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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 14, 2001 - Issue 40


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Group Bridges Indian Lifestyles


 by JAMES HAGENGRUBER Of The Billings Gazette Staff-June 28, 2001

Montana MapBILLINGS, MT - Michael LaFromboise wants to help other young people walk the rickety bridge between traditional American Indian culture and western values.

While earning a degree from MSU-Billings, LaFromboise was hired as executive director of the Billings-based Montana United Indian Association.

The program serves as a clearinghouse for a variety of training and educational programs available to the thousands of off-reservation American Indians living in Montana.

My main push is education, said LaFromboise, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe. The only way I see people getting ahead is by having an education. We want the American dream, just like everybody else.

Many Indians feel conflicted about leaving homes on the reservation to pursue jobs and education, he said. Life on the reservation is comfortable and full of family activities, but jobs are scarce. LaFromboise said groups such as the Montana United Indian Association can offer assistance to people grappling with such questions. In his own case, LaFromboise said he is finding balance by meeting frequently with other Indian professionals in Billings.

I practice my Blackfeet way of life, but its difficult being here in Billings because Im not with my language, my customs, my people, but I also want to live in this world, he said. Off the reservation, we are people living in a society thats not designed for us.

The organization was started in 1969 to help off-reservation Indians with a variety of job-training and educational programs. Outreach offices are also located in Butte, Helena, Miles City and Great Falls.

In May, LaFromboise earned a degree in management and communications. Hes now trying to find a way to fuse these skills with traditional values.

The way I was brought up, I dont talk to my elders like you do in western society, he said. I told my staff that, but I also told them I want us to be successful based on my western teachings and my Blackfeet way. Its difficult.

The Montana United Indian Association is based in Broadway Place, at 207 N. Broadway. For more information, call (406) 247-5068 or visit

Maps by Travel

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