Editors Note

Editors note

Read about this issue here.

The 2024 edition of the Native News Honors Project analyzes the myriad of ways tribes are embracing their sovereignty and identity after centuries of persecution. In many ways, tribes share the dark parts of what it meant to be Native American in the United States. But today, each tribe is embracing its identity through building a better future for its citizens.

In 1934, the United States federal government attempted to quantify Indigenous identities through a system known as blood quantum in an effort to limit tribal citizenships. The highly controversial measurement of the amount of “Indian blood” someone has is still used by every tribe in Montana to determine citizenship.

One of the stories in this issue addresses blood quantum directly, showing how controversy over tribal enrollment criteria is playing out on the Blackfeet reservation. But the identity of Indigenous people is not merely a matter of ancestry and genealogy. It encapsulates a complex interplay of heritage, history, spirituality and culture, shaped by centuries of adaptation and survival. 

On the Flathead reservation, a rigorous Salish language training program is amplifying efforts to create a robust system of language transmission to younger generations, while in Great Falls and Choteau, members of the recently-recognized Little Shell tribe are working to pass on a sense of pride in their people’s history. 

For the Crow Nation, horses continue to be revered symbols of heritage and spirituality, deeply intertwined with its way of life. And on the Fort Peck reservation, the Two-Spirit community is restoring spaces for safe expression of identity in the face of attacks from the Legislature.

Another story addresses how, across Montana, Indigenous people are challenging the state for its failure to implement Indian Education for All, a state constitutional requirement to educate public school students about the “distinct and unique heritage of American Indians.”

The stories in this issue of Native News also show how tribes are challenging stereotypes and misconceptions. On the Northern Cheyenne reservation, the Tsis Tsis’tas are proactively taking law enforcement reform into their own hands, challenging the narrative of the prevalence of crime on reservations.

On our website, we also include a photo essay and documentary about Tommy Running Rabbit, a Blackfeet football player who shares his personal journey of being recruited to play at the University of Montana.

We hope you enjoy this issue.