Francine Bear Don't Walk was an elementary school student in Lame
Deer, she looked forward to learning more about the history of
her Northern Cheyenne tribe in social-studies class.
was disappointed to find only a few paragraphs about American Indians
in her textbook.
she had traditional grandparents, Jennie Limber Hand Spang and Wilfred
Spang, to tell her about her heritage.
Don't Walk now has a chance to help others learn about Indian history
August, she will become director of the American Indian Tribal Histories
Project at the Western Heritage Center. The project is funded with
a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Interior.
Bear Don't Walk and two field directors, one Crow and one Northern
Cheyenne, will train tribal college students and graduates in how
to record and preserve oral histories, do historical research, build
exhibits and collect artifacts and photos.
will talk to people of all ages to capture not just past, but present-day
life on reservations.
Don't Walk expects to gather information about tribal origins, chiefs,
traditional societies, art, music, dance, entertainment, athletics,
food, tepee construction, healing practices, family relations, government,
education, language and religion.
information will be archived at the Western Heritage Center with
copies given to each tribe. It will be used to produce publications,
exhibits and programs to teach others, both on and off the reservations,
about Indian culture.
least three major projects will be created:
book of photos and essays written by a diverse group of tribal
members describing what it means to be Crow or Northern Cheyenne.
interactive DVD encyclopedia of each tribe's history and culture,
which includes photos, oral histories and video. The DVD will
be designed for teachers to use in their classrooms.
at the Western Heritage Center on each tribe.
histories of American Indians have been written before, but few
have been done by tribal members themselves, which makes this project
project is important not only for tribal members.
about local tribes
Bear Don't Walk hopes that it helps non-Indians learn about local
tribes and encourages understanding among people of all ethnic backgrounds.
Don't Walk is a graduate of Colstrip High School and Rocky Mountain
College, from which she received a bachelor's degree in business
management in 1999. She has worked at Rocky as an admissions representative
and, more recently, as an adviser for students in the distance-learning,
has served on the Western Heritage Center's Board of Directors and
on its Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee.
year, she told retired RMC President Arthur DeRosier Jr., a WHC
director, that she would like to step down from the Lewis and Clark
committee because it was not a topic in which that she was interested.
didn't have a passion for it," she said.
DeRosier asked her what she did have a passion for, she told him
it was to learn more about her own culture and Northern Cheyenne
Don't Walk is a direct descendent of Chief Dull Knife, who along
with Chief Little Wolf led their people back to their Montana homeland
from Oklahoma during a harrowing journey in 1878-79.
sought grant money for the Indian history project, which was approved
project fits in well with the center's mission to preserve the history
and culture of the Yellowstone Valley.
nothing more special than native people who were here long before
white people came," he said.
is also appropriate to have the project going during the Lewis and
Clark bicentennial because it will present a more complete picture
by telling the stories of Indians who were living here when the
explorers passed through.
Don't Walk eventually would like to expand the project to other
tribes in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming if more funding can