Native News 2018

Dear Reader,

The relationship between Native Americans and the federal government in the U.S. is full of treaties made and broken.

The earliest treaties, made as more white settlers started moving into the recently explored Louisiana Purchase, treated tribal groups as equal governments and made no claim to ownership of the land, but rather established non-overlapping territories for the tribes living across the northern plains.

Just a few years later however, the federal government started inventing new ways to assert claims over tribal land and, eventually, over the people themselves. By the late 1880s Native Americans across the country were confined to reservations that represented tiny fractions of their previous homelands and in some cases didn’t even overlap with their ancestral home.

With a history like that, stories from reservations tend to be heavy, but this year’s issue of Native News highlights people working toward a better future. With seven vastly different reservations across the state of Montana, each tribe has the tedious task of navigating a relationship with bureaucracy from several levels: federal, state, county, while keeping their culture intact. The 2018 Montana Native News Honors Project takes an in-depth look at those relationships and the meaning of tribal sovereignty.

On the Flathead reservation, the tribal defenders office is taking a new approach to rehabilitate tribal members entangled in the criminal justice system. On the Blackfeet reservation the tribe is developing its own plan to combat the changing climate. A group of high school students on Rocky Boy’s reservation have launched a program to lend a hand to their peers by picking up where federal government supplemental nutrition programs leave off. On the Fort Belknap reservation, new fresh food initiatives will serve a community embattled by diabetes and lack of fresh produce. An immersive language education program is giving new life to the Dakota language on the Fort Peck reservation.

The Indian Reorganization Act, which became law in 1934, lead to the creation of tribal governments on reservations across the country. Imposing a government structure on reservations has had long term repercussions.

The Northern Cheyenne people are striving to govern themselves, but get stuck with the BIA always lurking one step behind. On Crow, the tribal government and the BIA are clashing over a 2017 audit of the judicial branch, all while attempting to maintain tribal sovereignty. Women on the Blackfeet reservation are using Facebook to reclaim a leadership role in their communities and bust through the “buckskin ceiling.” The Little Shell tribe is discovering, and holding onto, their culture while fighting to gain federal recognition.

Tribes across the nation have been forced to evolve under the federal government. These stories show that tribes have adapted and, even mired in various levels of bureaucracy, are striving to take control of their legacies.

-Native News Staff & Advisers

Northern Cheyenne

Story Margaret Grayson

Photos Grace Hancock

Rocky Boy’s

Story Ryan OConnell

Photos Graham Gardner


Story Matt Neuman

Photos Carl Kulper

Fort Peck

Story Isaiah Dunk

Photos Mikensi Romersa

Fort Belknap

Story Mari Hall

Photos Skylar Rispens

Little Shell

Story Nick Puckett

Photos Emily Martinek


Story Nick Rudow

Photos Dominik Stallings


Story Maxine Speier

Photos Suzanne Downing


Story LJ Dawson

Photos Rikki Devlin

Social Media

Tim Pierce

Jackson Wagner

Marissa Fischer

Graphic Design

Cathryn Haberman-Fake

Web Design

Rene Sanchez


Amelia Hagen-Dillon

Photo Editor

Reed Klass

Story Editor

Nick Callahan

Art Director

Zoie Koostra


Jason Begay

Keith Graham