to cut yourself short or anything. But I guess here’s the first question. We could just start this way maybe with you, Dad. What we wondered about was regarding Red Thunder’s effort to shut down that mine; what do you most want people to know as this story gets told?
Joe W. Azure: Well I guess the best way I can answer that question is we started with our traditional Native American ceremonies, the fasting for four days at a time in the hills and mountains without food or water or human companionship to ask The Creator, The Great Spirit I should say and his creation for courage and support and help and guidance to stand up against a multinational multimillion dollar mining corporation. And looking back on it you never know you know if your prayers are being answered at the time. But later on looking back on it I see that they definitely were answered because some way, somehow we all came together with our various different friends and relatives and organizations to stand in solidarity and unity as a small grassroots group. The one we formed was Red Thunder Incorporated as a nonprofit organization formed under the State of Montana Guidelines of Nonprofit Incorporation Organizations for Montana. And also later on we got a 501(c) (3) status from the federal government as a legitimate nonprofit. But rather than seek a lot of funding and get a- hire a lot of proposal writers like most organizations do, we were just like- like more interested in campaigning and fighting and educating the public and the general public and the people as to what we found out about the mines; the cyanide mines. Because at the time in the seventies and the eighties that this new mining was just being invented and the way I look back at it is we believe that they used our mountains, our Little Rocky Mountains, which we hold as sacred to our Native American tribes of this area in Montana that once roamed free and we didn’t have no ownership of land or anything. We used these mountains for several different things. Like the elders used to say We used them for fasting, for hunting, for fishing, for gathering the lodge poles, teepee poles; and wild fruit like berries and wild vegetables like wild vegetables, carrots and whatnot that grow; onions that grow in and around the Little Rocky Mountains. And we seen this multinational coming in and they were destroying all that. We noticed our relatives and the natural environment was being systematically destroyed a little tier at a time. And we started getting more and more involved and learning more and more about it and we started participating and we started demanding public meetings and public knowledge from the Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Department of State Lands to explain to us what this mining was all about. And of course Pegasus Gold never missed a meeting. They always had somebody there to support their beliefs and ideas about how important it was to keep the mining going and keep the jobs coming in you know. So I guess that’s a little bit about the history of how it all started. We started the Red Thunder Incorporated. I was lucky enough to be the president and chief executive officer of that organization and there was only I think- I forget how many. I think there was only three or four of us that was on the board of directors because by the guidance of our spiritual elder, Robert Gopher, he recommended we keep the corporate board to the minimum you know; the most minimum because that way you'd get things done faster. It seem like the more people you add to a board or a council they tend to argue and fight over who’s right and who’s wrong more than get anything done. So we did that and we got started pretty fast and everything kind of came together. My brother-in-law, Robert Gopher, he was really a good support and helper. Without his spiritual guidance to keep pushing us with the ceremonies, the pipe ceremonies and the sweat lodge ceremonies and the fasting ceremonies, I don’t think we could’ve done it. Because a lot of our native people on that end of the reservation, the south end of Fort Belknap, were against it because just looking at it you know it’s terrible; tearing the mountains down and leaving a big empty hole. Where there used to be vegetation and trees and wildlife there’s nothing left. They were against it but they didn’t know how to go about it. So we kind of organized them and brought them together and the local communities of Lodge Pole mainly because Hays was mostly miners over there. Most of them worked in the mines. So they were against us. They thought we were troublemakers and causing problems; stopping their jobs and stopping their income. And so we didn’t have too many supporters in Hays, but we had a lot in Lodge Pole and then finally spread throughout the south end of the reservation. The farmers and ranchers supported us and they noticed that their calves were being stillborn, some of them and some of the women came forth and said they were having problems with their newborn, unborn babies and they were starting to blame the mine for poisoning and polluting the waters that come down onto the local neighborhoods. So that’s kind of how we got started I guess. And then my late brother-in-law, Robert, he started another organization just before we did called Loud Thunder International down in Great Falls and he was a big supporter; him and his family; just him and his family too that was supporting that organization. And they were pushing to preserve their sacred native ways and their culture and stuff and try to get a little bit of recognition, a little bit of land for themselves to continue practicing their ways without being pressured to have to come up with money to rent buildings for round dances; and you know to pay for everything when you don’t have the money, it’s hard. But anyway, that’s all I have to say for now and I want to pass it on to Warren.
Joe Gone: Warren, the question we were putting to folks here at this time was regarding Red Thunder’s effort to shut down the mine. What do you most want people to know about Red Thunder’s activities?
Warren Matt: Joe made a statement that was very true. Like Robert said, you know you don’t want too many people on a board. It’s like Congress back there; you know Obama, he couldn’t- he was blocked every which way he turned in his eight years you know as President of this country. And sitting on tribal council with twelve members, there is a lot of infighting. Sometimes people get elected to a board and it goes to their head. They can’t handle it. And this is what I was seeing. Excuse my language, but I’ve been on every shit list of every tribal council I’ve ever dealt with because I ask questions, I speak my mind. You know not to offend anybody but you know my dad used to always say Use common sense. My dad’s name was Edward Matt Senior, Hits Last, Strikes Last was his Indian name. And he always used to say Use common sense in everything you do. And you know that’s basically what I try to do. But you know you see people elected to tribal councils and they can’t handle it. A lot of them, it goes to their head. When they campaign they say I want to get on tribal council, I want to do this, I want to do that. They might have- they might be sincere and they might have some good ideas, [short laugh] but once they get on there it kind of changes to where, you know I guess if you want to call it the pyramid. The way it’s supposed to work is the people are up here, they’re on top. Below the people are the tribal council. Below the tribal council is supposed to be the federal government; Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, Bureau of Reclamation. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But when people get on the tribal council they switch it to where the federal government’s up here so it’s a dictatorship you know. Well it’s a dictatorship at tribal council level, too, [short laugh] because they have no idea what they’re elected for; they have no idea how much power they have. As a sovereign nation you know they use the sovereignty against their own people; not where they should be using it. And if you speak up they isolate you- if you’re on the tribal council and you speak up they start isolating you so you won’t get reelected and not only that there’s repercussions. You know if a person is not on the board you know they get penalized for it. You know instead of saying this is business you know, they take it personal to where they start using it against you, you know, every which way you turn. But Joe said something again about some of our own relatives; some of our own family members worked in the mines you know so those of us that spoke up against it we were the enemy. And I have two relatives, Prune Martin and his younger- well one of his sons, Darrell Martin, they’re both gone now. They worked up there in the mine. In fact Prune had a store there in Hays and he said There’s nothing wrong with this. He said My driveway, he said This is all mine tailings. That’s what he used for his driveway around the store. [laughter] And now both them individuals are gone you know and uh [short pause]. Again sitting on the tribal council, the Little Rocky Mountains, that’s our water table; you know that’s where we get our water from; not only the Little Rocky Mountains but the Bear Paw Mountains, we get the runoff from both. And what we learned is that Pegasus from their leach pads they were pumping the polluted water off them leach pads into the abandoned mine shafts of the old gold mines. You know so I mean it- and I don't know why they were allowed to do this you know. I mean some of our people that worked up there [short laugh] they were really hostile to you know to those of us who spoke up against it. And this last- this last election, tribal council election last year they were having campaigning meetings. And I live in the northeast corner of Fort Belknap. Anyway, we had a few members and we do have- we have gas and oil and we have other minerals on the reservation. But we had a couple of my relatives talk about Well why aren’t we developing gas and oil on the reservation? We had a- they’re both Gros Ventre. We had an Assiniboine who I thought knew better than that who said Why aren’t we mining our mountains? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing there. I told him I said What do you want to do, take the money and run and leave nothing for our children, our grandchildren, our future generations? You know we can all use money. I mean it’s- you know it’s a necessity of today’s way of living. But again you know what are we gonna do? You know like our partner Sarah up there in Alaska; Drill baby, drill. [short laugh] You know I mean what does she want to leave any future generations? The same way at Fort Belknap; you know it’s- you know not only is that our watershed but you know they’re sacred to us. You know there’s a lot of sacred sites up there and you know it’s beautiful up there. And you know what Pegasus has already done, I mean they left big scars up there and they’re not gonna heal. You know it’s uh- I don’t know, it’s an ongoing battle you know of survival. But if our tribal councils would’ve done their jobs from day one; the very first tribal councils. I’m talking about I haven’t seen a tribal council yet really do their job anyplace. You know and all these- again, all these the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association, National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Fund; you know we got a hold of them a couple times. Well if the tribal council doesn’t sign off on it we can’t help you. That’s a cop-out. To me they’re useless. You know they’re really not helping Indian Country. I guess the- the other part of it, and you probably already picked up on it, those of us who are trying to be traditional, follow traditional ways, we're the ones- you know we’re fighting for the environment. We’re fighting for Mother Earth; at least we’re trying to. And we have those that are in power that are kind of fighting against us. You know they want progress. What’s progress? They’re looking at it backwards. They think we’re going forward. No, we’re not. We’re going backwards. You know it’s again reality of life. You know it’s- right now Fort Belknap is dealing with their water compacts with the state and the feds. Again when I was on tribal council ’88 through ’91 I sat on the Fort Belknap Water Policy Committee and there were six of us; three Gros Ventre and three Assiniboines. That’s the other thing a lot of people don’t realize. The federal government is a very simple divide and conquer thing. They put basically traditional enemies, if you want to call them that, on the reservations together. Keep the enemies fighting among themselves, they won’t progress. They’ll do themselves in. You know that’s the bottom line. To me they have a war room back there in Washington, D.C. you know and they’re always- it’s a machine. The machinery is always turning you know and they killed off- first they killed out millions and millions of buffalo to try to get rid of us, that didn’t work. They started taking away from- taking away our religion and our language. That didn’t work. Assimilated us into the mainstream. Then they tried germ warfare. I know a lot of people didn’t realize this. Small pox blankets and clothes were intentionally given to our people. You know this is germ warfare. They tried sterilization. A lot of people don’t realize that. A lot of these Indian women have no idea that they were being sterilized by IHS, Indian Health Service. You know this was kept- this was a big secret. IRA, Indian Reorganization Act, this is where we have elected officials, elected tribal councils and this is foreign to our people. This is detrimental and instead of working in a positive way it works in reverse. And the federal government knows this. Joe knows this. I think Mike knows this. We’ve- there’s been letters written to congressmen in back east, Washington, D.C. Their reply is Well you have electoral system. If you don’t like those people in office, if they’re not doing, working for your people vote them out. They know that doesn’t happen. But it’s not- in Indian Country it’s not who is the best individual sitting on the tribal council. It’s who's got the biggest families or who's got the most relatives or who's got the most friends. To me there’s been a lot of- millions, maybe billions of dollars paid underneath the table to certain elected officials. How you gonna prove it? You can’t. I don’t want to make nobody paranoid and I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. In meetings like this, the federal government, they plant people, spies you know to- like in the American Indian Movement the federal government, they planted people in the American Indian Movement to make AIM look bad you know. Granted you know my brothers you know they have alcohol problems and some of them have drug problems. But that didn’t help. In fact we had a friend of mine, he was the president of AIM here in the State of Montana. He was a federal plant. FBI was paying him. They tried assassinating him twice here in the state and both times you know it didn’t work. Once they poisoned him. And he used to work out of University of Montana and he come out of- he said The way he was recruited was he was in the police academy and he said The way the FBI recruited him or the way they recruit everybody, the go through the personnel files. They find the weak ones; the one with alcohol problems, the one with drug problems, the one with mental problems. And he said This is how they recruited him. And he said Any time I needed money I’d just call my contacts up and we’d meet in public; in a bar or coffee you know restaurant. He’d pass me the envelope with the money. You know and so they tried assassinating him twice. Once was in Missoula, once was at Fort Belknap. Both times he lucked out. You know somebody called the ambulance when he come out of that bar in Missoula and he fell over on the sidewalk. He was in his thirties. The other time at Fort Belknap they found him- somebody found him on the highway, got him to the hospital in time. But anyway, you know it’s- it’s a constant battle I guess for those of us who again are trying to follow the traditional ways and those of us who are, I hate to say it, who are too weak you know; got money. It- well [short laugh] like Pegasus- The Grinnell Agreement I was talking with Dave about at the sweat lodge over there. The Grinnell Agreement, that was taken illegally. I mean it’s in black and white. You could read it. It’s on paper how it was illegally taken. They told our Gros Ventre and Assiniboine people, If you don’t sign this, you’re not getting your rations. Your children, your families and you are gonna starve. It’s right there; you could read it. You know and when I was on the council I tried to bring it up several times. Nobody wants to look at it you know. And I have to ask why you know. We have a landmark case. I don’t know, to me it’s- again it’s very simple; divide and conquer. You know at one time we were uh- I'm kind of wandering here, but I'm thinking about so much. I mean again three Assiniboines and three Gros Ventres at Fort Belknap when I was sitting on the Water Policy Committee. We were supposed to be lifelong members for consistency. We had a meeting down in Billings and we had the state and the feds there at Fort Belknap. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And our attorney, our water attorney is an Indian from North Dakota. I never did agree with him. We were sitting there and we were talking about giving all of our information, all of our research to the state and the feds and keeping it secret from the Blackfeet. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I brought it up in the meeting. I said I can’t believe what’s going on here. I said You know this is divide and conquer. And after the meeting was over, well I didn’t get no place but after the meeting was over with this young Indian guy from- he was about, I don’t know, in his mid-thirties maybe. He come over and sat down beside me and he said Warren, he said I'm a Hopi from southwest. He said Us Hopi's and Navajo, we fight about something every day. He said But when it came to our water we stuck together. He said Don’t give up. He said I work for BOR; Bureau of Rec. He was a federal employee. You know there’s so much up there. Again what Red Thunder and Loud Thunder was trying to you know help us with, but we’ve got to- oh and I’ve got a friend, Wes Martel who's from the Wind River Reservation down there in Wyoming. He and I we talk on the phone and we’re working on something. He said- He served on a Shoshone- he’s Northern Shoshone, served on tribal council for 20 years. And we basically think along the same lines you know. Tribal councils don’t know what they’re doing. A lot of them are bought off. Once they get on the council their minds- you know their thinking kind of changes to where we’re supposed to be a sovereign nation dealing you know for our people and our future; where it turns to just the opposite you know. How do I stay on here? You know how to get reelected. And you know instead of us as tribal council being the sovereign nation and having unbelievable power we turn to servants of the BIA, Bureau of Indian Affairs; federal government and the state and you know even the county governments instead of doing what we- instead of doing our jobs. And I'm glad what- you know what Dave said over there. Madeline Colliflower gave him a name. And the Indian belief and I think really in any ( ) [short laugh] I was gonna say a minor word; any of the ( ), like our traditional elders tell us, when a man cries don’t be ashamed. It comes from here, it comes from the heart. You know nothing to be ashamed of when a man cries.
Joe W. Azure: And I'm almost to that point so [laughter] I’m gonna cut this off. [laughter]
Joe Gone: So are we. [laughter] Thank you. Mike, I wonder if you want to share some words about in considering about Red Thunder’s effort to shut down that mine, what you think most people should know about those kinds of efforts or this effort.
Mike Gopher I: Well myself I don’t really know too much you know about it, Red Thunder or but I did hear about though you know like through my brother Mike here and I- but like when I was growing up I always wondered about things like that. You know I- and I think I started hearing about you know like what these guys were talking about- like women, they’d like lose their babies and you know and I always wondered about that; why is that happening like that you know. And like back home over on our reservations it’s something similar to that, too. If all these oil companies come in they may start you know like doing all that; everything that they do there; that fracking and like I used to live out in ( ) out there. We used to have some really good water there you know. But now it’s all different now you know. It’s changed and all that. That water’s not even the same again anymore you know. People like from town would come and get it and they’d- you know it’s not the same. You know once they done that fracking there and you know we always wondered about that you know. My sister dreamt about that, too. She had a dream. She said she didn’t know what they were. She said they were just like big, long line of black you know. So I don’t know what those were, she said. But they’re on tracks she was telling me That now you see it now; you know like these trains go by every day you know; haul oil and you know- but I do know that’s not- you know there’s something that’s not right there. I mean you know and it’s- you know it seems like it’s like what you guys are talking about; like it’s just all about money and you know as soon as people hear about oh you’re gonna get- you know- especially Indian people. They get all excited you know. Oh you’re gonna get thousands of dollars. You’re gonna get you know- you just got to sign this here and you know it’s a word- like our elders, you know they don’t even know what they’re signing or you know. Some of them, they don’t even speak English you know and they don’t know. They just tell them Oh you have to sign it. You have to sign. You know they don’t know what they’re signing you know. But you know they- you know a lot of times they’re signing away their lands and you know. And all this mining I think it’s you know- I don’t think that it’s ever gonna stop. I mean you know I know that. I mean you know and you know like you hear about it on the news and you know, but it’s just like you know they’ve got so much power. I mean you know you can’t- you know like I have a sister. Like she- her and some of her friends that’s up here, they’re working on that, too, and her name is Leona Gopher. And like everywhere she goes, you know those- like especially those BIA workers, they just close the door on her you know and they don’t- they don’t want to hear her; you know like what she’s- like what she has to say you know. And here that’s what they’re- that’s what they’re talking about. They’re talking you know- like or that’s what they’re fighting for you know. They’re fighting for you know like- like everybody’s rights and you know because a lot of- like now you know nowadays you’ve got all these powerful companies. You know they- you know you can’t- you know like people I’ve been around, it’s like they’re small; you know they can’t- can’t fight them. I mean you know because they’re- you know they’re pretty powerful I mean. You know and then they- like I was saying they come to our people and start saying Oh you got to sign this here; you know you’re gonna get a lot money. You know you’ll have nice cars, business and you know and when the Indians hear things like that they you know are Oh all right, yeah, where’s the pen? You know I’ll sign up you know. Most of the time they don’t even know what they’re signing you know. But I do- I do know that it’s not right though that you know all this mining that’s going on. Sure they do- they do have a lot of jobs for the people and you know but it seem like the next thing you know it’s like what Warren was saying, a lot of them, they’re gone. I mean you know the ones that were working there you know they sure were making a lot of good money but you know it’s just not- you know things ain’t the same anymore you know. And that’s what I- you know and that’s what I was told when I was growing up; you know my elders, my mom and then my dad, all of them that raised me and my grandma and them you know, they always told me Always treat everybody you know all the same and you know. That’s what I do now you know. I look at everybody- like everybody that’s here you know, I look at everybody like we’re all- we’re all one you know. That’s the way I look at it. I mean you know I don’t look down you know on anybody or you know because of their- you know like their race or you know. I look at everybody all the same. I mean you know that’s- because that’s the way I was raised. You know I was raised just like in like a traditional way and you know and they always told us you know Have respect, you know have respect. And I think a lot of people you know- so that’s what I try to do you know; try to- like I always think about like the environment, too. I mean you know like what things are coming to now I mean you know- you don’t know you know- we don’t know what the future holds you know for us you know but- but how we’re all going- how we’re all together now you know that really makes a difference there you know; like us all being together you know that’s really something. I was saying I don’t want to take up too much more time but I want to thank you all too you know again. Thank you.
Joe Gone: Karen, as you reflect back on Red Thunder’s effort to shut down the mine what do you most want people to know?
Karen Robertson: In regards to the mine I think the most important pivotal point to recognize is the need for reformation on that 1872 mining law. That’s- that is what Robert zeroed in on when he- when they did the production of Tears of Love. That was really where he tried to refocus people to know how easily accessible public land is and if you look at the treaties that are- you know these reservation treaties just about all of them are cushioned by public land. It’s built into the treaties for expansion. So I think that’s why it is affecting Native Americans so much; is because of that one pivotal point; is the accessibility to claim public lands that are almost always adjacent to reservations and it has- until that law is changed this is just gonna happen. I think it’s already happened to every reservation in the United States. I think that’s already a done deal. But until there’s some kind of recognition and reformation and accountability to these what I call the corporate wendigos that just have that insatiable appetite to take and take and take nothing’s gonna change. As far as the relationship with Red Thunder I worked more on the Loud Thunder side with Robert’s daughters and in the cultural aspects of it and that’s what’s so tricky about this. There are so many layers of what we were all trying to do in protecting native rights; protecting the land; fundraising; trying to get money scrapped from people that have none [short laugh] and putting together these ceremonies and because that was the foundation. The ceremonies were the foundation of both Loud Thunder and Red Thunder because that’s where Robert started. We started with prayer and we started with the ceremonies to call for help; to call for that spiritual guidance; that spiritual foundation to stand on. And then you know the possibilities were endless you know because you did have the ancestors protecting, guiding, directing, coming to you. You know that’s where it started. But on the political side until they recognize that mining law and make some kind of change there, none of it’s- it’s all irrelevant [short laugh] because it’s just gonna keep happening again and again no matter what reservation we’re talking about; no matter what, you know national parks. Public lands are always gonna be the first place to go and be contaminated. We’ve got so many sprawling cities around us where the- there’s no wildlife. You can’t see the trees, you can’t see nature. And those are all in jeopardy and being targeted because they too are part of public lands. So I think the research that Robert was trying to get people to focus on is that mining law and getting that reformation in place so that what little wildlife areas and whatever wilderness areas are left, you know we can at least protect that. That’s my take on it.
Joe Gone: Okay, Ali. You’re up. Again, regarding Red Thunder’s effort to shut down the mine what do you most what people to know?
Ali Zaid: I wish I was a good spokesperson. But I want to first give thanks to Creator for being here and for being a part of this. For over 30 years we never got any recognition for what we did; never got a thank you; never got a postcard; a cup of coffee or anything. And I never knew you existed, Joe, Jr., until last year. [laughter] The Creator has placed you in our life to bring us together to record this event that took place. And Robert, like I said, I met him through the dream; through the dream world. That’s how we met. And three weeks later after the training I met him in person and he asked me What took you so long to come? We got work to do. That’s what he said We got work to do. So he brought me up here to Fort Belknap, introduced me to Joe. Joe took me around, showed me all the places that was affected by mining and the people. And then that’s how I got involved in this movie, Indian Tears of Love came about. So in that movie I tried to show all the aspects of how people got affected and I contacted Pegasus and I told them. I said I'm doing this documentary, I’d like for you to be a part of it. Pegasus Gold was the third largest gold mining company in the world. And so I contacted them and Oh no, we’re not doing anything wrong; and no, I don’t know why you’re doing this. So they wouldn’t have an input in the movie but I knew that they were destroying the land, destroying the people because I had met them and children born deformed; children born with hair falling out; all the kind of problems. So I called my broker and I asked her Can you get in touch with this Pegasus Corporation? I want to get- I want to get their brochures and their investment policies and stuff. So they sent me a whole package of how I could invest in Pegasus. And along in that package was an 8 x 10 picture of all the CEOs; all the board member staffs. And so in the documentary, there’s an elder that came down from Canada named Billy Two Rivers and he started talking and as he was talking to the kids he said Find out who these people are that’s destroying your language and your land and Mother Earth. And I thought that was a good point to put in with all the pictures of the CEOs so I panned through there and I showed their picture. I guess they got pretty upset over that. And but I went ahead and I made it anyway. It was kind of hard; kind of stressful. I was guided the whole way by Spirit. Spirit showed me exactly what to do and how to do it. I live in Boulder, Colorado at the Atmospheric Research Center. You know what and I happened to be up there one day and while I was there I walked in the wrong office and there was a picture on this guy’s table, on his desk, and that picture was a shot of the planet Earth from the moon. And I thought wow. So I walk out and he’s walking in and he said Can I help you? And I said Well can you send me a copy of this picture here? I want a copy of this. Well the day that we started the documentary and I was in the studios I went to my mailbox. That picture came in the mail and that was our opening picture. And the lady that I had footage of with her crying, talking about how much this mine meant to her; this it devastated her family. She just couldn’t believe it. That was my opening scene. I was guided to show that. In the entire 50 minutes of this movie I was guided. So what I would like for the future generations to know is that this planet doesn’t run on money; it runs by Spirit. And if you pray and if you’re sincere, if you’re honest, you’re not a phony, you keep your hands clean and keep your heart clean and you can do these- you do fasting, you do your prayers and you do your sweat lodge, do your memorial feeds they’re very, very important. That’s how Robert taught us. The first time I came here he kept me in the sweat lodge praying, praying all the time. And as a result of that, I can see the results coming out in my visions in my dreams and that’s how all this came about. And he told me, he said Those in heaven are gonna help us. He said- [voice is quivering] I get all emotional because Robert meant so much to me you know. He said My brother, Pete, is gonna be helping us. He already told me. So I'm interested to meet Pete’s son here, Mike because I look at that picture of your dad and you look just like him; just like that picture. And it’s been- it’s been such a mystery how all of this happened; all this came together you know. So through devotion to Creator they’ll guide your life. That’s what I want to tell these kids. I hope that they will look at the movie and learn from it. Because we did it on a shoestring budget. We had no funds and all the grants I submitted, they always got rejected you know. And we did it from people who cared; that were friends that we had. Joe pitching in money that he had. I'm doing the same thing; just whatever we had. We didn’t have no money; just people that- I put an ad in the paper; a little small college paper asking for help and people started just funding. I had Greenpeace- my friend works for Greenpeace. He runs the Greenpeace. We went door-to-door on the weekend asking for help. That’s how all of this was done. So I'm grateful to you, Joe, that you brought us together so we can have a record of this and to show the future generations that they can make a difference. I thank you.
Joe Gone: And Mike when you think about Red Thunder’s efforts to shut down the mine, what do you think?
Mike Gopher II: You know I was a young man when these guys were going through there. I was- I was working- you know working fulltime; a mechanic and I went to school for mechanics. And I got a 5th grade education. I passed 5th grade and I went to work migrants. I never did go back to school. Later in years I got a GED. I don’t know how I got it but you know like I said I guessed right. It was multiple choice. [laughter] But I got a GED and went to auto mechanic school and was trying to do something for myself. And at that time Ali- I first met Ali and Shanti was just a little guy and Warren, he had black hair. [laughter] Joe was a little trimmer. [laughter] You know what I got from all this, you know their efforts in this mining thing, is that no matter how small you think you are, how powerless you think you are you know there’s something you know because right is right you know. They weren’t you know- Joe, Warren, Ali and my dad, they weren’t trying to; you know they weren’t trying to shut this mine down so they can benefit from it. You know they weren’t trying to do that. They were- they were trying to protect future generations just like they’re doing now; you know recording this so future generations can- you know can benefit from this. That’s what I seen. You know just by seeing that it unconsciously- it inspired me to do something you know. Because like Ali talks about the dreams, the dreams he had. You know that’s- you know being my father’s son, like I’ve seen him go through so much. I’ve seen him cry. I’ve seen him cry when he was happy and sad. [emotional] And it's not- you know I always tell people like I told my brothers when we lost my father. I told them It’s okay to cry you know. Because I would rather have you cry here than to go down to some bar and cry over a beer and you know get into a fight and get your anger. You know that’s no way of healing. You know it’s like those Indian tears allow- you know these tears that we’re crying today you know because we love- we love what these guys did you know because it was something. It was truly- it was truly inspirational. It was something. You know and I'm very proud of you guys Joe, Warren, Ali. I can’t say it to my dad but I'm very proud- very proud of you guys what you guys did. You know because you guys proved that you know- you know David can- you know David can beat Goliath you know. You guys proved that you know. As a result of it there’s a lot of healthy- you know healthy people up here; there’s gonna be in the future you know as a result of what you guys did. I'm- me, myself I'm thankful and I'm proud because those little ones that are running around out there, they’re gonna have clean water and they’re gonna have fresh food you know; you know things like that. I'm talking to Warren about you know we have to have some way of you know feeding ourselves because you know our gardens you know, things like that, we have to be self-sufficient you know. I may get in trouble for this but I don’t- I don’t think any reservation is sovereign; is sovereign. Because if they were sovereign you know they would be self-supporting. You know they wouldn’t need the federal government you know. Right now with this flag in Great Falls I'm going the other way. I'm trying to you know- I'm gonna see our members as shareholders and not (lords or wards). I don’t want them to be (lords or wards) of the federal government. I think that if we’re gonna- like that lawyer told my dad, you know Why you hanging your head? You think these people are better than you? You put your head up, you’re just as good as any of these SOBs right here, you know like he told me dad. And my dad did learn from that because he- after that he held his head up. He always held his head up. You know and the things that are happening today you know I see that you know and you know and that’s what’s inspiring me to get- you know to get our tribe as a corporation you know. I don’t want no tribal- I don’t even- you know like I'm telling people, I said I don’t want no strings attached with what the federal government is gonna do. I told them Because our research has proven you know we are a tribe, you know that flag is over 200 years old you know that’s in our family. It’s been in there, it's been in seven generations you know. We just haven’t claimed our spot yet. You know people used to ask my father How come you’re not enrolled anywhere you know? He said I never sold this land. He said I never- you know I never took no money for this land he said. But there’s gonna come a time he said That it’s gonna- they’re gonna realize what they did. And I'm the kind of guy that says Well I ain’t gonna wait around for it to happen. I got to make it happen you know. I got to do the research. I got to get this done; I got to get that done because you know I'm not gonna wait around for it to happen. I got to make it happen. You know just like the way I told this woman out here this morning you know she was talking about all the Indians being poor. I told them It’s not just Indians. It’s a personal choice you know. Because if you want to better yourself you know today you can do it. You know there’s nothing stopping you; not the way like my father- I'm surprised he wasn’t a drunk you know laying on the street with all the- with all the B.S. they put him through you know. They wouldn’t- you know they wouldn’t hire him. Those unions down there were segregated. Frank Bird Linderman in 1912 was trying to get them to hire you know- open the unions, hire these people here. Sister Providence, yeah 1964, she was trying to you know get them to open up those unions in Great Falls. They wouldn’t do it. You know they were segregated you know. See I used to wonder about that, too. I used to say Where are from? You know where do we come from? You know we have no reservation or you know we have our ceremonies, our language, everything. We have everything that you know that’s required of an Indian I guess, but you know where did we come from? You know and those questions drove me to- you know to research. Now I know where you know- I know where I'm from, I know who I am. You know and I know where I'm going as a result of that. You know so Warren’s the one that I’ve known just about all my- all my time as I remember when they were coming from up Seattle to go to- to go to Pine Ridge. They stopped in at my dad’s house. They wanted him to go. You know they wanted him to go to Pine Ridge. We got to look in that trunk. I was just a little kid. I looked in there and there was this whole bunch of guns you know. My father didn’t go because he didn’t- you know he said I have- he said I have a piece of land and you know and I'm gonna live my life. So he- you know he didn’t go. I was mad he didn’t go you know because I would’ve like to have participated in something like that you know. You know but he chose peace you know. Now you know- now I understand why Nelson Mandela you know- I understand, I feel in my heart why he- you know why he chose peace in South Africa you know because violence would’ve never got anybody anywhere. And you know he chose peace you know because he’s seen what hatred and everything does you know. And he didn’t want to live that way and that’s the way my father lived too so you know. So with these the only thing I can tell you know Joe is that I- you know it inspired me to do- you know to do you know what I'm doing today as a result of you guys you know. And I know like Shanti, maybe this young fellow right here- he’s interested. He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t interested. But you know I know it’s gonna- it’s gonna keep going. You know the dreams and Creator, you know it’s just right on. Thank you.
Warren Matt: Joe, excuse me, can I have a couple more hours on that? [laughter]
Joe Gone: So we have ten minutes until we have to get over there because they’re gonna shut down on us.
Warren Matt: You know Mike brought up a important point you know and Martin Luther King was the same mentality. You know he’s part Indian? Martin Luther King was part Indian. And you know and it’s- I watched a program, Lewis Black, that comedian he was on HBO a couple years ago and he says How come my government stopped lying to me? I could deal with that. They’ve always lied to me. [laughter] You know and it’s true. I had already spent three years in the Army and I was out about maybe a year and a half. Vietnam broke out. I was on relocation down there in San Francisco and I finished an electronics course down there and I was working. And Vietnam broke out and listening to all the propaganda on the TV that the federal government was feeding the general public. I thought I want to go over there and fight; you know volunteer for the infantry, which I did. I want to go fight for my country. I want to go fight for my family. I was raised a fairly strict Catholic you know and our elders tell us Don’t talk about any other religion. But and I volunteered for the 1st Air Cav Division. They were the ones that were getting in in ’66; ’65 and ’66 they were getting in the most, what GIs say, I want to get into the shit. You know what I mean? They want to talk tough. That’s what I wanted to do; go fight for my country, go fight for my family.
Joe W. Azure: I'll ask you to remember that thought, Warren, but these guys got a schedule to go eat across the street and we got to be there or we’re gonna miss out. But you can continue after lunch. We’re coming back here till 5, isn’t it Joe?
Joe Gone: At least, yeah.
Joe W. Azure: Yeah we’ll be here till 5.
Warren Matt: Well you killed the…[laughter] You killed it right there. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: The war never ends, Warren. [laughter]
Audio Ends – End of Panel 2
Panel 3: What Do Scholars Want to Know?
Joe Gone: All right so we ended before lunch interrupting Warren so I’ll turn the floor back over to Warren before we have another question then.
Warren Matt: Before I was so rudely interrupted. [laughter] I guess again, you know, our- some of our people mentality, I was raised a strict Catholic growing up and after I got over to Vietnam things in combat, watching people getting killed on both sides; watching the inhumane things that humans can do to humans; not only to humans, but to other animals in the jungle. And like we’d go out on a big field exercise. When we knew there was gonna be a lot of bad stuff happening they’d fly in either a priest or a preacher and they’d tell us what we’re gonna do is okay; you know it’s all right. And to me I started questioning that. I thought after a while I thought you know what am I doing here? We have no business over here. In fact I volunteered for the 1st Air Cav Division, which is the old cavalry; mounted cavalry of this government. I said- and then the Vietnamese people, they found out I was American Indian they say We same-same. So you know that’s what a lot of my PTSD is; is fighting my own people in a war that we had no business in, in a place we had no business. And but I had to do my job as best- as good as I could, the best of my ability to keep myself or someone else from getting hurt or killed. You know that’s a lot of my PTSD. So to me it kind of ties back to some of our people in a way saying It’s okay to mine; you know. It’s okay you know to ruin the environment and everything in it. Not only the environment, but everything in it. And you know that’s when my mindset started changing. That’s why I say you know like Lewis Black, my government has always lied to me. You know why should I- why should I you know stop believing it? And it’s like again you know our people, those are our people, regardless of what color they are who thought it was okay to mine and still do you know to ruin the environment and everything in it. It’s- I don’t know, it’s- then I started- I guess I started turning away from my beliefs as far as the Catholic Church went. And you know I started looking at- and to me this was supposed to happen, I guess. My great-grandmother was a pipe woman on my mother’s side. I was told she was a very powerful Gros Ventre medicine woman and then I come in contact- I had gotten back home here. Actually before I came back I started coming- gradually coming in contact with different spiritual leaders; ( ) [too low] spiritual leaders. And that’s when it started making- it started making more sense to me. And then when I hooked up with Robert you know then things really started taking off you know seriously. And you know I think that- and from what I understand I think Ali said something about it was supposed to happen you know. Things that happen are supposed to happen. And if you look at our prophecies, some of our prophecies is coming back around. The circle’s coming back around. And these traditional ways of our people, that’s what’s really pushing them. You know that’s what’s speeding up the whole process. And you know I guess to me in a way all colors of people around the world, like they say, there’s only one- I think Ali said it. There’s only one God you know and we all look at him in a different way. And I think it’s been taken out of context with different- with the powers that be; those people in power; those people that pull all the strings in everything. And you know I think mankind, like that Blue Star that’s supposed to be coming; the Hopi Prophecy you know. Mankind’s gonna be coming back around for cleansing. So I don’t know. Me, I see better days ahead for mankind and the environment, you know if you want to believe those prophecies and try to follow them. And I don’t know. But since Joe cut me off I lost my train of thought. [laughter] But anyway that’s- I’ll think of more later. [laughter] Like Dave said, I already heard that story. [laughter]
MR-?: That’s what Joe said, too.
MR-?: I knew we were gonna miss lunch. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: There goes my lunch. [laughter]
Joe Gone: Okay so I want to shift now. I mentioned that I was ask questions of different subgroups and there’s a second subgroup of people here who I want to put a question to. These are groups of you might call them scholars or historians or students or people who are here who don’t know and weren’t so directly participatory in any of this, but have a perspective to offer around maybe questions or things that would be good to talk about. So I’ll put the question first, which is as a student or scholar, etc., who wants to reconstruct, tell and share this history, what do you most want to know? And we can take turns putting questions on the floor and hearing from people who are involved and what they have to say in response to some of these questions. Before we transition fully into scholars we have kind of a person who’s in the middle and I think that’s you, Shanti. You were here participating before and you’re also getting your PhD in Anthropology, right? So you’re kind of in between at this point. So maybe you could start us off by either answering the first question, what do you most want people to know or asking a question about what you most want to know in response to what we’ve heard so far.
Shanti Zaid: All right. Well, I think I have the same thing for both questions. The thing that I remember the most about all of the activities was more or less the creative process. That’s what I've really been thinking about. Because none of these guys had any experience with this stuff. My dad had never held a camera before he started the documentary. None of us had any kind of writing experience, you know, production, editing; any of that kind of stuff. As far as I know there wasn’t a whole lot of training in different kinds of activism styles to disaggregate which one is gonna be appropriate here. There wasn’t- historical information wasn’t so readily available. So it was a lot of people- it looked to me, like it was a lot of people without any background in any of these areas taking on this responsibility and just following through in some really profound ways. You know, I remember my dad getting these cheesy ‘how to use a camera’ kind of videos from the public library and we’d pop them in and look and it would just say, this is this kind of angle; this is that kind of angle. [laughter] You know, from that kind of place. And so from all of those areas of inexperience, the kind of creative process, motivation and strength to follow through in learning different crafts, on top of figuring out these continuous problems as they evolved. One of the stories I remember most from hearing my dad talk about the process was that at each juncture we came back and forth to the reservation a bunch of times and to Great Falls a bunch of times, just kind of following up with things and trying to see what the next steps were gonna be. And nobody really had the answer for what should be done next or how to do this piece or how to do that piece. And Robert’s response inside of all of those things was some kind of ceremony. Let’s do a ceremony, let’s do a pipe; It’ll come- it’ll just kind of flow out from somewhere. What are we gonna do with the script? I don’t know, let’s have a sweat lodge. And so the ceremonies became kind of a- it seemed to me, a sustaining momentum force in and of themselves from which these different avenues became less onerous; you know, less prohibitive. The fear factor that might’ve been involved in pursuing any one direction seemed to diminish inside of those activities. And so the question I would have on the scholarly side is what were some of the more memorable instances of a decision or a path that needs to be found, and somewhere where this spiritual foundation really came to the fore in assisting a direction that was taken. I think the idea that there was a foundational force is pretty established, but some kind of like- some memories, some examples of what that looked like on the ground; what it felt like in the process. We can look back in hindsight and see, yeah, Pegasus filed for bankruptcy and it was kind of a big success, but there was no sense of that success along the way. I remember specifically hearing that they were the third biggest gold mining company in the world, it seemed like a pretty big force to have any kind of ability to stop. But it was just a lot of small efforts. I remember another- after the documentary was made we had a screening of it. I believe it was the first public screening at the Boulderado Hotel. There was just all kinds of things that enabled that room to be established, that brought the people together to have that screening there. Because we couldn’t rent a conference room. There was no budget for any of this. This was all just conversations, relationships, timing along the way. But that was this big public outing and then I think some more things kicked into motion after that. And it was a big deal. I don’t believe there was any experience organizing an event of any sort either, to draw upon, but just bringing people with ideas together to make that happen. And I remember each of those steps for just that particular public screening having a real spiritual overtone to it. So I would be curious for the people that were working on the project in their own facets, contributing what they remember; in particular the spiritual ideas, insights, feelings, momentums that they had that led them to particular directions. [phone ringing]
Joe W. Azure: That means your time’s up. [laughter]
Shanti Zaid: And I'm done, I'm done.
Joe Gone: So we have a question on the table then for those of you who were more directly involved back then; aspects of the spiritual foundation that came through in key decisions or things unfolding and what it was like.
Ali Zaid: I think one of the things that- once I began to… [phone ringing]
Joe W. Azure: Time is up. [laughter]
MR-?: The evil laugh of an ex-wife. [laughter] I’ve heard that one. [laughter]
Karen Robertson: You’ll hear it some more. [laughter]
Ali Zaid: Somebody that wants to be in a sweat lodge called me. But anyway to try to answer your question I think that it was a scary time. I had depended upon my dreams to guide me, to show me what to do and they were showing me what to do. And I had all this footage. I had so much footage to choose from I didn’t know exactly how to put it together and how to start you know; just so much footage. 60 hours is a lot of footage to narrow it down to one hour. And so I did a lot of prayers, I did a lot of meditation asking for guidance of what to do, how to do it. And my dreams would just show me at night. So I got into a rhythm where I couldn’t wait to go to sleep and I couldn’t wait to wake up and do it. And so I began writing a script, making the storyboard, doing the editing. I did everything but edit. I didn’t do the editing but I had a friend of mine, and it’s funny how we met because I was just walking down the street leaving the coffee shop and some guys were sitting on the porch and I just went up to the porch and I said Man, I said I need some help. Do you know anybody who’s an editor? And the guys says Hey, I'm a editor; I work for People Production. And that’s how I found my editor. It’s just amazing how this happened. And once it all came halfway together I didn’t know what to do and Robert came up and he said Ali, I got a message last night that my brother, Pete’s, gonna help us. Just relax. It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna come together. It’s gonna relax. So we did a sweat lodge and we did a memorial feed for Pete, thanking him for that dream that Robert had. And then I just got relaxed. I just knew it was gonna happen because Robert said it was gonna happen. And then I reached the point where I had put all this together except the last 30 or 40 minutes; 20 or 30 minutes. It was about halfway. And Robert said We need to hurry up and finish. I’ve already made the posters and we’re gonna have the production in three weeks. We’re gonna show it. [laughter] Man, are you serious? So I saw the poster he made and it advertised it and so for the next three weeks I only got maybe 20 hours of sleep. I remember my third eye popping out. I had a red spot right there in the middle of my forehead. And Karen said Wow, your third eye is showing. And I said Yeah, I got to get this done you know. They’re showing it. So it was just so funny because I had to spend day and night in the edit studios in the edit bay trying to edit this; trying to get it all done; hardly any sleep. And within three weeks boom, that morning at the end of three weeks I got it done and finished; had the final product. And the next day I hopped on a plane, came to Great Falls to show it at the premier screening. And that plane, while I was on the plane I had a panic attack. That’s how I developed a panic attack; was from that intense editing with no sleep, stressed out and then hopped on a plane and brought the video to Robert. But it all worked out because here it is 30 years later, Joe Jr. comes and says Hey, we need to talk about this. I’ve seen your work and I never found out what you guys did. So I want you to get on a plane and come over here and it’s like he forced me to get back on the plane again. So it’s been 30-some years since I’ve been on a plane as a result of that time, what happened. But and then we came to- I wanted to show it in Boulder and my very good friend who worked for Greenpeace who had helped me go around knocking on doors soliciting, trying to solicit some money to help do all this, I went to him and his name is Jack. So I said Jack, it’s time for us to have a premier screening here in Boulder and I need some assistance in trying to get some money to rent out this hall. So we went to the big hotel there, old ancient hotel called the Hotel Boulderado and I said Who’s the owner here? So that’s the owner sitting over there. He just happened to be here. So I went over to him and Shanti was with me. I went over to him and I said I’d like to talk to you about a movie I made and I want to have a screening done and can you rent me out this hall here so I can show it to people? So he says Yeah. He said Go upstairs and talk to the sales rep and the fee is $250. I was like wow, $250. So then I called Jack again, my friend with Greenpeace. I called him again and I said Hey, we got to raise $250 man, to rent that hall out. So there we were again, knocking on everybody’s door, nickels and dimes till I finally got $250. I gave it to that girl in the sales department and this was a week before the screening. So everything was planned out. I went to the store and I got them to donate a bunch of cookies and coffee and pops and everything that I thought people would need. I went and made posters advertising for the premier screening of Indian Tears of Love. And I get to the day of the screening, that morning, we’re in the room and we setting all the tables up and we’re doing everything to get everything together. The girl from the sales department comes to me and she says Oh I was told to give you your $250 back. And I said For what? Said Well I don’t know, I was just told to give it back to you. Well later on after I found out what I found out, Jack didn’t show up at the screening, my friend who helped me. He didn’t show up. I kept looking for him. Where’s Jack? Where’s Jack? Well he didn’t show up. But that next morning I saw Jack and I said Man, I thought sure you would be there with all your people. Some of your people were there but I didn’t see you there. And he was like No. He said Man, you want to hear something that happened? He said I was riding my bike, went down Walnut Street and I saw this wallet in the middle of the road and so I picked it up and I looked at it and I remember you telling me about Frank Day. And he says the wallet belonged to Frank Day. And so I came to the Hotel Boulderado and Frank was in the dining room having lunch. And I walked over to Frank and I said Frank Day, this is your wallet. I found it in the middle of the street on Walnut Street. And Frank looked at him and said Well thank you so much. I haven’t been on Walnut Street today. I don’t know, what’s my wallet doing over there? And he offered Frank- I mean Frank offered him a big bottle of wine or a hotel room or whatever you want, just let me know. He said Well I heard you’re working with my friend, Ali, showing- so he can show his movie. So why don’t you just let him show his movie here for free? So he agreed and that’s how I got the money back. And in turn I gave the money to Robert you know. I told him, I said Take this money with you. You flew down here at your own expense to be with us and help us. So take this. I want you to do whatever you want you know. So that’s how that came about. It’s just been so many mysterious things that- that’s why I say the Spirit is real. Once you tap into it’s just like this TV here, it’s always on. Just push the button and turn it on. The channel is there. So it’s the same thing with your mind. If you tune into Spirit, do a little meditation, do prayer you know it’s amazing what will happen. It’s just amazing. So anyway I hope that answers your question.
Joe Gone: Shanti, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind repeating your question and we’ll see if there’s one or two other responses from folks who were more directly involved back in the nineties.
Shanti Zaid: All right, my question was to think about particular instances around the spiritual foundation, Robert’s direction. Experiences that stand out that were especially helpful in making decisions, in following through with a particular path, or in just allowing certain things to happen that just seemed insurmountable or very, very unlikely to happen but somehow happened anyway. And so my question was about some particular experiences that might stand out in your memory right now.
Warren Matt: ( ) who cuts me off. You know I'm the type of person that maybe I expect too much and maybe too soon and I think I got again, part of that from my PTSD in Vietnam. I’ve been to treatment twice for PTSD; once in Waco, Texas and once in Seattle, Washington, the VA hospitals. And I found out that I was actually-when I thought I was doing right I was actually abusive to my family; my wife and my kids. I was too hard on them. And I- after I went to treatment I told my youngest boy; youngest son and youngest daughter, I was honest with all of them. I said I'm not gonna raise you the way I raised my- raised your older brothers and sisters. I said and your mother, I was too hard on them. I was actually abusive to all you guys and I'm not gonna raise you like I raised them. And as it progressed with what we were doing up there as far as Red Thunder, Loud Thunder and the mine, I was expecting too much too soon. And even now- you know even now you know to me that’s our- that land with that Grinnell Agreement; that land that that mine sits on, that belongs to us, native people and we haven’t got that back. You know I get very frustrated and upset, kind of almost infuriated when I hear one of the- well about six years ago maybe, Gus Helgeson, he’s an Assiniboine from Fort Belknap. He’s one of the- he’s a Vietnam veteran. He called me up one day. He was really happy. Warren, we’re gonna get our mountains back. What do you mean? Where Pegasus Goldmine’s at, gonna get them back. I said what do you- you know They’re gonna buy them back. What do you mean get them back? We already- we’ve always owned them. We’ve never given them up. You know and even today I hear somebody say you know Well we’re kind of getting the mountains back. And that upsets me you know. I think that what Robert was trying to show us maybe it didn’t- I wasn’t- I was too impatient you know. I'm not like Ali you know. He sees progress. [laughter] I don’t see progress you know. And you know that’s one of the things I'm starting to work on is- again Wes Martel out of Wind River, Wyoming, he called me; working with an individual out of Texas I think on pollution and damages you know and what we’re talking about here. Red Thunder and Loud Thunder were you know- were working you know on the mine up there and all that damage that’s done. You know so to me the fight isn’t over with yet. You know it’s an ongoing battle to me. And maybe it shouldn’t be like that. I don’t know. But maybe I'm just too hard to please. I'm don’t know. You know it’s- you know it’s again when I sat on tribal council I used to try to get our water policy- our water returned, there was an Indian from North Dakota, and our council to get involved. They didn’t want nothing to do with it. And that frustrated me, that confused me and you know is somebody getting paid off underneath the table here you know? Why does no one want to look at this? You know and it’s all the damages, it’s irreparable you know the mountains there and the health problems. Not only like Joe said, the fish, the beaver up there. They talked about, I think it was Ali, they talked about deer and elk going to drinking in them ponds. And the way they made it sound like after they drink they just fall over you know. So I don’t know. You know I'm not taking away any of the credit that’s due for anyone or anything that’s been working on; you know including you know Creator and Spirits. You know I mean they move at their own- their own pace when it comes to Creator and the Spirits. You know so I got to maybe do like Joe says, cut me off. [laughter] You know try to tone it down or slow up and not expect so much.
Joe Gone: Any of the other principals want to address Shanti’s question?
Karen Robertson: I just want to say for me one of the major- during one of the major turning points Robert had had a dream and an old ceremony had come back to him in a dream and I was reminded of that when (Buggs) came up to rewrap those skulls. That came during the peak of these battles with Pegasus; to reinstitute a ceremony that hadn’t been performed for at least a generation, if not two generations. Those skulls were very sacred and I think Joe was instrumental in getting those and that was the time they were retrieved. And he said that one of the elders had come to him in a dream and showed him that pipe ceremony that he had forgotten. My last visit with Robert kind of went into more detail about what that ceremony was about. And that’s when it really opened up as to what his intention was for bringing that ceremony back into use because it was a very powerful ceremony and to fight a very powerful corporate entity. And during the last time I saw Robert alive he finally explained to me what that was really about and those skulls were used to speak. You know it was a transmission device [cough] excuse me. It was a male and female skull that was used to talk to the ancestors. It was kind of a portal; other worldly portal. He referred to them as the Star Beings. And that these beings would sometimes give you insight into prophecies into the future; that when he was very- his father died when he was very young, maybe 16. His father died very young so a lot of the elders filled in those gaps. His older brothers had died and Robert felt very alone. A lot of those elders pitched in and helped raise him and teach him a lot of these ceremonies that were dying out and this was a primary one. At the time he was very young. He had just started a young family; had kids to support. And then an elder had approached him to learn this particular ceremony, he turned him down saying you know I can’t. I don’t have the time to devote to it. I don’t have the resources and I have to take care of my wife and my family. So when this elder came to him in that dream he had seen the ceremony performed many times and was recreating it during this time to give that extra spiritual lift to what we were trying to accomplish there. And calling on you know- he talked a lot about this being on their migratory route along the Canadian border; you know east and west. As they traveled back and forth those Little Rocky Mountains were where they would stop and camp and do a lot of the fasting. This is one of the areas that was the last of the great herds. So a lot of that buffalo medicine got lost along the way. So I think for me that was one of the more spiritual points is when he- he was able to pull that ancient ceremony out of a dream that had come to him and reminded him of the procedure.
Joe Gone: Okay. Why don’t we shift now to another question? Rosalyn I know you teach about this in your class as you had me come to your class once when you were teaching about it. So I wonder as a scholar who wants to reconstruct and tell and share this history more broadly what do you most want to know from people who were more principally involved?
Rosalyn LaPier: So usually when I talk about this particular historic event the way that I usually present it is I present- I start back in 1895 and I talk about how both the Rockies and the Little Rockies were traded at the same time and that George Bird Grinnell who was the treaty negotiator for the United States, on the one hand in environmental history he is seen as the Father of Environmentalism. He is seen as the Father of the National Park System. He’s seen as this father of a person who is preserving and conserving the land. But in 1895 when these two agreements were made again with him as the principle treaty negotiator, the purpose of both of those treaties was purely for mining. It was for gold mining, mineral mining, etc. And so both the Little Rockies and the Rockies were traded at the same time. The treaties are practically word for word. And in both cases what ended up happening was there was the search for gold. So usually when I talk to students about it I want them to make sure that some of these stories have these connections, these bigger connections that are out there to other places in the state but also just other places in general. So in addition to talking about this story, I also talk about you know what was going on with mining at that time, what’s happening with resource extraction at that time so that students can sort of make these connections and not see it as isolated events. But one of the things I also remind, especially back home in my own community, is I try to remind people on the Blackfeet Reservation that this could be our story because in 1895 the Rockies were also- there was a lot of mining that occurred. Literally from the moment that the agreement was signed overnight, 1,000 miners went into what is now Glacier National Park and started looking for minerals. And today we think of Glacier National Park, I mean Americans especially think of Glacier National Park as this pristine wilderness, untouched by human hands, right. But for a time period miners were in there literally you know looking underneath every single rock and nook and cranny trying to find gold and minerals. So the story is different, right. So our story for the Blackfeet Reservation is they didn’t find anything. So in 1910 Grinnell returns and he creates Glacier National Park and he also creates what is now called the Badger-Two Medicine, right, because they split off. That’s all the same piece of land. So the lower part got split off, became part of National Park; I mean National Forest and is now called the Badger-Two Medicine and the northern part became the park. Both of those now are basically conserved landscapes or preserved landscapes because they didn’t find anything. And the story is the opposite here because from the very beginning one of the reasons why the agreement occurred as you know, is because they did find gold here. And so it became then a place where there was- and there’s still gold there, right. I mean there’s still gold up there. So it’s still a place that there’s- even though we’re at the, this point in history now I think there still needs to be a continued- there needs to be a continued kind of reawakening of younger generations that this can potentially happen again. And that because there’s always going to be a search for gold and minerals because of all of the devices that we’re all carrying, right, that are filled with those gold and rare minerals. So one of the things that I try to do is compare and contrast that, but I think that personally I think that there’s been a lot more oral history about the 1895 agreement with the Blackfeet and that people have been recording that history there. And because Glacier Park became Glacier Park historians have written a lot more about the history of Glacier Park, who George Bird Grinnell is and again he’s the hero, right, of the story. And I think in this particular story he’s not the hero and I think that’s never been told. And I think that’s never really been written about; that he was somebody who brokered an agreement purely for you know the benefit of extracting resources. And I think that that’s part of a- you know reaching that far back in history, I think we need to begin there and tell that story so that George Bird Grinnell is not always again the hero, the good guy and kind of the Father of Environmentalism.
Karen Robertson: That’s a very good point.
Ali Zaid: I think when you see the video I think you’ll see. We touched on that. Yeah, we touched on that and Hank Chopwood brings it out in the video.
Rosalyn LaPier: But I think that’s not as commonly known. Yeah, kind of in the- what I would consider like the common sort of American narrative that occurs. So I think that that’s- I mean those are some of the things that I think should be brought out in some of this but then also just the story itself. I think again the story of a grassroots movement and grassroots people making a difference in their own community and telling that again so it’s not always the George Bird Grinnell as kind of the white founding father of some of- you know kind of environmentalism or trying to address you know conservation in America. So I don’t know if that touches on- but usually that’s the way I teach it. I teach it together. I always teach it together. I don’t sort of tell one story and leave out the other because people don’t realize it happened at the same time and we could be telling the same story on the Blackfeet Reservation, but we’re not.
Warren Matt: Why?
Rosalyn LaPier: Huh?
Warren Matt: Why?
Rosalyn LaPier: Because they didn’t find gold there. So because they didn’t find gold they went back and decided to turn it into a national park.
Joe Gone: Questions or comments or reactions from any of the folks that were directly involved?
Warren Matt: You know when I was in school back east I put together a project. I called it Leadership Ranch Survival Camp and I wanted to build it on Fort Belknap for basically people- not only our younger people but to get them back- try to get them back to our traditions; living in teepees and having a sweat lodge; the medicine bundles; using everything; the hides, the bones, boiling the hooves; you know eat the hoof soup, blood soup and using the hides; not wasting a thing. Anyway, my professor at Harvard he told me- he said I want to come back to Montana here to do that. Try to you know find support and funding for it. He said I can’t send you back to Montana he said But I can send you to Washington, D.C. So he did. I and my wife went to Washington, D.C. on their dime. And I went into the Department of Interior because what I was looking at, I don’t know whether a lot of you people know, on every Indian reservation there are what they term school sections. They’re 40-acre plots. And supposedly on Fort Belknap alone there’s something like 28,000 acres and these are school sections; 40-acre plots. And supposedly they were- any income generated off of that was supposed to go into a separate or a special pot and held for Indian education. That didn’t happen. It went into a general pot. But anyway, that’s why I went in there; to talk to them about trying to get a 40-acre or I was gonna put it on my own land really. And this guy, I walked into this guy’s office. Where you from? Golden. And I started talking to him about what I had in mind. He turned around, he had a map on the wall of the whole country, United States. Oh Fort Belknap. You got uranium, you got gold, you got copper. He named off about five different- about five different minerals that are there. He made no bones about it you know. I mean I didn’t even know that at that point in time. That was before Red Thunder and Loud Thunder. We still have those minerals and the powers that be- I’ll let you guys in on another little secret. Some of you have heard about drilling off the reservation and underneath, illegally pulling gas and oil off. That’s what they’ve been doing to Fort Belknap all these years; probably to the Blackfeet and all these other reservations. Wind River, they won the case and in federal court. That’s how your nieces, that big payment they got, the tribe down there. Wes Martel was involved in this. Yeah, this big oil and gas corporation were stealing oil and gas from Wind River tribes and they found out about it and took them to court and won their case. So you know Indian Country is being ripped off every day one way or another. And I don’t know, I told my council that I sat on about it. Again, they didn’t want to do nothing. They didn’t even want to hear about it. So you have to wonder you know who’s getting paid off? You know why? Why does no one want to hear about these things? Not only ruin the environment but ripping us off you know. And I was wondering that Grinnell, did he have anything to do with the Black Hills in South Dakota?
Rosalyn LaPier: Not that I know of, yeah.
Warren Matt: But they’ve changed our boundaries on our reservation several times illegally but they’ve gotten away with it. That’s why I'm so angry. Nobody wants to do a thing about it and I'm so impatient I guess. I don’t know.
Joe Gone: Any other reactions or responses to this comparative history of the Little Rockies and Big Rockies with Grinnell and his agreements?
Joe W. Azure: I’d like to say something. I just- I think she was absent when I was talking about- we were laughing about the Grinnell Agreement earlier.
Rosalyn LaPier: Oh yeah, I was.
Joe W. Azure: Anyway, I was telling them- I said somebody mentioned that Grinnell Agreement and I got to thinking about our old-timers and stuff back home at Fort Belknap and the more they talk about it, it’s more of a Grinnell coercion you know. They coerced that land out of our ancestors way back in the day. And it was more of a threat you know. You either give it up or else you starve to death you know type of an idea. And a lot of our real leaders didn’t sign that you know. They just got anybody that- them days like Mike was saying, our ancestors didn’t hardly talk or understand English. They would talk in Indian you know and they’d try to explain- there was a lot of loss of translation there between the English language and the Indian language. It’s all different you know. So yeah, that’s the only thing I’d kind of like to say; is that Grinnell coercion was a bad, bad deal all the way around. And to this day I guess ours, on our land, that used to be part of the reservation when they put us on that prisoner of war camp. They call it a reservation today. That was incorporated all the way to the Missouri River, our south borders. But then these miners, they couldn’t keep them out. So these miners were coming in illegally mining on the reservation side of the line; you know the Missouri River line. And then the government, the BIA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian agent that was under the United States Department of War at the time, he couldn’t do nothing about it so he wrote back east and he wanted to know what the politicians wanted to do about it. So they sent- they decided to send George Bird Grinnell out to legalize that theft of our land and our gold and resources. And so that’s kind of a little bit of the history of our side of the Grinnell Agreement. Because he was an agent of the government to come out and legalize that illegal mining and because we couldn’t do- we didn’t have any police force or any power, political or military to chase them off the reserve you know. And then when they heard that when we were gonna try to do something about it our tribal ancestors, well they went an armed themselves. They bought all the guns, the miners did. They were afraid they were gonna have to lose their mining claims to gold and silver on the Indian reservation at the time it was. And then that’s when George Bird Grinnell came over and coerced the Indians. He was pretty much under pressure by the politicians back east to take that away from us in one way, form, shape or another you know so those miners and stuff could be legalized; and be on their side of the reservation boundary. So that initially started growing as they found more and more gold and silver. You know just them days it was just pick and shovel because it wasn’t much damage, they couldn’t do much damage. But nowadays with these multinational mining corporations, they got this modern technology where they can just blow up whole mountaintops and pile them up and pour poison and cyanide and arsenic and all kinds of chemicals on them and leach out a handful of gold and destroy a whole mountaintop. And what do they make out of it you know? Just like little microscopic particles of gold to make cell phones and rings and watches. You know it ain’t really worth it in the long run because this environment is precious. The Mother Earth is precious and like somebody said, well we never get a thanks. Well our thanks is on a table for our children; the clean food, the clean water, the clean air we breathe. You know that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re all fighting to preserve this for our future children, our future grandchildren; not only for ourselves but everybody. All nationalities will benefit. And when I talk about the Mother Earth you know I think of Mother Nature, too. Down south they’re having all these storms you know; tornadoes, hurricanes, high wind, hail and all that. We don’t see that around here in Indian Country much because we’re blessed because we try to hold onto these ways you know; the pipe and the sweet grass. When Robert first came back I was searching like Ali, for a spiritual advisor you know because I wanted to know our original teachings, too, because they were pretty much wiped out on our reserve. Back home you know for a long period of time they were outlawed by the United States government. It was against the law to practice our Indian ways. I think my son’s great-grandfather, The Boy, was one of the last keepers of the Gros Ventre Sacred Pipe and he was pressured to put it away you know by the Catholic Church there in Hays. So we lost a lot of ways, our ceremonies, our traditions, our languages; everything. And then just recently the younger people are trying to bring it back, you know research. And then like I was like Ali, I was researching where can I find an honest elder; an honest spiritual advisor you know? That’s when I was spiritually guided to Robert, my brother-in-law Robert Gopher whom we adopted- he adopted me into his family you know as a brother-in-law later on. But through him I learned that you know- I used to carry guns and weapons around, too, because I wanted to protect our people you know as a warrior, such as Warren does now. But he taught me that what’s more important is we got to bring out the peaceful means of solution to any kind of a thing we think is wrong like you know- a lot of people- we were pressured fighting the mines. A lot of our supporters were- you know wanted us to bring guns and weapons and bombs. And you know one of them even said Go lay down in front of one of those trucks coming down the mountain and you’ll get a lot of press you know. I said Yeah you might get a lot of press but if you get run over you’ll be dead you know. [laughter] To me that don’t make sense but to them you know Oh you’ll get a lot of attention from the press you know. Tell them You go lay down. [laughter] We’ll take your picture you know. So anyway just- and at the same time we keep our native humor going you know even though it’s hard you know. We’d gather together just like we’re doing here and I'm really happy. I'm really thankful that my son here, the oldest son brought us together here. It’s his idea. Him and Ali met last year about this time over in Bozeman. And I was late, as I always am for breakfast and they were planning all this already you know ahead of time. And I was thinking you know what are these guys getting me into now you know. [laughter] And I was kind of leery about it because I'm not the kind of guy to go out front you know and try to be a big shot or try to get followers or anything. Because I learned that from my brother-in-law, Robert. He said You know our leader is The Creator, The Great Spirit. Our Mother is the Earth. You know we don’t need to put ourselves ahead of everybody else. You know just support people you know. If they got good ideas support them you know. So that’s what they did. They supported us, his family. His daughters and his sons, they all supported us; what we did you know. And then when they had their ceremonies down there we went down to Great Falls and supported them, too, because that’s our native way. We support each other back and forth as best we can. But what I really- what shocked me was he brought the truth out is that the Sacred Peace Pipe and the Sacred Peace Flag can make a difference without the violence and the wars and the weapons of mass destruction. And that’s kind of hard for me because I come up with you know the Vietnam era and I was trying to get over there to Vietnam, too, you know to help fight for this country you know. But like one of our elders said on the Indian Tears of Love tape, Joe Bell, he said They sent us overseas to fight for this land you know. Us Indian people here in Fort Belknap, we fought for this land. Now they coming along and giving the miners the best part of it up here in our mountains and they’re tearing them down. And I don’t like that, he said. You know and then the other elder, Victoria ( ) from the Lodge Pole area in Fort Belknap, she looked up there and said This is where we get our wood, our hunting, our fishing. And that’s what we like. We don’t want them torn down like that. You know those were some of our elders. Our ancestors taught us these ways you know and we got a lot of support. You know at first we didn’t have any. We set up one little group of people you know like Ali said. One little group of people standing up to a giant multinational mining corporation and everybody thought we were crazy you know. There’s no way you can win you know. They got the politicians in their pocket, they got the money in the bank, they got stockholders, shareholders. You know there’s no way. You guys are crazy to waste your time doing that. But yet in almost ten years we made a big difference. Pretty soon we got the local community involved, we got the south end of the reservation involved and pretty soon the tribal council called me in. They wanted to know what the hell was going on out there you know. And I told them, I said Well we got a small nonprofit organization. We’re just trying to get organized to stop what we see as the destruction of the Little Rocky Mountains and the possible poisoning and polluting of our land and resources. And the first thing- they didn’t even care about that. All they asked me was Who’s your followers? You know Who’s your supporters? You know and then I said Don’t worry, we’re not stealing tribal members from you guys. You know we’re just volunteers. You know so they kind of backed off. And then from then on they started switching because the tribal council at that point in time was thinking of going in with the mining company and bringing it on the reservation; bring some of that cyanide mining down onto the Hays side of the reservation you know. And we stopped that so I'm glad they did call me in in the long run, looking back at it, so they could understand where we’re coming from you know. And then we did get some support on the reservation; on the council on that side of the reservation where before we didn’t have any support you know. And then eventually the council became on board and got their own lawyers, environmental lawyers from I believe it was Utah or Idaho. And then they came on board, too. But they were after money see whereas we were after justice for the environment and people. They were just after the money type of thing. That’s about all I have to say. Thank you.
Mike Gopher II: Are you done, Joe? I was just gonna cut you off. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: I beat you.
Rosalyn LaPier: Can I just add one more things in terms of teaching? So you guys obviously- I mean everyone here knows the story. So you know cyanide leach mining is illegal in the state of Montana and because of that it became illegal in the United States. It’s not illegal other places. It’s not illegal in China. They still do the cyanide leach mining for gold mining; places in South America. So I think one of the other things that would be really nice in terms of having this story become much more public is to be able to share that story with other indigenous communities internationally who are now in the process of fighting this themselves in other places and especially in places like China, where it’s just you know kind of ubiquitous that they’re doing this poisoning just to get again, sort of the rare minerals that we do use every day. But there are better methods and including recycling, that we can be doing. So anyway, so I think that in terms of instruction or sharing the story with others, I think that that- we have to also think of that larger audience that’s out there, as well; you know the international indigenous community. So that’s all.
Joe W. Azure: Pegasus changed its name and went up into Canada and Alaska, into Anchorage. The last I heard that’s where they are now is in Anchorage, Alaska doing the same thing.
Rosalyn LaPier: And they’re in Australia, as well.
Joe W. Azure: Australia, as well.
MR-?: Joe, I’ll do a little follow-up about what Joe was talking about. Some of the council wanted to mine on the reservations, true. In fact some of the mining they wanted to do was coal mining and we brought- we brought a company in and done a feasibility study and this consultant in a meeting he put up the pros and cons. And the only reason the council changed their mind is that all the cons outweighed the pros. And he said you know you’re gonna have people from all over- you’re gonna have all kind of individuals come here you know looking for- seeking employment, wanting to work here. He said You haven’t got the police force, you haven’t got the medical force, you haven’t got the fire system far as fire departments go; the housing. And he said Even if you did all of this once they’re done, they’re done. You’re gonna be left with- left with all that. Just like ( ), then people over there, they’re gonna be left- stuck with everything; you know with everything after all is said and done; a wasteland to boot you know. So that’s what would’ve happened to Fort Belknap.
Joe Gone: Dave Beck, you’re a scholar as well and I'm wondering as someone who has interest in reconstructing and telling and seeing this story shared more widely, what is it that you would most like to know?
Dave Beck: Thanks. I also think of it in terms of teaching I guess. And back before I came to University of Montana I worked at an American Indian College in Chicago and we also had a college in the same system out at the Fort Peck Reservation and I worked with a man named Robert Dumont. He was a brilliant fellow and we focused on community capacity-building. We called it community development in those days and we tried to figure out are we gonna convey to students what they need to do in order to think about community development. And we kind of came up with this model of how does it work. And there are three different aspects to the model we came up with, which seems pretty good to me and I still use it with my students. So on the one hand you have to know where you are and that means understanding your history and understanding your culture; your cultural background; your cultural heritage. And we’ve talked a little bit about both those things here already. And then on the other side you need to have visionaries in the group who see what they want the future to look like; not with the limitations that we have now. Forget the limitations for the moment. What should the future look like? And that’s what Red Thunder was looking at when they were trying to bring about change. And they had those two different focuses as part of what they were doing. And then the hard part, the third part is getting from where you are to where you want to be. And that’s building the bridge. And where you are is always changing, so you’re always modifying the bridge as you go along the way. So what I'm really interested in, in some ways, Mike talked about David versus- beating Goliath, right, and Ros talked about a grassroots organization taking on this massive multinational corporation with success. So I want to know what you think are, looking back on it from now, what you think are the things that were the most successful things you did. I’d also be interested in knowing what you think are some of the mistakes you made. But really like to know what you think were the most successful things you did and talk about how those things occurred; how you brought them to be.
Joe W. Azure: I guess I’ll try to answer that a little bit, the best I can; my memory. Like I said you know a lot of us, a lot of our supporters wanted us to resort to violence you know; stand up against them. Take guns up there and start shooting the miners you know. Then we got to thinking best against that because Robert strongly advised us not to turn to violence, not to turn to weaponry, but to use modern technology such as we’re doing here and to also use publicity you know such as newspapers, radio, TV; things like that and explaining to the bigger crowd, the bigger public, what the small group of people are really standing up against and what their struggles are for and what they’re resisting is important. A little bitty- a little bitty spark, in other words, to fire it up like you do in a fire; you know like a forest fire. A little bitty spark could start a big fire if it spreads like that. Anyway, we wanted to be the little spark and to use the modern technology, the news media, the TV, the radio, the newspapers, to spread this little spark into a bigger, bigger, bigger fire to educate the general public and people as to what’s really at stake here instead of listening to the multinational corporations and their propaganda that’s highly-educated and highly paid for, to cover up the real true story you know. Like what really shocked me was the United States Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Department of State Lands and there was one other- oh, Environmental Protection Agency, they were supposed to be the regulators of that mine; that Zortman-Landusky mine. And when we asked them for the test results of the waters coming down, what they were you know Oh they’re good, they’re good. We got our reports back in. We can do a report every three to six months and all the tests are coming back negative. Well we finally asked the question Well who’s doing these tests? What department under the government? Oh no, not us. Pegasus Gold is doing them for us. [laughter] Oh you got the fox guarding the henhouse huh? Well we don’t trust them. Things like that we started learning you know what was really going- we started doing like a civilians investigation into what was really going on under the covers you know of the mass publicity stunt by Pegasus Gold and the Zortman-Landusky mines. Because they had all the, you know- Oh we’re hiring more people you know. We’re bringing more economy to the area. All the general stuff that they always do. And they turn your own relatives against you; your own neighbors you know; that propaganda ploy they always bring in. They were at all our public- we demanded public meetings, public hearings in the area; in Lodge Pole and Hays; For Belknap and Malta and all the local area to bring awareness to our cause. And the government under the federal law had to- had to do it; had to cooperate with us to follow their own laws and guidelines. And then each time Pegasus would bring their supporters in there to shoot us down and brag themselves up you know. But in the long run I think- I think it just kind of like we played by ear; played by ear you know day to day as things changed. They tried every which way. It’s like a card game you know. They’d try to beat us; we’d beat them back you know. They tried everything and they couldn’t beat us because we were praying for guidance you know by the Spirit World and our Indian ways and we ended up beating them you know in the long run even though a lot of other people got paid off in the process you know. I think the tribal council settled for a $1 million point one something other dollars. I don’t know what it was about but we weren’t in it for money. You know they tried to buy us off. I told them No, we’re not for sale. You know we’re here for a cause and we’re gonna go to that cause. Just like you said, it’s way over here in the future you know. We want that stopped and we want to give that Mother Earth a chance to heal up there and it’ll take a long time to heal up you know but it’ll eventually heal. If they’ll just quit pouring the poisons and the chemicals and mixing it up you know into acid mine drainage. Some of our environmental friends in the Montana Environmental Organization down in Helena said that just digging a lot of these mines up will start creating a thing called acid mine drainage and that’ll start causing its own pollution after a while by just exposing them to the air you know. So that’s what we’re scared of too, is that the poison and the pollution that’s left behind. We came to one point in time where we actually asked them in these environmental impact assessments and statements you’re supposed to be using what they say is gonna happen to the future of that chemicals and poisons you’re leaving behind. They said Oh the future of which is undetermined at this time. In other words they don’t know what’s gonna happen you know and they don’t care because Pegasus Gold is more- getting the gold is more important than the future you know. So that’s about all I have to say and I'm thankful that you guys are bringing out these important questions.
Warren Matt: When I worked for the tribe I had a chance to go down and we took a group of youth down to ( ). And one of the students, they took us around- ITYP they called it. They took us on a tour of ( ) mines and I think this one kid was- this one student was from Rocky Boy but the guy that was giving the orientation on the tour bus was telling how Look what we done over here; look how beautiful it looks; you know reclamation. This one student he says You can never put that back the way it was. And you know to me that student was right. You take a cake recipe, it’s got certain ingredients in it. If you take an ingredient out of that cake mix, you don’t have a cake you know. To me in a way that’s the same thing we’re dealing with regardless of where it’s at; you know Fort Belknap or wherever else. But Joe reminded me and so did Ali; Billy Two Rivers, people from Six Nations came in and we had a big demonstration you know and that was a big factor and it was- you know it was all traditional people. You know they brought some of their spiritual leaders with them, didn’t they? If I remember correctly. Yeah. And so you know that was a big plus; a big help to us. So I guess to me again we can’t let them divide and conquer any longer. You know we’ve got to stick together. You know regardless of what tribe or nation you are; even from Canada, North or South or Central America, you know we’ve got to help each other. And that’s what I told these past few councils you know. If there’s an issue up there in Canada, especially in Canada, we’re the closest, write a letter of support for them and have them do the same thing down here. Like I told you before, I couldn’t believe it in that meeting, water meeting in Billings. They were saying We’re giving all our information to the state and the feds but we’re gonna keep it secret from the Blackfeet. I couldn’t believe that. A very simple tactic; divide and conquer. And it’s still happening today. Joe mentioned it, I’ve mentioned it. You know who’s getting paid off here you know? Who’s benefitting from it? And you know like Joe, if you can’t trust the Environmental Protection, the EPA- and it’s like with our water, Robert- the elders called that Water Spirit that precious sacred life-giving liquid medicine Water Spirit. Without that you know nothing can survive. And I don’t know. I don’t know whether I got off track there or not. [laughter] Again.
FR-?: Were you aiming to go off track? [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: Well I think as far as approaching it worldwide, I think humanity really does need to look at its addictions to energy. It’s almost like stocks. I mean there has to be some middle ground. We need to be able to progress but we also need to use common sense. There has to be some kind of middle ground where it’s not being- these decisions aren’t being made by the people with the money that have no intention of sharing it with anyone so there’s nothing to gain by any of the rest of us. But it’s like diversifying stocks. You know at the point that migration across the plains took place and the buffalo was covering the plains, millions of them speckled these plains and that dependency on the buffalo was taken for granted; they’d always be there. When all of the people, the pioneers, the native tribes, the- everybody that was coming across those plains had- could never envision the loss of that many buffalo. I think- and they were totally solely dependent on them for clothes, for housing, for food; total dependency. Well we’re in the same place now. We are totally dependent on gas and oil. We are totally dependent on resources that even though they seem limitless they’re not. And I can tell you the many stories I’ve heard of the suffering, the- hunger is a terrible way to die. And it was prevalent among so many of the tribes here; horrible way to die. And it was because of that dependency on one food source; one food source; one housing source; one- we have to look. We have to be smart. We can’t repeat that kind of history because there are plenty of stories to support how it ends and it’s not pretty. If we have any sense at all we are gonna have to start pulling from other energy resources; pulling- finding other ways to communicate that isn’t gonna deplete all of our resources; that’s not gonna destroy the sacred waters; that’s not gonna destroy the air that everybody needs to breathe; that’s not gonna destroy our groundwater you know that people don’t even see; all these pipelines that are running underground that nobody acknowledges or can really see. You know eventually they deteriorate. Eventually they burst. Eventually somebody, some generation down the line is gonna have to deal with that mess. Is that the heritage we want to bequeath to our children? So I think it’s really important not to be dependent on any one source for food, clothing, shelter because we’ve seen it before. It’s not the smart way to go. So I would think worldwide we need to address a diversified way of providing that among different communities and resources and looking at more sustainable ways of living. There’s no way this planet can support seven, eight billion people the way that we’re living right now. It’s just not gonna happen.
Joe Gone: Dave Back asked us to consider things that made this effort effective. He also asked if there were any mistakes that happened along the way where you could learn a lesson or do something different. I wonder if there’s any examples of those.
Ali Zaid: I don’t know. I made so many trips up here; drinking the water, eating the food over there in Hays and when I got back home I started having all these stomach cramps and I ended up with H. pylori, which is a bacteria in your stomach. And I was on antibiotics for over a year just to kill this H. pylori. And for some reason it came back. And I finally got rid of it but that was one of the effects. That’s how it affected me. It affected my health. Yeah.
Warren Matt: You know we- maybe I'm too paranoid or superstitious, but it wouldn’t surprise me, and I'm serious, if the Federal Government didn’t do that to you. They done it in Russell Means. They done it in Vernon Bellecourt. The last time Vernon went to Venezuela and met with Caesar Chavez he came back, he got sick and died. And I’ve got a brother, his name is Devalon Small Legs. He’s from Piegan. We took each other as brothers ( ) Alberta, Canada. Anyway, when he moved to- when he first went to Germany he wanted me to go with him. He’s a spiritual leader, a Sundance maker. I think he’s put up four Sundances over there in Germany or in Europe. He’s got a big village of non-Indian Indians and he said they take it serious. He said a lot more than a lot of full bloods do. [short laugh] But yeah, he said- but anyway when Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq, even though they knew there were no such things as weapons of mass destruction over there it was all for the money. Actually it wasn’t for the money. He called me about two years after they invaded Iraq, called me from Germany. He said Warren, he said You know all these groups we’re associated with all over the world, he said We got to Mongolia, we go to China, we go to Africa, we go to Moscow. He said We’ve been all over. He said We come in contact with all kind of different groups. And he said They’ll kill you for talking about this. He said We shouldn’t be talking about this on the telephone he says But we found out the main reason Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. He said It wasn’t for the oil. He said It was for the byproducts of oil that they make pharmaceuticals out of. Said That’s where the big money’s at. And…
MR-?: And I wouldn’t put it past them.
Warren Matt: So you know I kind of wouldn’t past them. But I'm serious, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the Federal Government trying...[cross talk]
MR-?: I thought my telephone was tapped for years. Conversations you could hear in the background; just a lot of click, click, click. A lot of cutoffs. I experienced that a lot you know. I changed numbers like three times.
Warren Matt: We all did. I do. Yeah, yeah.
MR-?: So if you got a bad memory you can use the Freedom of Information Act to remember what you said in those days. [laughter]
MR-?: I might use that. [laughter]
MR-?: What’d you say? [laughter]
Joe Gone: I wonder if we should take a break so we could take maybe…
Mike Gopher II: Can I ask a question first?
Joe Gone: Okay.
Mike Gopher II: You know given the same circumstances as what was happening in the nineties you know if it happened somewhere else, say in Washington, Oregon, you know any parts- anywhere where there’s- you know where they’re gonna find something else, you know because like everybody knows; everybody don’t know everything you know. And like you guys were saying you know when you first started you didn’t really know where to; you know didn’t really know where to turn to. If other people were in the same- were in the same boat right now say in Wyoming or just someplace, you know hypothetical, but would you guys go down there and help them? Advise them? You know because the reason why I'm asking this as- because you know our ancestors just ain’t ours you know. Like I said, what nationalities I am you know. See I'm probably related to Braveheart somewhere back in Scotland. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: Oh that Braveheart. [laughter] ( )
Mike Gopher II: You know and I have ancestors back there. I have ancestors back there you know. The reason why I say this is because like we all know my father here, okay when we went back to Washington, D.C. in ‘95, the Smithsonian flew us over there and you know put us up and they- you know they gave my dad just about everything he needed or what. But they gave us a tour of the whole place; a VIP tour and I was talking with that guy, he was a senior fellow there. I think his name was Cesare Marino, I think. But he worked there at the Smithsonian and I was talking with him, we were walking. Next thing we stop you know. He said Where’s your father? You know and we both turned around and he was stopped way back there. He was stopped. He was praying like that. And I looked back you know because I know my father. I know him you know and for him to be you know just praying in a museum, just stopped out of middle of nowhere you know. I looked at him and he finished so he come walking up to us. And that guy told us he said- that Smithsonian guy he told us, he said You see all these boxes right here; all these ones? He said Those are all remains; all Indian remains he said. He said We’re sending them back to all the tribes you know that they came from. So I thought how did my- you know what happened to my- you know so I kind of you know- I was busy talking with that guy. You know I put it in the back of my mind. I said I’ll ask him later you know. And I did. You know when we went and had supper I asked him, I said, Dad, I said What happened? You know. He said I heard these little voices. He said There was a whole bunch of them. He said I don’t know where they were coming from. He said I don’t even know what- you know what- you know what it was you know. Oh okay. Just like I was telling you, you know his life and me being you know a part of it there’s just so much that it’s unexplainable. It’s unexplainable. You know and well anyways, we had- we had dinner and we went back to our hotel and I was so excited you know because those historians, you know we were talking with them all day and you know and I was writing down my notes you know. I was just you know writing them down and you know and I got- I must’ve just fell asleep. You know I fell asleep and just as I was waking up that door to that closet you know it opened and I could hear thousands of voices in there you know. Scared the living hell out of me. So you know I went to the next room. You know I went to my dad’s room you know and I told him Dad, there’s something over there. I don’t know what they are I told him you know. He said They want food. He said They want to go home. They want food. He said When we get home to Great Falls he said You know we’ll put up a memorial feed. He said You asked them for- you asked them for guidance didn’t you? And I told him No, I was too scared. [laughter] You know but that’s the way he was with things. You know I didn’t know all those boxes were- you know were remains of you know people. And that’s one thing he told me, too, when I was telling him. He says Why do they think Indians are any different than they are? You know Creator didn’t make us any more different he said. He said We eat, we sleep and we do the other thing you know. He said that’s- he said We ain’t any different. Why do they have all these bones and why do they have just thousands of boxes of those things there? You know and I- those are some of the- you know like I was saying our ancestors, our ancestors are all over you know. And that’s- I guess that’s one thing I learned from my father is that- is that you know like I marry a Caucasian or you know but that’s in your mind you know. You know God-wise you know that’s just a woman you know. It’s not- you know we’re the ones that make race a issue. That’s one thing I learned about him. Because he shared you know these sacred- you know these sacred teachings with everybody; anybody that asked him. That’s what I was telling Mike when we were coming here. I said anybody that asked my father, it didn’t matter you know who you were or what you were. As long as you asked in a respectful way you know brought tobacco and you know filled up a pipe the way Joe filled up the pipe or Warren yesterday, that’s you know- that’s all you have to do you know. I want to name my- I want direction; you know my family needs direction. Warren, I think I lost my train of thought. [laughter]
Joe Gone: You guys need a break. [laughter] All right, let’s take a break. Then we’ll come back in 10 or 15 minutes, we’ll have maybe an hour more of a couple more scholars asking questions and then we’ll have the discussion and we’ll be done; paperwork for some of the principals and then we’ll be done.
Audio Ends – End of Panel 3
Panel 4: Scholar Questions (cont.), Missing Info, & Next Generation
Joe Gone: We're starting up again and Shanti mentioned that there was maybe an opportunity to return back to that earlier question about what made things effective and what kind of mistakes might have been made that one could learn from. So Shanti, I’ll let you take it from there.
Ali Zaid: One of the little incidents and I was talking to Joe about this, Jimmy Main and- not Jimmy Main. Who was that? Virgil, Virgil McConnell. Yeah Virgil and Joe and I, well hiked up this mountain. I was trying to get some footage looking down on it. We wanted to get a helicopter to fly around, but we couldn’t do that. So we hiked up this mountain, an hour and a half or so. And I had heard about a security team that Pegasus had. So I was getting ready to stand up and shoot the footage and Joe was like Hey, don’t be standing up, you know Pegasus has got a security team down there. And I could’ve swore I heard some shots go off. [short laugh] And so I got down and I ducked between the rocks and that’s how a lot of the footage is kind of shaky because like it kind of made me nervous. And I ended up getting some really good footage of that mine and that whole process of these humongous trucks coming in, dumping the ore on the leach pad. I got some really good footage, so I used that. So that was one of the neat things. The other thing was how our attorney came about. Paul Zogg, was his name. I was in a coffee shop and I was just telling my friend- I had just come from Montana and this was what was going on and a lady overheard our conversation said You need to go to the LAW Fund; the Land and Water Fund right over on Broadway and maybe they’ll assign you an attorney. So I did. I went over and the lady assigned us an attorney, which ended up to be Paul Zogg. So Paul Zogg worked with us and he was really a smart guy. He worked for nothing. I tried to get him to come but he didn’t want to come; for whatever reason he didn’t want to come. But he was with the Land and Water Fund for about I don’t know, ten years before I met him and then he got involved in Pegasus fighting with us. And it came to a point where he confronted Pegasus and said Well if the water is so pure and so clean and you’re not doing anything wrong, why don’t you drink it? And the word got back to Land and Water Fund, to his boss and they immediately fired him so that’s how he lost his job. So we didn’t have a lawyer but he continued to file. And I mean he was just such a diligent guy. And we brought him in the sweat lodge one time. He would- it scared him because he had never experienced that kind of heat. And he kept telling me Ali, I'm not a spiritual guy; I'm a lawyer. [laughter] But we love him. He helped us out so much.
Shanti Zaid: But didn’t he do that in the trial?
Ali Zaid: Yeah he did it in the trial.
Shanti Zaid: He pulled that thing about your water is- we filled your water with the reservation water, in the middle of the trial.
Ali Zaid: Right, right, right. He did it in the middle- right. He gave them a glass of water. He had it in a little jar. But he’s just such a great guy, man. He just went all out to do so many things for us and never to get recognized. And then when the tribe found out about it, that we were involved the tribe kicked him out; kicked him out and brought in their own lawyers you know and never gave him any recognition for doing anything; none of us really you know. But like Robert said, Robert said We didn’t get into this for the money. We got into this to save Mother Earth and to save these people of Fort Belknap. And so that was just how it was; just kind of relaxed and you know did our job you know. Yeah.
Joe Gone: Okay, the next scholar we want to turn to is Dylan Nelson right here. Dylan, as he mentioned is an undergraduate at the University of Michigan where he’s writing his senior honors thesis of the history of the mine and the fight against it. Dylan, as a student who wants to help reconstruct and tell and share this story what do you most want to know?
Dylan Nelson: So in being here this weekend and the stuff that I’ve read over the past couple of months for me it’s pretty easy to identify a set of concerns and just to me there’s a coherent argument coming from Red Thunder and the rest of the people on the reservation with a few specific points. You know the mines poisoned the water and that directly affected the health of the people from Fort Belknap community. Another level of those complaints is just that it’s not the way you’re supposed to treat a mountain. And now this weekend I’ve gotten more exposure to the spiritual dimensions of the resistance. And so to me and to the people in this room, I think there is a very compelling case that has been made about why these mines were horrific in a lot of ways, but a lot of people didn’t seem to understand why that was the case and what you were saying. So whether it was working with government agencies like the EPA, working with Pegasus, working with reporters, maybe even working with the tribal council. I'm interested in the main ways that you think that your message was misunderstood, what people didn’t understand about what you were saying and about the gravity of this situation. And then I guess a few related questions to that would be- the flipside of that is who was receptive and why do you think they were able to understand what you were saying? And then a couple of follow-ups is what for all of you in the room would constitute justice in this sense? Is it you know the settlement that you made out of court? Would it be return of the Little Rocky Mountains to the tribe? What either in the past or in the future would mean justice to you? And then my final question is, you know we’re here, we’re recording this story, we’re recording all of your memories; who do you want to hear this story the most? Who do you think needs to hear this story the most? Yeah.
Karen Robertson: I’ll do it if you guys won’t. [laughter] No, I think until there is some kind of regulations with these corporations, you know whether that comes from the government or attorneys, you know if we have to sue everybody along the way to get some kind of respect for the earth that supplies all of our needs for life, for basic life needs nothing’s ever gonna change. You know we can recycle all we want, but until there is accountability for these corporations to use moderation in their decision-making they’re the ones that are leveling the forest. They’re the ones that are dumping toxins into our freshwater sources. They’re the ones that you know in-mass, they’re the ones that are deciding where they’re gonna place these pipelines. These are all areas that have to be addressed at the corporate and government levels. And until the people, the larger populations start saying Yes, this really is an issue; No, we’re no longer willing for you to decide our future with your decisions, it’s not gonna do any good. You know we were so blessed to have elders give us an understanding of how to walk on this earth you know and the medicines that were under your feet; you know how to honor that Water Spirit, you know that life-giving Water Spirit that without you know there would be no vegetation without it; you know to appreciate that sunshine. All the things that we take for granted; every breath we take, every step we take, you can’t take them for granted. And because we are walking on concrete doesn’t make the earth any less sacred. Because you don’t see those medicines, because you don’t see those chemicals doesn’t mean that their destructive- well I guess it’s not a purpose, the destruction that they’re causing to what little wildlife and what little health we have. And I look at these kids. Visiting up at Great Falls my own son- you know the things that are coming up for all people because we’ve become this great experiment of technology where these foods and devices haven’t really been tried out on how they’re affecting us. You know the allergies that are coming up, the cancers that are coming up, the autism. The rise in autism is overwhelming. You know just the trends that we’re seeing in a new generation of allergies and not being able to even eat most of the modified foods. It’s just- you know can we just stop and take a step back and look at what we’re doing? And in a civil conversation. You know you don’t- nobody’s threatening these corporations. Nobody’s bombing their buildings or threatening their families. We’re just saying we need to really take a serious look at what’s happening because this is new for all of us. The playing field has been leveled [short laugh] and everybody needs to step back and ask if this is really the sacrifice that we’re willing to make for any future generations; to have a job today, but no way of sustaining life itself tomorrow.
Warren Matt: Like Karen was saying, it’s got to be global; it can’t be isolated. And again like The Creator put the four colors around Mother Earth (Niwah). We call her (Niwah), there’s also spiritual leaders all around mother Earth but they’re not being heard; they’re not being listened to. And they’re the people that should be being heard. I had an adopted full-blooded- I have an adopted full-blooded German man, Ron Hodapp. Our youngest son took him as his brother when he was 8 years old; around 8 years old and when he came to visit us here at Fort Belknap he was going from here to Zuni Country. He was invited there. How he was invited there, from what I understand there was a healer’s conference over in Europe. That’s how they met. Ron heals with his hands just like his dad heals- is a medical doctor over in Germany; was a medical doctor over in Germany. And for those people who chose to, he would heal him with his hands rather than the modern-day medical way. And Ron could also do that. He got it from his dad. Ron also carried a little small dagger that hung around from his neck. And so you know again to me the healers are the spiritual leaders all around (Niwah), Mother Earth Spirit. For whatever reason they’re not being listened to or they’re not being- I don’t know, helping Mother Earth for whatever reason. And you know the large corporations, they have the power because they have the money. And again time is running out you know for us humans. It’s not just here, it’s all over. It’s all around Mother Earth and we’ve all got to try to work together. And like Wes Martel and I were talking about from Wind River we got to educate, we got to organize and together, educate our people on what’s happening you know; what could happen. You know and people that don’t believe in climate change, you know I talked to- right before I came back from Las Vegas and I got back on April 18th and I called Emory Holmes. He’s a Hopi healer that I met out here at Fort Belknap at a gathering last year. And we were talking about the weather is changing all over and he said Yeah, he said The axis of the Mother Earth has changed, has shifted. He said where it’s usually warmer it’s gonna start getting cooler; where it’s usually cooler it’s gonna start getting warmer. We’re experiencing that already. The tornado, somebody mentioned tornado. There has been tornadoes here this year and when these storms hit you know I mean even the weather forecasters on TV, they can’t get it right no more. [bell sound] I mean they’re kind of- it kind of surprises them when they broadcast the weather. And the Eskimos up in Alaska, they used to have one hour of daylight time; now they have two hours. The landmarks they used to use, they said- well kind of an example. The sun would come up over there on that side of that peak; now it comes up over here. Along with them two hours instead of one hour that’s part of the change. And you know these large corporations, they’re taking the money and running. They don’t care. They don’t give a damn about us, the rest of the animals you know- I don’t know whether it was Robert or who it was. They said them elders say the only animal on Mother Earth that can outsmart itself is a human being. [laughter] You know and we’ve been doing that you and know and again take the money and run. To hell with everybody and everything else. You know how do we change that mentality? You know if it’s- I don’t know.
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, I don’t know either.
Mike Gopher I: Can I offer a suggestion?
Joe W. Azure: What’s that?
Karen Robertson: I'm afraid.
Mike Gopher I: A suggestion how to change it? That’s the only way that- you know that you know (cold pond change?) can happen in anybody’s life. Like and all of us experienced this; you know it’s fasting you know. Because you know when I was in the institutions there was this guy in there who was fasting. I think he fasted six days. You know anyways, my dad- you know my dad came in- you know he came into the meeting and that guy came up to my dad and he asked my dad, he said I’ve been fasting. He said Today’s my sixth day he said. He said I want you to pray for me. That guy asked my dad. My dad told him, he said Wait a minute, wait a minute. He said You should be praying for me. He said Because you’re doing the godly thing right now. He said You should be praying for me. And you know he sat there while that guy- you know while that guy tried to you know get his thoughts and everything in order to you know blurt out a prayer. And my dad sat there you know and listened to him you know. And after he got done fasting he came to me and he told me, He said Mike, he said You know I fasted six days and nothing even happened. He said How come nothing happened? How come I didn’t see anything? How come I didn’t dream anything? How come I- he just had all these questions you know. I told him, I said I don’t know. I said Creator will you know- or the spirits, you know they’ll show you in time. And I guess he was sitting there one day and about a day later and there was a bird, there was a bird up on that fence. He said he was looking at that bird and he was saying Geez, I wish I could be free like that bird. You know soon as he said that that bird flew right at him. You know it just come right at him. He said- You know he said he jumped back you know and he was sitting there like that looking for it- you know looking for that- you know that bird you know. And he said it wasn’t in there. He said I swear that thing flew right into me you know. And that stuff, that’s the thing. You know that’s the change that- you know that people need to experience because it only- it don’t teach you just the spiritual aspect of it. Because like this Mike sitting here, his father was really strict. I mean my father was liberal you know compared to his father. And he used to tell us- you know he used to tell us that What you- you know that what you see, what you do you know it’s all seen. You know our lives are already all seen you know. And so when we were little kids we used to go Sundance up here at Rocky Boy. You know we didn’t Sundance because we were just little kids. You know he would make us- he’d make us fast in camp. And then when he would you know- these things that he told me, I never forgot. He said You’re gonna learn that your sister or your mother or your grandma, you know whoever prepares food for you, he said They’re doing that in a loving way you know. Never forget that because you know they’re preparing that food. And when you’re fasting you know you’re hungry, you’re thirsty and everything. And he’d say- you know he’d say like the water, you know you can’t without it you know and don’t take advantage of it. So in a way as little guys I thought he was disciplining us at the same time but also telling us why. You know so that’s what- you know I think you know like if there’s gonna be a change it has to come through fasting you know because that’s the only way that people are gonna feel what this Mother Earth gives to us all the time; every day you know because you’re fasting, you’re sacrificing all that. You’re not eating. You’re just in prayer you know. And that- the discipline it teaches you. See all that discipline coming up as a young kid, I never expected anything. I never expected to go to a Sundance to get a vision or anything like that. I went over there you know because I wanted to be taught discipline. You know that’s what his mentality of it was. You know so as you grow up you’re thinking that way. That’s why this Mike here, he knows; he’s just being stingy with us you know; don’t want to share with us. [laughter] But that’s what I- You know through his father, which was my father too and I you know- these things that he- like my father, I was saying he was liberal compared to his dad. You know like Ali said in that sweat, if any of you have taken drugs or drank in the last four days let the pipe go around. Okay, Uncle Pete used to say if you had any of that you get out and (wash or watch) the door. You know you get out and take care of the door and you know pray in the rocks and everything like that. You know you do that. That’s what he would you know- that’s what he would do. That’s what he would do to us. You know is just tell us that. So I keep- you know if we want change let’s you know- even with ourselves, even with our own selves. Because I’ve been in institutions and you know I know the change that the guys want but they don’t know how- you know how to go about it you know. Jimmy (Mane) used to come in and tell them all the time like they used to- you know they never used to- you know they would try but they would just- you know they would just say Well one night’s good enough; you know that’s all and you don’t even- you don’t feel it. You know not like three, four days you know. But that’s- if we want change that’s the only way you know it’s gonna happen for us.
Joe W. Azure: Shanti.
Warren Matt: I let a little smudge go ( ) go microscopic. Your dad used to always say You talk about these things, try to smudge, they're too sacred. [cough] That’s what I done. But two years, year before last, when did Joe Iron Man pass away? He was a Gros Ventre spiritual leader, a Sundance maker. Anyway, one night he came to me about a year later and what he showed me, he was standing here and I was standing a little bit to his left and what he showed me is these Russian nuclear missiles coming from it seemed like the southwest. And you could look up and see them. And it was like he was trying to get us to go to the mountains with him. When I told Sweetie’s old man, Brock Conway that, he said Robert always said that if that ever happened go to the mountains. The mountains and the trees will protect you from the nuclear fallout; the nuclear waste. And when I talked to my brother, Gary comes that night from Heart Butte, I told him about that. He called me back later. He said My spirit, my grandfather said that’s not carved in stone. He said You can pray that that does not happen. Pray for the unborn and the newborn, the little babies and children. And so basically what you’re saying, the same thing. Nothing’s carved in stone. That’s what his spirits told Gary. You know you pray that that doesn’t happen. But it goes along with the fasting, yeah.
Joe W. Azure: Okay I’d like to say a few words on back to the original question you know about what he asked about; what can we do about the bigger picture of the general population and protection for the environment. I think we got to reeducate our young people to think different; to think you know instead of the economy’s based on big corporate mining, big corporate oil-drilling, you know nonrenewable resources being dug up and used in a environmentally unfriendly way, we got to reeducate the young people to think of let’s find a new way to support ourselves. Let’s start a new economy where we can start cleaning up our messes of our elders, our ancestors that poisoned the mountains, poisoned the mining, dug up the oil and poisoned the water. How could we clean that up? Let’s reinvent new technology in our schools and our universities to think that- there got to be- if we could create a way to destroy it we can create a way to clean it up you know; put our resources into cleaning it up. The whole mind- the whole mindset of the general population, the general public through the young people has to change to how can we, you know stop this type of wasteful economy. There’s got to be a way. The young people got to think of a way to you know clean up- you know clean up their ancestors’ messes that did this pollution and did this mining and this oil drilling and all these other unhealthy things, because it is affecting the health of the people you know; the young people. The oil population has no discrimination; what race, what nationality you are. When you poison and pollute The Creation, the creation of Mother Earth and sacred environment, which we call Mother Nature, then you’re poisoning and polluting your own people, your own kids and grandkids. So I think the ball’s being passed on to the young people to invent new technologies and new ways to do that and they can start by repealing this 1872 hard rock mining law. It’s a stupid law that lets anybody come in and dig up gold and silver you know. What is gold and silver? It’s nothing but a pretty rock, right? The Creator created it to put it in Mother Earth. Just leave it there. It ain’t bothering nobody. You know you don’t have to dig it up and poison and pollute the land and move it over to Fort Knox and dig another whole and bury it you know. To me that’s not right. And to think of new ways to eliminate that 1872 mining law and also the environmental clean-up technology you know through the EPA or whoever, there’s got to be a way to do that. And also the- you know the- there’s just got to be a way you know. I think the young people are gonna have to find that way to do that; to invent these new ways to put things back the way they were as best they can you know. It can’t be perfect the way The Great Spirit created it, but it could be at least minimized and stopped and start recycling like somebody mentioned; more recycling you know. Like these cell phones we’re all using, they got that in them. They got gold and silver and whatnot in them. They could find ways to invent technology and recycle all that and use it over you know instead of digging up a new one over here, a new one over there and piling that in a pile and sending it to China to let the poor people you know recycle it. They’re minimum- you know below minimum wage. I think it’s possible but the whole idea, the whole civil- the civilian’s mindset has to be changed to how do we do this? How do we- you know how do we create a new economy? Let’s recreate our economy to not be so wasteful; not be so destructive. And I think eventually it’ll come you know. And this other stuff these guys are talking about, like those little bodies in those little coffins in the Smithsonian, I was over there back in the day in the early nineties. I got sent over there to lobby Congress to change the 1872 mining law. I went through that Smithsonian and I seen them little boxes, little bodies you know and I asked them what that was. They said Yeah, that’s Indian remains you know; Native American remains. And I was thinking they really must have been small people to be in them boxes you know. But I didn’t know they cut them up and they were examining them you know and testing them out to study them I guess. And then about the same time when we were lobbying for that 1872 mining law to be repealed or either amended, we campaigned in Congress and we lost by one or two votes, I can’t remember what. But all our supporters with the environmental protection; the grassroots people, the nonprofits were supporting us, paying our way over there, I and Charlie (Air?) went back over there to help lobby Congress. And then found out that at the same time we were over there they said even though we lost by one or two votes to get that law repealed or amended you know to help stop and minimize that pollution under the 1872 mining law- that they passed another one called the Indian Graves Protection and Repatriation Act about the same time and they wanted to know if we wanted a copy of it. I told them yeah because our tribes back here in the west we didn’t know about it. All these laws get passed back east. It takes years for them to make their way back west over here you know before they even know about them, much less utilize them. So when we got back I told the tribal government about that and we could utilize that you know. And it’ll help us stop this mining poison pollution because there's a lot of archaeological finds where our ancestors were dug up over there you know in that mine and whatnot. We can use that and that law and our own benefit to help us stop that mining from expanding. They wanted to expand more and more on the Sullivan park leach pad, more thousands of acres being destroyed you know. But we managed somehow and some way everybody worked together in peace and harmony through these prayers, pipe and sweet grass, fasting, sweat lodges, ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, working together in little groups of us spreading bigger and bigger to stop that you know. It took us almost ten years but we finally got it stopped. Now they’re stopped, and which is good, but under this other law called the- what do they call that when they file bankruptcy? The bankruptcy laws, they have to be changed. They got to stop allowing these multinational corporations to file bankruptcy waivers where they get away with everything; they don’t have to pay for their damages or their pollution or clean it up and they pay their executives millions of dollar bonuses and they walk away, leaving the cleanup and the poison and pollution behind for the general public and the poor people to clean up and to suffer with you know. And they just go start up somewhere else. They change their name. It’s no longer Pegasus Gold. It’s some other gold mining company and start up in Africa, China, Japan. Wherever they go they start up again doing the same thing. They don’t really get punished you know. Those laws have to be changed. That’s about all I have to say. Thank you.
Warren Matt: I don’t know whether anything has changed but Wes Martel and I again, we were talking about the damage that was done up there on Fort Belknap and if I understood him right, maybe I didn’t, even though a company has gone bankrupt or has changed their name they’re still liable. Somebody’s still liable for it- maybe I misunderstood him, I don’t know.
Karen Robertson: In the research that I did I found that time after time after time you know like what Joe was saying, it’s like there’s a mining handbook that says You go in and you take out, you file bankruptcy, you leave the waste material for the EPA or other government-funded agencies to come in and do the cleanup. The hit-and-run corporation mentality of they come in, create a bunch of jobs. They reap all their profits, they redirect the money, redistribute it. They file bankruptcy and then another startup; time and time and time again. It’s mind-boggling. It must be written down somewhere [short laugh] you know that this is how you succeed in mining. But if you look at the number of Superfunds in the United States that are waiting for that cleanup to take place, Butte, Montana is one of them; the biggest Superfund in the nation where they did the same thing. They came in, it’s one of the most toxic areas around. You know but they got- they’re charging you know people to see it you know. [laughter] They’re so proud that they’re actually charging admission to go in there and see the most poisonous lake in the world. [laughter] You know but it’s still waiting because the cost is billions and billions of dollars and the queue for these Superfund sites is long. They’re never gonna get to all of them. They’re just waiting in line for money that doesn’t exist because you know we’re already debt and they’re never gonna get cleaned up. And the corporations that left that trail behind are never held accountable, ever. It always falls on the taxpayers, always. So yeah, I don’t know where that information came from but it definitely disagrees with what I’ve been reading.
Joe Gone: Okay. Let me now turn the floor over to Professor Miles, who as a scholar who wants to help reconstruct, tell and share this history, what you most want to know?
Tiya Miles: (whistling) Well one of the things I really appreciated about hearing everybody’s memories and thoughts today is that I'm starting to get a picture and a map in my head of where things were taking place and who was involved; I'm starting to get this sense of what Joe just described of a little group that just kept spreading and got bigger and bigger. And what I'm picturing from what’s been said is that; the southern part of Fort Belknap was kind of a central focal point; that Great Falls was another important point; that Boulder was a key place where support was gathered and people were coming up from Boulder. And what I would love to ask and get a clear sense of is; what are some of the pieces that I'm missing about who other supporters were; where they were coming from; what they did when they were here; how long they stayed? I heard a mention of a demonstration. I'm curious to know where that took place and who saw it and if it was picked up by any media. And I'm also curious to know more about the point, the question, excuse me, that Karen put on the table at the beginning about women’s participation and the women’s roles. So I guess my question is really about try to fill in some of the gaps that are still in the picture in my mind of; where support was coming from, where things were taking place, who was involved; and what these various subsets of individuals and groups were doing for the cause?
Karen Robertson: Well I think we got a lot of support from Canada, too, that really hasn’t been recognized or acknowledged because the- a lot of the reserves up in Canada, they would send representatives down. And a lot of them were relatives, you know Robert’s family you know that were from up there. We had…
Ali Zaid: And in Boulder it was just friends; just people ( ) [too low] and asked them for assistance you know. Here’s a problem, do you want to volunteer and come and help us? And these were just people on the street you know; just regular ole’ people. Nobody really you know from television (laughter) or whatever or a movie star; nobody like that. Just regular people that was contributing their time, a few bucks here to help us to pay bus fare to come up here or gas money you know. That’s how it worked you know.
Warren Matt: Was the ACLU ever?
Ali Zaid: No, no. Just my friends from Greenpeace. That was the only agency that really- we just worked together with that; was Greenpeace, nobody else.
Mike Gopher I: And Billy Two Rivers and his group came over.
Ali Zaid: Yeah, Robert brought him down, Billy Two Rivers from Canada. And we had the conference here at Chief Nosey Center you know. But it was just people from the res and people from Boulder and people from Denver and friends who brought people in you know. They heard about it and say Hey, you know come and help us. So we had a big march and we had Joe and everybody was on- Charlie Arrows was on his horses and riding on his horses. [short laugh] It was just an incredible time you know.
Tiya Miles: Was that in- where was the march?
Ali Zaid: It was right here.
Tiya Miles: Fort Belknap?
Ali Zaid: Oh no, it was at Fort Belknap. Yeah, at Fort Belknap. We was marching from the center, Chief Nosey Center, up to the mine, yeah. And those were just people from Fort Belknap that came out and just friends, yeah.
Joe W. Azure: We had a lot of support from the American Indian Movement. Canada and the United States sent some representatives from the American Indian Movement up to support us. And we got some support from the Montana Environmental Information Center in Helena. Another group out of Bozeman was called the Mineral Policy Center out of Washington, D.C. They gave us a lot of support. I'm trying to think, we had a lot of these environmental organizations that- they actually got us an airplane; I flew over the mines and took some pictures one time. They brought in- a airplane and landed at the Fort Belknap airport and asked if anybody wanted to go with them to tour the mines. I just happened to be there [short laugh] so they asked me to go so I went; a little bitty airplane flying around there. But that- what is that group called; Night Hawk or something? Remember Warren? What is the name of airplane outfit that…?
Warren Matt: I don’t remember that.
Joe W. Azure: But one of them was Northern Plains Environmental Resources Agency or something. They were an environmental group. They got these airplane people, they were a environmental protection group. I forget what their name was; Night Hawk or something but they owned the airplane. They willingly flew us over for free. We didn’t have to pay, which I thought it was a good opportunity. I took some pictures from the air there. And still got some of those pictures, by the way Ali, of me in that airplane above the mines. Pegasus didn’t know I was up there; they’d would have shot us down. [laughter]
Ali Zaid: I could’ve used those pictures.
Joe W. Azure: Yeah. Anyway so yeah and there was different- you know these- they’re still in existence, the Environmental Information Center and then Northern Plaines Resource Council I believe they’re called and the different ones that you know helped fund us- support, like fly us over there to lobby Congress and different things. They paid for this and that. And they helped us, supported us. They helped us lobby in Helena for the- to stop that cyanide mining from spreading in the state of Montana. You know with some of our help, we helped- it spread, even that spread you know. Those environmental protection, we did a lot of help for the general public of Montana. And somebody mentioned it’s all over the United States now. I didn’t even know that.
Karen Robertson: Yeah, I didn’t either.
Joe W. Azure: I didn’t know that that spread that far.
Karen Robertson: That’s pretty impressive.
Joe W. Azure: That’s good you know. Because they were just the opposite. They were planning on expanding that cyanide mining technology that they invented right there in Little Rocky Mountains to tear down whole mountaintops and leach out a few handfuls of gold here and there and then sell themselves on the market, the stock market as being profitable. In reality they weren’t even profitable, I don’t think- you know to tear down a whole mountaintop just for a handful of gold, to me that’s not profit. That’s destruction. And so little things like that I think, if I had to answer some of your questions. And then you got to realize we’re getting old and forgetful. [laughter] So we’re trying to patch it back together. [laughter]
Tiya Miles: But it’s coming together.
Warren Matt: Talk about yourself. [laughter]
Karen Robertson: And I think as far as the women’s role, I'm really trying to think what- some of the specific projects that- but you know again I'm getting rather old myself; not nearly as old as these guys, but still. [laughter] There were a lot of women taking care of a lot of the background stuff; doing a lot of the footwork and the petitioning and the phone calls and the fundraising and, just cooking for all these conversations that were taking place; you know and feeds and ceremonies and organizing you know where and when and how and who and you know all that legwork in the background, as I'm sure you know, [laughter] to make these things happen; to make sure these events take place you know. So I think ceremoniously there was also that undercurrent of ceremony happening where the women were brought in. And as I was saying before, there was- Robert was very- he really promoted balance; balance for the earth, balance for marriages, balance for whatever- whatever it is you’re involved in there has to be balance. There has to be balance. There’s a right hand and a left hand. And if you sway too far one way or the other that’s when you have imbalance and that’s when we’re in trouble. You know well right now the earth is out of balance. And he was raised primarily by his mother. A lot of his spiritual teachings came from his mother because his father had died when he was so young. So there was a lot that he brought into the lodge that maybe probably nobody else- any other spiritual teacher of native teachings probably wouldn’t have done because he kind of had that advantage point and having that male and female part was very important to him in the lodge. Having the male and the female skull, very important to him. It wasn’t one or the other. There wasn’t any one in power. It was a balance you know. It was nature. It’s basic biology you know. It’s the creative process being a mutual event that takes place with both male and female energies and roles. So he was a big promoter of that. And like I was saying you know a couple of days ago as I revisit all these areas I haven’t been in 15, 20 years I see that disappearing and I'm really, really sad to see that because that was not Robert’s teachings. His teachings were very much about having both male and female energy combined for that creative flow, that creative energy. It’s what the basic teachings of the pipe are. If you go into the actual construction of the pipe, it is the way the old ceremonies used to take place in the medicine lodges; it’s how they took place in the sweat lodges. So I'm really sad to see that imbalance taking place, where it’s leaning- I do not see the voice that women had back when we were working on this and Robert was kind of directing things. So I hope women continue to have a voice in what’s happening because those women were in there praying you know and they did have a voice, they did have a say and they helped with the direction and the ideas and the conversation to get, you know who do we need to contact and brought in resources and just laid a lot of the groundwork that made- that allowed the entire process to move forward you know so.
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, that’s true what she said.
Ali Zaid: I remember telling Robert about there was a sweat with all men and he said What if my mom want to come in there, [short laugh] you know? He was really against those divided sweats you know. But you know one thing I- and I don’t want to say anything else after this. But one of the things that I found amazing was that you know this country, this all Indian country. You know I was talking to this lady, she was Navajo, and she said When Creator made this beautiful planet he made four colors of man; one red, yellow, red and white. And he gave their own people their own land; all four continents. And everybody stayed on their land except white people. They migrated; they moved off and started wanting to control everybody else. And I started thinking you know; Africans brought here, slaves, and didn’t become citizens. You know Robert had a 13-star flag. Before he died he wanted me to do a documentary on it. And I was thinking about that flag. That was 13 colonies and only white men were citizens. American Indians didn’t become citizens until 1924. [short laugh] And I mean it just blows my mind you know this is; how they operate. It’s like a mentality out of the norm you know so. Anyway, I don’t want to get caught into this [short laugh] but I just wanted to bring that up. That it was just such a profound you know attitude that they would have against people. I mean they wouldn’t even give citizenship to their own woman you know. It was all about them you know. And everything is still about them. Donald Trump, he’s trying to bring this mentality back with the great American you know…
Karen Robertson: Make America great again. No! [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: I never thought of that, but that’s really bringing that mentality back, yeah.
Ali Zaid: Yeah he want to make America great again. That’s how he’s gonna do it. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, oh my gosh!
Ali Zaid: Anyway, that’s all I have to say. [short laugh]
Joe W. Azure: Okay, Joe anything else?
Joe Gone: So we talked about future generations and reasons for why we want to preserve this story and so I’d like to give the last formal comment or question here to my nephew, my dad’s grandson, Adrian Shawl, he’s here. Because in some ways Adrian is a part of the future of this family, and he took time out of his own day for no particular reason other than interest to come over and look on and listen to what you all had to say. So I'm curious what you’re thinking, Adrian, and what you want to share?
Adrian Shawl: Okay well I haven’t got quite the thoughts all together but I mean that was a lot of information that I’ve learned today from everybody; you know it's just a lot to think about. But let’s see, I noticed how you guys talked about- mentioned or you know the future generation and how it’s up to them to find a way to accomplish what our elders didn’t get to. So that right there, it just- that boggles my mind as well because you know there’s so many thoughts and so many things to- so many concerns to look at- as far as a lot of people in my generation are- the mentality of today’s young generation is way off from you know say two or three generations back you know. And it’s- so what I worry about is how to go about finding other people my age that have the same drive, the same sense of purpose to actually just do right and help this world, like Mother Earth. And you know it’s being destroyed as you guys all pointed out. We ourselves are doing it as humans you know so. So then Mike here, he mentioned you know and I think it really would work, is if everyone you know miraculously, somehow everyone did try to fast and you know did experience you know what they do take for granted every day; to appreciate food and water. You know there’s just a kind of question there as well as; how would a young person like me even go about you know getting younger people in my generation to do that because they’re all caught up in the drugs, the alcohol and all these bad negative influences. You know I would just wonder how to get their attention, how to talk to them or you know just influence them somehow you know. But that’s something we got time to do I suppose but. So you know I'm sitting here listening to all the stories and I also noticed how you guys mentioned a few times how a lot of people these days should start using common sense. Well I heard a saying before; well common sense just ain’t that common anymore. [laughter] So I consider myself as a rare sense I suppose in this day and age. But you know so I’d like to bring common sense back to the common people, you know that would be a start but- Uh so yeah you know I'm sitting here learning a lot today. I never knew that Grandpa Joe actually was a part of a big thing like that. I mean he might’ve mentioned it to me before, but I didn’t really know the story with the Red Cloud or Thunder Cloud group. So you know that makes me honestly proud to be his grandson and I look up to him for that. And it just gives me more of a push to want to accomplish something that like he has or you know find a way to bring people together to unite you know. There’s so much like you guys said, negativity, hatred and greed. Everything’s about money these days. If there’s one big question I got about that is if there was ever a way to eradicate the big problem of money, how would you even start to go about doing that? I mean if money could just go away you know; go back to the old ways of trading and bartering you know; just people being generous enough to even help instead of wanting money or something in return like that. So it’s just a big mentality these days that everything has a price of money and that’s what everyone does; a lot of people, most people. So but me, myself now I'm thinking here today that there was a few times that I thought money was pretty- I mean I only thought of it as important in the way of supporting a family and you know living. But I never actually wanted to go and become rich and I'm glad that I never had enough money like that, too because I could’ve got caught up in the greed and the hatred of that, but so I'm glad that never occurred to me. So I sit here today trying to think of a way to even get involved in this process of helping Mother Earth and helping the people in a true, honest way that will benefit for future generations you know. Like I have a few sons myself. I would not want to have the thought of you know this world coming to destruction in their lifetime you know or our grandkids’ lifetime. So if there’s anything I can do I would really want to try to do something. You know another question I would have is to the elderly people in here, is I guess any advice or any input on how a young person like myself could get involved accomplishing such feats you know; to even go about a journey to that extent. It sounds like a long, hard road but to me all I could think is it’s worth it you know. I mean I'm just one person but I would like to get other people involved in the future you know along the way. You know and so I think I’ll just leave it at that before I start going off track. [laughter]
Warren Matt: Well you’ve got on your side, you’ve got age; you’re young. The other thing is; don’t listen to this guy. [laughter] But you’re hungry, you want to learn that’s good. And it’s like- I don’t know, like a lot of us; like Ali, Joe and myself, not Mike. I mean both these Mikes, they were kind of raised that way. And Joe you know we didn’t start getting involved in these sacred ways till we were getting up there in age you know and so again you got your age in your favor. And another thing is one of the prophecies I heard is that; you take a clock and you look at the face of it, where it started and you start at midnight; I mean you start at 12 o'clock and the hand goes around. The prophecies foretold of the coming of the (non-Indian). Then they were gonna take our religion. Then they were gonna take our language. But then you get around 6 o'clock that hand starts coming back up again. And part of it is the younger people, younger generation will start bringing our ways back, which is happening. We used to be- at Fort Belknap, we used to be standing at that fire waiting for them mud rocks to heat. Some of our own family members, some of our own relatives, some of our own friends- Look at those devil worshippers. Now them same people are in that sweat lodge with us or in that Sundance lodge or they’re fasting on the mountain. And they’re teaching the Indian languages in the schools. So that prophecy is coming back around. You heard that saying The circle is gonna become complete again? It’s heading in that direction. So there’s hope out there. That’s the way I look at it you know. But when your grandpa here starts talking about his snagging don’t believe him. [laughter]
Karen Robertson: Oh believe him. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: Anyway, I want to thank you guys for gathering up here on behalf of my son here. I'm really proud of him to bring us all together. Without his push behind the shove I don’t think we’d all be here. And like me, I'm old-fashioned. I’d rather just lay back and sweat and kick back and take it easy. But these things are important you know to record them for our future generations. And I was just thinking, I was just looking at us and hey, there’s three generations of us right here. It just now struck me you know; my son and his nephew. So that’s even good you know. That’s a great thing just to see that. So kind of family get-together at the same time and educational for the future generations at the same time. And on a funnier note I was just watching the news before I came over and speaking of we’ve got to bring back women and children into the group, you know I'm all for that. You know on a positive note, Mick Jagger’s expecting another baby. [laughter] I guess his girlfriend, who’s 29, is expecting a baby so that’s his eighth child and he’s 72 years old. (cross talk) He’s got me beat on the snagging part. [laughter]
Tiya Miles: Oh Mick has some competition.
Warren Matt: It’s not public information yet, but Joe W. Azure is, too. [laughter]
Joe W. Azure: Anyway, anything else Joe on final words for- we got to get going here pretty soon.
Mike Gopher I: Can I request something here? You know before we go you know we- because I got to get back to Spokane. My son-in-law works in the morning and he wants his car. But I would like to have a prayer for all of us that- maybe this young guy here, too, because you know he’s here for a reason. You know if you don’t know it right now but he’s here for a reason. This is the way I was with you guys you know. I didn’t know. I had- you know I had a bunch of questions, ideas and I had the energy. You know I had the energy then. But you know but that’s what I want to you know ask for this- my young brother here to- you know that he’d be, you know that he'd be guided. But also that you know somehow, some way you know this could be done again next year because it’s- you know it’s really needed you know. Because look at this guy here. This is probably gonna- Shanti, it’s gonna- you know they’re gonna be thinking about this for- I know I am because I got some good information here and you know it made me feel good to sweat yesterday. You know even Mike, you know he was- you know he was dreaming he was in a teepee. The next thing he was in a teepee out there you know. And you know and I told him, I said We’re guided. We don’t know. You know we don’t know you know but we are. Every single one of us because every one of us has a bit of God in us you know; some more than others. But you know we’re still- but I- you know I really feel good. I really thank you, Joe and- is it Tiya?
Tiya Miles: Uh huh.
Mike Gopher I: Yeah I really thank you guys. Last year we had a good one, it was small, but this year it’s getting bigger. Next year I’d like to see this place packed you know. That’s what I’d like to- you know I’d like to see because it’s worth it you know- to get the elders- my dad, that’s where he got his information from. The elders, they used to gather and he used to go sit over there you know and just listen you know; listen to them tell stories and you know. But I'm like this guy. I have a lot of questions and a lot of times I used to ask my dad too many questions you know because he used to get tired of me you know. Because I’d ask him you know- because this is what he would tell me. I’d say Dad you know why we doing this? You know after questions all day and he’d look at me, he said Oh that’s just the way it’s done and that’s the way it’s always gonna be done. [laughter] You know so I’d tell him, I'd tell him Dad Is that what I'm gonna tell my son? I tell him You know I want to be able to show him you know everything that you know you were shown. That’s why I'm asking so many questions you know because I want to know. It’s not that I doubt, it’s that I want to know. So you know like Dylan there, asking questions; you know that’s how you, you know you get to know. And us as elders, we have to take that you know and say hey, You know I’ll take the time to explain it to you you know. But you know let’s do it in a- let's fill up your pipe or sage you know or we'll do it in a- you know we’ll do it in a old traditional way. See that’s what you can- that sage your grandpa has right there, you could take some any time you want. Any time you want some just you know or a cigarette, you know take it to him and ask him Here you know that’s the old traditional ways. Like the songs I sing in the sweats, I don’t sing the songs that I- you know I didn’t fill up a pipe to get that song. I don’t sing them you know because it wasn’t- we just weren’t taught that way. You know the things we use, the things we get, you know we got them in a right way. Our dad used to say If you don’t get them in the right way they ain’t gonna work for you. [bell sound] You know that’s what he used to say. And he said You’re putting your family at risk. That’s what he’s used to say you know by you know- by just inventing things or you know or stuff like that. But that’s not respecting our elders. You know how we respect our elders is with tobacco. Bring them tobacco. Ask them. Ask questions. That’s what I did as a young man. I used to you know filled up a pipe you know for my dad and asked way too many questions. But you know that was just the way I got my understanding. Because I'm handicapped. I had a traumatic accident when I was young. You know my- it was an accident. I fell on my head. I almost left this world. But you know for some reason you know they kept me here. And you know today I see why. You know and you will too eventually. You know so just remember that; tobacco you know with your elders all the time.
Joe Gone: Any other final comments before I turn it over to dad to close us out?
Warren Matt: On the other hand your dad used to say Listen to this. This doesn’t belong to me. Learn this.
Joe Gone: Dad, how should we finish up?
Joe W. Azure: Well I think they requested a prayer for Mike here to have a final prayer.
Joe Gone: Okay let’s shut these recorders off then.
Warren Matt: Did your questions get answered?
Tiya Miles: Yes, they did. Thank you.
Joe Gone: All right.
Audio Ends - End of Panel 4
End of Session
Joe W. Azure: …My son, Joe Gone, Professor Gone and we were thinking about he wanted to do a follow-up on some of these environmental problems we’ve been having, not only here but everywhere with the mines and the different big industry, big corporations going around poisoning and polluting our mountains and our different natural environment. Anyway, we kind of- this kind of came together about that about a year ago and we were thinking of where to have it you know; to do some interviews for oral history and stuff. And I got to thinking well this is where for us it all started with Red Thunder versus Pegasus Goldmines up here in the Little Rocky Mountains. Back in 1978 I was coming from North Dakota. I was at my father-in-law’s ranch, Bill (Hall) over there and I was working with him, helping him out around the ranch. And we was coming back to visit my Grandma Annie ( ) and we stopped halfway from Malta over there and I looked up here and I could see that big hole they chiseled out of the mountains up here above Zortman. And I got to thinking you know that mine, we never realized how bad it is and it seems to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger. ‘Cause we didn’t know what they were doing up there. We just heard they were mining is all. We didn’t know anything about it. And I got to thinking you know that’s not good. They look like they’re chiseling the mountain down; tearing it down a little piece at the time. That’s not good. And as kids we grew up in these mountains. We used to hunt and fish and hike and you know swim and drink water out of these mountains. And then after the mines came in we’re scared to do it because they use a lot of poisonous chemicals; cyanide, arsenic, lime; different things to mine that gold out of there with you know. And so we kind of started talking amongst ourselves, I and Robert Gopher and Ali and Hank Chopwood and different ones. We started talking amongst ourselves about something should be done about that. I wonder if we could organize something and- so about the same time Robert was gonna start this organization called Loud Thunder for traditional cultural purposes; to preserve traditions and culture and try to get some land to practice you know round dances and stuff on and ( ) there. Anyway and we started- he started that organization with the help of his kids and then he told me that we could use the same organization called Chapter of Loud Thunder and then somebody didn’t like it. They thought they’d get sued you know; the big Pegasus Gold Mining would sue the company and it would backfire on him. So they recommended us to start our own nonprofit organization. So we did. We decided to start another one called Red Thunder Incorporated and we started that one and we got organized and then I advertised for a lawyer and we got a guy from Chester, Montana named Don Marble to volunteer to come and help us with environmental laws. Then he knew this other outfit in Denver and we got a hold of this other guy down in Denver. His name was Paul Zogg. Was that you, Ali?
Ali Zaid: Yeah.
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, Ali helped us get a hold of this environmental law firm called Land & Water Fund out of Denver and they were environmental attorneys; the whole group of them. And then the one guy they chose to help us was Paul Zogg. He helped us with this environmental law stuff.
So we started filing briefs against the mining company and the Interior Board of Land Appeals back east in Arlington, Virginia. And we won a stay, an injunction against the mine. They were trying to expand it over ten times since 19- I believe it was 1978 or ’74. I can’t remember. They expanded several times without even environmental impact statement or environmental impact study of any kind being done up here; just tiering it; tiering it one expansion on another. And in the meantime they were causing a lot of destruction. We noticed the fish were disappearing, the deer were disappearing. The grass and the trees were dying along the creeks and the streams where they were flushing their poisons down. So we noticed there was something wrong so we started investigating it ourselves and doing it all on our own you know pretty much. We didn’t have any funding from any government so there was nobody; the tribal government, nobody was helping us. We was doing it on our own you know; just a small group of traditional people here in Fort Belknap. And my brother-in-law, Robert Gopher, and his family down there in Great Falls came down to support us. So we worked pretty hard you know and then we had our friends from Denver; Ali and some others come up and support us you know and take videos. And we made a few documentaries. One of them is called Indian Tears of Love. It sure helped out. And what’s that other one, Ali, that other video we made?
Ali Zaid: Extinct Civilization.
Joe W. Azure: Extinct Civilization we made right here; right out here in this area. That’s why I was thinking that when my son, Joe, asked me to- you know try to do some oral history on that that I’d like to do it where it all started; right here; started right here in this Big Warm area; this valley, this Big Warm Valley. It started with a sweat lodge, with prayers, ceremony, suffering. You seen us working around here sweating. That’s our Indian way. We put sacrifices ahead of ourselves to practice our ceremonies and our culture and our traditions. It’s not like on Sunday we just walk into a church and you know pray for forgiveness and walk out; everything’s taken care of. This, our Indian way, we do sacrifices and suffering. I’ve fasted in these hills and mountains for four days at a time without no food and no water to learn more about The Creator and the sacred ways of how the Mother Earth produces everything. You know all our Indian ways are connected to the spirit world and the Mother Earth. And that’s where it all comes from. And our ancestors’ teachings were handed down through oral history. A lot of them are not written down anywhere. And sometimes we carry these ways in a sacred way which means they’re sacred or secret because just certain few could be trusted with them; not to put them up to seek glory or seek monetary gain you know. So with that I would like to pass the sweet grass around and ask the- ask my son, Joe Gone, to talk and then from there we’ll all take turns talking. Talk a little bit about you know how we’re going; what we’re doing here I guess.
Joe Gone: Well first of all, I have to give dad credit for the idea of bringing us out here to your land and starting us off with ceremonies and a way of kicking off people who don’t necessarily know each other, getting to meet each other, getting to interact; putting up a teepee and bringing a lot of people together to interact. And it’s a way of getting comfortable. And so I appreciate that idea. I'm glad it’s coming to pass the way you imagined it. That’s gratifying. Tiya and I last year, year before last when we were down in Bozeman visiting Montana State University, I was affiliated with the Native American Studies program there and one opportunity we saw was to try to rekindle some of the memories about Red Thunder as it undertook anti-mining work in the 1990’s. I was just coming back to this reservation in that time period. I remember coming out here and seeing what was going on a few times. I sweat with dad and with Robert Gopher one time that I recall and was aware of all the activities, although not as in-depth and close-up as I wish I had been now. Because this is the kind of story you don’t hear about very often, which is a story in which a big multinational corporation that’s bound for profit for its stakeholders will mow over everything and everyone in its way to make rich people richer. That’s the way of the world in which we live and it’s very infrequent that people are able to stand up and say Hey wait a minute. That’s not gonna work here. That’s not how it’s gonna play out. And oftentimes when it happens it doesn’t matter; they get mowed over anyway. But I was privileged to be working for the Tribal Council in 1996 and the tribe was asked to sign a Consent Decree between Red Thunder and the tribes here and maybe the ZPA or the BLM, different government agencies to basically allow the reservation to get some kind of resources, reparations to help clean up this mess even though the mining company wouldn’t have to admit wrongdoing in doing so. And I remember in the council chambers that time, I forget how many councilmen we had voting, maybe ten. And it was not clear what people were gonna vote because some people wanted to fight them in the courts and make them say that they had done wrong and make them pay millions and millions more than they would’ve had to under this Consent Decree. Whereas other people thought that all the lawyers in the world that any tribe could get wouldn’t be enough to fight this corporation. So the vote came down tied up to one last councilman that was dad’s cousin, William Snuffy Main. I remember Snuffy getting up in the chamber and saying Well I don’t know what to do so whether to accept this decree or not. I'm just gonna flip a coin. So he took a quarter in the chambers and he tossed it and it landed on the floor and he walked over there and looked at it. Picked it up said Yep, it’s heads. I guess we’ll sign. So the tribe signed the Consent Decree and got a million and a half dollars or something to start cleaning up the water and whatnot. Not that long thereafter the mines declared bankruptcy and left a big mess up here; forfeited their bonds, which of course couldn’t partially even pay for cleanup. It’s ongoing today, I believe, still whether more money will come from the government to help clean up this mess. But the fact that they had to declare bankruptcy after being caught doing wrong by local people like Red Thunder, like my dad and these other people you’ve been talking about, there’s a story that needs to be told because most people when they see a situation like this can’t believe they can make a difference. But sometimes by miraculous circumstances a difference could be made. So that’s the interest that Tiya and I have in wanting to make this story a little more publicly known so that around the world people could learn that sometimes you can put a stop to things that are being done that are wrong when it seems like there’s no chance or no hope. So I'm really honored that we’re all gathered here today and glad that a lot of my family are here I don’t get to see very often. I'm glad that friends are here, people we’ve met before and some new people we haven’t met. Because it’s people coming together that make good things possible like they did in the ‘90s and like they can do now and like they’ll do in the future. So I'm just pleased and honored that you all came. I'm glad that you’re here and I'm glad to be sitting with you here and hearing what all we have to say as we think and talk about these matters. Thank you.
Joe W. Azure: Very good. ( ) [too low] Anything else?
Joe Gone: That’s it for now.
Joe W. Azure: You want to pass that sweet grass around? Anybody wants to talk go ahead. Shanti you want to say a few words?
Shanti Zaid: Well I was pretty young when my parents were coming back and forth up here to the reservation and working with Robert. But I remember Robert coming down to Boulder a bunch of times, as well, and hanging out with him there. And I remember just a whole series of sweat lodges and I don’t know if they were in Colorado or up here, it all kind of blends together. But I definitely remember that the sweat lodge was kind of the core of everything that we were doing; that they were talking about. The conversation was always filtered through that spirituality and through a sacred understanding of the world. It was never- it wasn’t the same kind of environmentalism that’s you know “we need to survive in the world” and “we’re just destroying too much.” But it was a kind of relatedness to the earth, a relatedness to the elements and something much more akin to hurting a family member. That was how this gold mining company was understood; the kind of damage that they were doing. And I remember lots and lots of road trips coming up back and forth from Colorado to Great Falls and to Fort Belknap and how long it took, you know; just the amount of effort and work driving back and forth and back and forth and constantly having meetings and constantly having sweat lodges, and trying to just figure out new avenues and new strategies and building such strong relationships in the process. And looking at different kind of political struggles now it’s- you know you kind of see it as kind of this really hardship that’s involved and people really suffering. But my memories of all of the work and the activism was just people joking all the time, people laughing all the time; just being creative, trying to think of new things and just you know the kind of spirituality that was at the core of it and the humor that was at the core of it is really strong in my memory; so this whole process of coming- figuring out the ways to address this gold mining company. So those are some of the memories that stick out for me.
Ali Zaid: Keep going.
Shanti Zaid: We’ll be around later. It’s your turn. I don’t think I have anything else to say at this point. [laughter, cross talk] ( )
Joe W. Azure: Hand it that way.
Shanti Zaid: All right.
Joe W. Azure: Your turn to say a few words, Ali.
Ali Zaid: Okay. Well I'm grateful to have this opportunity to come back together again and talk about this. It’s been so long since we had a chance to get together like this. I'm grateful for Joe for bringing us together here and grateful for The Creator allowing him to do that. ( ) So I'm grateful for all of this time that we have to get together to talk about it. It was my understanding that Robert was curious about this article that he read in the newspaper and it talked about Pegasus Gold and them using cyanide. And Robert said Well isn’t cyanide what they use to kill people? And he mentioned that to either Joe or David up there and David told him that Yeah that’s what they use cyanide for. So I guess that’s how the conversation got started and I had no idea what was going on. On my end that’s what was happening. Robert was involved, Joe was involved, David was involved and I had no idea about Montana or Fort Belknap or anything. But I started having visions and dreams. I'm reading this book called Medicine Woman and somehow that book touched me and it started- it triggered something in my brains; in my mind. And so I went on this search for a medicine man. It took me three weeks of asking everybody Do you know an Indian? Don’t you know any medicine people? And they were like, No man, we don’t know anybody. And it took me three weeks. I finally went to this restaurant one night and the lady said So you read any good books lately? And I said Yeah, I'm reading this book called Medicine Woman. I said I'm looking for a medicine man. Well let me go call my girlfriend. So she called her girlfriend and came back and gave me a phone number. She said Well he’s coming to Boulder- he’s coming to Boulder next week. So I called the phone number and I went to meet him and when I walked into the building it was a little late and I just sat by the door and Robert was up there talking. In my dream I had seen Robert’s eyes and that was a vision. He was sitting on my sofa, I have an L-shaped sofa and he was sitting on that end and I was sitting on this end and I was laughing and crying, laughing and crying. And that was a dream. Well when I went to see this guy and he took off his glasses and I looked in his eyes and I knew that was him. So he looks at me back there and he’s like Hey are you ready to go sweat? I didn’t even know what a sweat lodge was. So we went and sweated and when we got out there we went in the sweat lodge and probably the most intense heat I’ve ever experienced in my life. But he said What’s your name? I said My name’s Ali. Yeah Ali what took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you. So that’s how it began with me. And so long story short, he brought me up here or came up here to visit and he says Well I want you to- I'm gonna take you out to meet your brother. His name is Joe W. Azure. I said Okay. So I came out and that’s how I met Joe. And then Joe took me around and started showing me all the people that was damaged by the mining company and hair falling out, deformities; all kind of stuff going on. And it had such an impact on me until I couldn’t resist getting involved. So I went back and I sold my car. I had a little sports car. I sold my car and I bought a camera and I came up here and I started filming. And that’s how it began. It seemed like every time I’d come up Robert, like Shanti was saying, he would throw me in the sweat lodge. Hey we need to pray first. We need to pray first. And so we did a lot of prayers; a lot of prayers. And then I would have maybe- I’d stay here for a week and we’d sweat maybe four days out of the week and then have to rush shooting that last day, trying to get as much as I could done and then I’d go back. So that went on for about a year and then he called me up and said Ali, we’ve got to put it together now. So I ended up- I had over 60 hours. I had almost 70 hours of footage and I had to narrow that footage down to 50 minutes and I didn’t know what the beginning of it was gonna be like. I didn’t know what the video- I didn’t know anything how it was gonna- what was gonna be the starting point. And so I was at Joe’s place one night afterwards and was talking to this lady and I was- I said I’ll put my camera up just for the heck of it and that ended up to be Rose Main. And so Joe was telling her about Hey Pegasus is up there destroying the land, doing all this and she says I can’t believe you know they’re doing this and she started crying. And that was the beginning. That was the opening part of the documentary right there with her crying. That’s why it’s called Indian Tears of Love. So from that point with all this footage, had to narrow it down to 60 minutes or 55 minutes. It all came through because of my dreams. My dreams showed me everything. They said Put this in, put this in. This is what that- and I couldn’t wait to wake up, I couldn’t wait to go to sleep. They were kicking in. It was so intense; it was so intense. I’ve never been involved in such an intense project. I really didn’t have anything to do with it. It was just Spirit that guided me through all of this. And Robert kept saying- Robert kept saying We’re getting help from my brother, Ali. And, He’s the one that I had a dream about; and My brother’s gonna help us do this; He’s gonna help you; His name is Pete. He kept saying You remind me of Pete so much. And so I started putting everything together, putting everything together. He gave me three weeks to organize everything and that was the most intense three weeks in my life. But we did it and when- we never got any credit for what we did; never did; never got a thank you card; never got nothing. And I was really upset over it and Robert said Hey Ali we didn’t get involved in this to get money from it or recognition. We got involved because we’re trying to save Mother Earth and we’re trying to save these people, help these people out here from this Pegasus Gold, which I found out was the third largest gold mining company in the world. So then I kind of relaxed and I understood. Yeah, you’re right Robert. You’re absolutely right. You know we didn’t get in this for the money. And now here it is what, 30-some years later Joe Jr. gets involved and sees all of this and finally we get to talk about it; how it happened. It was a challenge, it was a struggle that they- that Pegasus, they had their own security team. They shot at us going up that mountain; hiking up that mountain and they poisoned that- what was that, Warm Springs out there where those little fish were? You guys used to swim out there?
Joe W. Azure: No, Big Warm.
Ali Zaid: Big Warm, yeah.
Joe W. Azure: Big Warm swimming pool.
Ali Zaid: Yeah, swimming pool. They- we went out there for the kids to swim and they had put poison in there. Killed all the fish.
Joe W. Azure: All the fish were floating dead.
Ali Zaid: Yeah all the fish was floating dead out there; just incredible what they did. They ran people off the road but we never stopped you know. So I thank Creator for that experience and I thank Joe Gone here for being such an instrument to bring it to life and let people know that Spirit is alive. And I found out that money don’t run this universe or this planet. It’s Spirit that does that. And if you tune into it you know it guides you. It’ll show you everything to do. So that’s been my experience with it. And before I forget, so I had it all put together in my mind, just to go back just for a second. I had it all put together in my mind and had written out the narration, how it was gonna be narrated and I didn’t know who was gonna narrate it. Karen was working at the time and Karen came home from lunch. I said We need to do this right now. You need to take your lunch hour and do this narration. So I recorded the narration. I went into the studios, I laid it down, and boom, that’s how it all came together. It’s an incredible story. Yeah. So it just shows that like Joe was saying, it was only Joe and I and Robert and Paul Zogg. That was it; nobody else that really got involved in it you know. Later on it was funny how I met Paul Zogg because I was in a coffee shop and the lady overheard my conversation and that’s how the LAW, Land & Water Fund came about. And she said Oh you need to go see them. And I did and the lady in charge put Paul Zogg in charge of us. And Paul worked his butt off. He worked his butt off without any money; just totally pro bono. And then to have the tribe kick him out at the last minute and they get rewards for all this and he never got a thank you. That’s why he’s not here you know. He just- nobody ever recognized him for what he do. I told him Come and be a part of it but I couldn’t convince him to come. But I'm glad I can share that with you. I had a dream and the dream told me to write down how this all happened. So I started writing down- I haven’t finished yet but what I have done is the part that how I met Robert and if you’re interested in that I’ll make you a copy of that and then give it to you. Okay.
Joe W. Azure: Good one, Ali. Thank you.
Ali Zaid: ( ) [too low]
Dylan Nelson: I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Dylan Nelson. I'm a student from the University of Michigan and this is a remarkable and a unique opportunity for me. So I first just wanted to express gratitude to Tiya and Joe for taking a chance on me and then to the rest of you all for welcoming me. It’s very rare that you get an opportunity to interact with something that seems very remote from your regular life. You know I'm from Chicago, I live in Michigan. But in fact this story is intimately connected to my life in a lot of ways and it’s connected to all of our lives both in material and ideological senses. But just to reiterate what other people are saying both also in spiritual sense, so I'm really grateful for that. And then also just for the opportunity to be uncertain of myself and to have no opportunity to do anything but listen. And so yeah, I'm just grateful.
Ali Zaid: Great.
Joe W. Azure: Thank you.
Karen Robertson: This is gonna surprise everyone but I remember significantly more than a lunch-hour break and a narration [laughter] as far as my involvement with this whole project. [laughter] It was as Ali said, extremely intense. We were welcomed into a world that was foreign to us and embraced by everybody that was being brought together in a united front to protect Mother Earth. Robert was an incredible spiritual leader and mentor and helped everyone have a new way of viewing the world and the universe they live in. And in one of his talks you know he always had a way of bringing everybody to look at things in a unified manner. You know it all comes down to it doesn’t matter who you are, what your religious background is, what your cultural background is, what your economic background is. You know we all have the same needs; the same basic needs for clean air, clean water and clean food. You know that’s our health and that’s our life. And he was never an angry man. He always presented himself very calmly and he educated himself as many of the environmental issues that were existing here and then he set about educating everybody else but as Shanti said within the context of the sweat lodge and within the context of prayer and I think that’s the difference and I think that was the way that we accomplished as much as we did accomplish. There were a lot of people making a lot of things happen. You know we had a small budget and pulling money out of the air was one of the games that we started to play [short laugh] and how people, the right people would come in at the right time. The money would be there when you needed it. We met- I feel incredibly honored to have met what I believe were some of the last few true traditional elders that were alive at the time that still practiced these traditional ways. And being a part of that experience transformed the way I think, the way I live and the way I believe. And I will forever be grateful for the experience and coming up here to Fort Belknap made all the difference. It took us out of the city, number one. It placed us in an environment where we were in a healing environment; where we were fasting, we were praying, we were sweating, we were you know eating together, talking together. It was a unified community of people from all walks of life saying this earth matters. This is our mother, it takes care of us all. And Robert would get up to those corporate people and say You know don’t you have kids? Don’t you have kids? That’s all this is about you know; future generations. They need growing vegetables; they need wildlife; they need the fish. And the devastation and destruction that was taking place was everywhere. It wasn’t just Fort Belknap. As they started looking more and more into these mines and how they worked, nearly- especially after Indian Tears of Love came out I remember all these reservations and councils calling Ali up and you know Come down to our reservation; it’s happening here to. Come down to our reservation; happening here too. You know this 1872 mining law is part of all the public land, giving pretty much free access, $5 a acre to these corporations that can come in, file a mining claim and public land primarily borders on reservations. It should be a huge issue for every reservation out there because they border public lands. And that was a primary focus that Robert tried to make over and over again. This is affecting native people everywhere but this is everybody’s problem. It’s everybody’s problem. But that’s why it was such a central issue to the native people; not just at Fort Belknap but every single one of them that bordered on public land. And it should matter to everyone that lives near those areas because those are the immediate areas that are being contaminated and it’s throughout the world. It’s throughout the world. Canada owns 85% of these mines; of these mining companies are coming out of Canada and they’re worldwide. And the fact that they can come into the United States, Africa, Asia, wherever they are, file a claim, make their profits, file bankruptcy and then leave the area as devastated and stripped as they do is unthinkable. It is inhumane. It’s just wrong. Don’t you have kids? Don’t you care about your kids; your kid’s future? It was eye-opening in every sense; mentally, physically, spiritually. I am very, very indebted to everybody that was a part of that. Robert and his family, Joe and his family, the Canadians that were coming down to support and show their solidarity and share their history, their stories; what’s happening up in Canada. People need to educate themselves on what’s happening in their backyards. Because it’s happening in Michigan. They’re having a big ceremony up Lake Huron around the Great Lakes area this weekend too for all the toxins that are being dumped into those lakes. You know Flint; you know the big Flint news. These environmental issues are affecting everybody and everybody needs to start waking up and either stopping it or you know wait for the inevitable. And I don’t- don’t you have children? [laughter] Did you want ( ).
Tiya Miles: I feel very grateful that Joe W. Azure said yes to the idea that we might come and be able to learn more about what happened here and to record it and to make it accessible to lots of people. I think it’s so important. And I'm also grateful to everyone who’s here; who accepted an invitation to come from far away and to be here with us, try to connect with each other and to learn together about what took place and how we can reconstruct it and share it. I think I will say here something I don’t really say, which is that I'm someone who when I was in college I was all about the black world. I studied Black Studies. I was co-editor of the black literary magazine, I was in a black dance group. And I thought that African American history was the history and the black struggle was the struggle until I met Joe and realized that native people have faced just as much as black people. And before Africans were ever brought to this country native people were enslaved here. I learned through knowing Joe that many of these struggles that we view as being separated are actually connected and intertwined that the attacks on marginalized populations are interconnected. And so I think that the defense has to be interconnected, too. I started doing research on African American and Native American histories out of that experience and I’ve been doing that for quite a while in my career. But at some point I realized that if there’s no Earth it doesn’t really make a whole lot of difference to be doing African American history and Native American history; that the environmental issues are so pressing and the things that all humanity and nonhuman persons face in the future are so dramatic and dire that I felt that I had to start tending more closely to environmental challenges. And so it just so happened or maybe didn’t just so happen that Joe Gone and I started thinking about Red Thunder and wondering if there was a way that we could learn more about it. And that led to a series of smaller things that has led to this bigger thing and I hope to bigger things to come because I really agree with what’s been said already; that we need hope. I feel like we need hope. Humanity…
Karen Robertson: You think? [laughter]
Tiya Miles: Yeah, we need hope. And so finding these stories, that can just light that little bit of hope for people I think is so crucial. And that’s really why I want to be involved in this.
Karen Robertson: Nice.
Rosalyn LaPier: Well I just want to begin by saying thank you for the invitation to come and be a witness to this process that you have begun and as a historian and as a native person I think stories are really important and I think both telling stories and recording stories are an important part of what we should do as a community. And I think that this particular story is something that really should be told, continue to be told and be recorded for future generations to know about. And I think a lot of times in the world that we live in some of these stories where it is people in the community who are doing the work often don’t get recorded and don’t get told or passed on and the stories that we get told are the stories where it’s a large nonprofit or a large NGO that’s the one that gets the credit for some of the things that actually happen really at the grassroots level. So I think any type of process where the community itself begins that; doing their own storytelling I think is extremely important. And I just want to thank you for inviting me again and my family to be a witness to this process. Thank you.
Joe W. Azure: Thank you.
Connie Azure: I think I'm with Paul Zogg, Ali.
Ali Zaid: Yeah.
Connie Azure: I was videotaping Ali earlier on my phone and I looked at him and I said Ali do you think this would’ve ever happened; we would get recognized or you guys would get credit for the work you did? He said Yeah I knew it; I knew you would. I think I was 15, about 15 years old when dad put me as Secretary-Treasurer of Red Thunder. [laughter] Writing grants at 15 years old and trying to take down multimillion dollar mining companies.
FR-?: You go, girl.
Connie Azure: I remember a lot of hard work and a lot of sweat and tears and by the grace of The Creator they got it done. And I remember a lot of our people shunned us and my dad would be getting threats and people trying to fight him. We literally went through hell and back for this project ( ). It was really upsetting when the tribe came in and let them settle for what, a million and bankruptcy. The hard part’s over. We got the mining company out and- I came from North Dakota and I just want to thank my brother Joe for inviting me. I swear The Creator was working getting us out here because I almost backed out you know. I was short on money and I just kind of said a little prayer and I knew I had to be here ( ). [too low] I get really emotional [crying] when it comes to this issue ‘cause I come from a tribe where the almighty dollar rules multimillion dollar corporation oil companies that took over our land and destroyed our land and our people are dying, being raped, killed; where people gave up. They all just got on drugs. Threw their medicine bundles in the lake. If I learned anything from Red Thunder it’s if anything’s gonna get done it’s got to come from a grassroots level. It’s got to be people that unite that are led by The Creator; stand together and they stand strong and they get it done. You know I fell to drugs too and I couldn’t see our land being destroyed. I lost hope. And I didn’t really want to die anymore and I- I mean I didn’t want to live anymore. I just wanted to die and I think that’s about 80% of how our people are now. We have about five deaths a week. Our kids are being born addicted to meth and abandoned at birth. And right now we have lower life expectancy rates than countries at full-blown war like Iraq and Iran. And I’ve buried everybody I knew; all my friends. And the only thing that got me out of it and brought me back was what I learned right here; my teachings. I held strong to The Creator and I barely made it out. I ended up in ICU three times. Robert came to my bed one time. I about passed away. My brother David, he was a little boy. I was in Rochester. I got flown to Rochester and just got out of surgery and I just remember and Robert and Dorothy and my brother David standing around my bed and they were like talking to me, like telling me You can’t go; not yet. And I know God has a purpose for all of us. Man, that was a lot of work. I was young and you know I probably didn’t put as much effort as these guys did into it. But man it’s hard when you lose hope. It’s hard when you see your people dying and your elders being abused; the kids being abandoned; riff raff coming in raping and abusing your people. The almighty dollar always comes in and destroys. And for some darn reason we’re always sitting on something they want. How did we end up being on the damn biggest oil reserve in U.S. history? [laughter] I don’t get it. And why did I have to be there you know? Life is really- I had a spiritual awakening and it took me- I'm 41 years old now and I really, really know how fragile life is because I faced my own mortality more than once. And I know I got to stay strong for the people and I know you know I'm getting up there and coming back two years clean. I started a company already, a nonprofit and I'm just in a fight right now to save my people. Try to get them off drugs and going up there and trying to help them ‘cause I lived what they’re living. And I'm just really thankful to be here. I'm glad to see you all and grateful to be able to participate.
Joe W. Azure: I want to thank you all for your speeches, talks and memories and all that. Each and every one of us is special to The Creator and he blesses us every day with you know just waking up. I think about it in the mornings when I smudge up. Just to wake up in peace and harmony is a great blessing. Overseas there’s bombs going off, there’s guns going off. People are scared. Mass evacuation of people are leaving their homeland as they’re scared of the violence. There’s a lot of violence in the world but for us to wake up in peace and harmony I give thanks every day just for that. Like my smudge, I pray to The Creator and I give him thanks just to wake up in peace and harmony without no violence, without no bombs going off, no guns, no one dying around me, no hardships; you know just to wake up in peace and harmony. If we really think about it that’s a great blessing. A lot of people can’t say that around the world. And we’re all brothers and sisters, one tribe under The Creator. We come together here as a family, no matter what our tribe and no matter what our nationality, we’re all children to The Creator. So I thought it’d be best to get us together here in this area where it all started. We always had our ceremonies here, our sweat lodges, our teepees, our memorial feeds, our pipe ceremonies and different things. We did have a pipe ceremony yesterday. There were just a few of us here but that’s how we started it off. We started off right here in this area we had a pipe ceremony on the ground here. Nothing was up. There was no teepee, no sweat lodge up. But today it’s different ‘cause we put effort into it. We put our hard work and our love into carrying on these teachings of our ancestors, our native ancestors. I was taught love and respect for The Creator, love and respect for his creation of Mother Earth; the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds, the wings of the air and all the birds and the bees and the plants and the trees. And to see our beautiful Creator’s creation of Little Rocky Mountains torn down and devastated for we don’t even know how long. When they did the environmental impact study up here the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management, didn’t even know how long the pollution would go on; indefinitely they said. Nobody knows the destiny of the pollution; when it’ll end. But at the same time The Creator has his ways of healing things; healing the Mother Earth. Another thing I pray about is the Mother Earth you know. I give the Mother Earth thanks every day for her beautiful blessings of food on a table; children blessed with good health, their needs taken care of. At the same time I pray for the Mother Earth, healings for her. We look around the country everywhere there’s mines going on poisoning places. There’s oil drilling rigs going on poisoning places and hurting the Mother Earth you know. And I pray for her, too, that she’ll be healed you know in a good way because the Mother Earth is our mother. She provides us with everything. Even these cars and pickups we drive, they come from the body of the Mother Earth one way, form, shape or another. All these things we use; food, clothes, everything comes from the body of the Mother Earth. And then when we die our body goes back to the Mother Earth and becomes part of the Mother Earth. So we’re walking on our ancestors here. Wherever we step, they died before us and they’re all over the place. You know their bodies are in the Mother Earth. So with that I’d like to invite you guys to sweat. We’re gonna do a sweat lodge ceremony directly after this. If you want to go ahead and eat and maybe we could sweat in shifts. The ones that are hungry could go eat and the ones that want to sweat, we could sweat and then we’ll have another sweat later on. But the other half and the other half can eat you know; something like that would probably work best I think. And that’s about it. I want to thank each and every one of your talks; it’s a great thing. And I'm sure happy a lot of people showed up out here. I didn’t think it would be that many people showed up. I'm glad to see my grandkids. I never get to see them hardly; my relatives, my kids you know. We ever hardly get together. I don’t like them living on the reservation too much because too much hardships on the reservation you know. Even though we have beautiful country out here we still have a home to come back to and have ceremonies. We have some more- Ali was talking about a guy named Pete Gopher and he probably doesn’t even know it but one of Pete Gopher’s sons is out here.
Ali Zaid: Oh is that right?
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, one of the Mike Gophers, that’s Pete’s son. And then the other Mike is Robert’s son. So they’re here you know to show their support and solidarity with us and to also participate in the ceremonies and stuff you know. So you’re all welcomed to share in our ceremony after a while but I think we’ll split in two. Like I said some will eat and then the ones that are hungry could go ahead up to the house and eat. The rest of us will go ahead and sweat like that you know. I think it’ll work better. Then we’ll all fit, too. The sweat lodge is kind of small. We’ll try that. If anybody wants to sweat, they’re welcomed; women too.
Connie Azure: Well can we take pictures first before we sweat?
Joe W. Azure: Sure, sure.
Connie Azure: Like family pictures and then group pictures?
Joe W. Azure: Yeah, sure.
Connie Azure: ‘Cause we don’t have any pictures all together.
Joe W. Azure: Well I don’t know about before we sweat because see this has all come on sudden and it’s been raining and muddy out here and we just scrounged up enough wood to heat the rocks a little bit. [laughter] If we wait any longer the rocks are gonna get cold.
FR-?: Strike while it’s hot.
Joe W. Azure: So why don’t we just wait on- we’re gonna be here tomorrow. We’re still going on tomorrow, right? We’re gonna be here tomorrow, too. Why don’t we do that in the morning; take the pictures? That way we won’t have no sweats or nothing to worry about going. The fire…
[end of recording]
These two videos, Red Thunder and A River Cries, share the story of Red Thunder as captured by World Wide Expedition Films.
A Round Table Session Presented at the Western Historical Association Conference in St. Paul, MN, October 2016
Video by David Cournoyer
Native American land in the West has long been viewed by outside entities as a natural resource ripe for extraction. Even as U.S. government officials, private companies, and settler-colonists sought to access and profit from indigenous land, members of native communities have employed multi-level strategies to maintain control of, protect, and sometimes exploit their own land bases.
This roundtable explores the subject of mining in indigenous communities of the Northern Plains (Gros Ventre, Assiniboine) and the Upper Great Lakes (Anishinaabe) with the goal of reconstructing the historical development and effects of mining operations and the interpretations, strategies, and partnerships formed by native people at grassroots and tribal governance levels. In addition, this roundtable aims to foster discussion about the goals, dynamics, and challenges of constructing indigenous and environmental histories that seek to preserve the memory of these events for the historical record as well as for public understanding.
The roundtable discussion will focus on local cases of organizing against mines: the Red Thunder group that developed in opposition to the Pegasus Gold Mine in the Little Rockies of the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana in the 1990s and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Bad River Reservation coalitions that developed in opposition to the Gogebic Taconite Mine and Eagle Mine on Lake Superior in the early 2000s. Each panelist will make brief remarks about mining in their community of focus as related to events on the ground and/or research issues, to be followed by a brief summarizing commentary that makes connections and raises questions in order to foster active audience engagement. This session seeks to inspire a broad conversation that is as much about indigenous organizing strategies and methods of capturing these happenings for history as it is about the historical events themselves.
Panel Organizer, Tiya Miles, Professor, Department of American Culture, Department of History, Native American Studies Program, University of Michigan.
Chair and Commentator, Timothy LeCain, Associate Professor, Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Montana State University.
The Western Historical Association Conference hosted a panel of experts who presented on a variety of topics. We've compiled highlights of their presentations in the video below.
View Rosalyn LaPier's slide presentation "From 'Mineral Strip' to National Park - A Case of Environmental Injustice" and Joseph Gone's slide presentation on the history of mining and resistance in Native America.
These videos were recorded on hike through the Little Rocky Mountains to view the region around the mine in 2016 by Shanti Zaid.
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