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Help For Our Youth
There are many needs in Wolf Point, Montana, but one of the most pressing ones is the well-being of younger generations. There are many children and families that are in need of a healthy environment in which to live. These families need a place to temporarily stay and live, where they will be protected and feel safe; a place where they will be fed, clothed, shown love, and given security. The students should have the opportunity to go to school and receive help with their education. Those students in grade school, in particular, should have a permanent home and be the main focus of any effort. We encourage the Fort Peck Indian Reservation to invest in a residential home.
A residential home is a place where students and families can go to receive help and get back on their feet. It focuses on showing them how to live on their own while teaching important morals, ethics, and personal values. One such residential home is the Blackfeet Boarding Dormitory on the Blackfeet reservation, seven miles away from Browning, Montana. The residential home started as a boarding school for Native Americans in the early 1920s, but was turned into a residential home in 1964. Currently, there are about 200 students who reside there and attend public school.
Lenard Guardipe is the former director of the facility. He also lived at the residential home for three years during grade school. From 1972 to 1995, he worked at the dorms. He says the home is funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. While Guardipe was at the school, the BIA would do a head count, twice a year, to determine how much money the residential home would receive. The budget was generally around $200,000 a year. Guardipe says, “Most of the students that reside in the dorms are foster children, families in need, or anyone that needed a place to stay.” Guardipe says if the residential home had a mission statement, he figured it would be “to provide a home for the young or unfortunate. We are here for people that need help. We teach them how to live on their own. We teach them how to do things like cleaning, learning, routines, and other mandatory tasks” (L. Guardipe, personal communication, April 21, 2015).
Laurence Right Hand is a student presently living in the Blackfeet dormitory. He is in the 8th grade. When asked how he likes living in the dorm, he says, “It’s pretty good. Everything is like perfect.” Right Hand likes how they make the students go to bed and to school on time. He enjoys the stability and routine that the dorms provide (L. Right Hand, personal communication, April 23, 2015).
Establishing routines can play a crucial role in providing security and stability. These routines should be consistent and reliable. Routines can also create a sense of belonging so the child will feel needed. In her 1972 poem, “Children Learn What They Live,” Dorothy Law Nolte writes, “If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those around them.”
Alissa Snow lived in the Blackfeet dormitory from 1992 to 1994 and later pursued a degree in social work. Alissa now has an associate’s degree in micro-computer operations and is employed at the Western Native Voice, a non-profit organization based out of Billings, Montana, that works on behalf of Native communities. Alissa feels like the dorms provided stability and offered a good home environment. She says, “We went to bed warm, fed, and were taught responsibility through daily chores.” She believes that the dorm was so effective that she herself, sent her daughter to another dormitory (A. Snow, personal communication, May 5, 2015).
Raising healthy children should be every parent’s goal. As a community, we should provide a positive life for our children, as much as we possibly can. The National Coalition for the Homeless reported that in 2002, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the US Department of Justice estimated the number of homeless children to be 1,682,900. The organization stated, “This number is equally divided among males and females, and the majority of them are between the ages of 15 and 17” (National Coalition, 2008). In Montana, the Department of Child and Family Services reported that from 2010 to 2013 there were 195 children in foster homes. This did not reflect adoptions and “other planned permanent living arrangements with relatives” (State of Montana, n.d.).
By providing this dormitory the children will have an opportunity at life. The children will be given chores, such as laundry, cleaning, and cooking, to learn the importance of life skills and responsibility. Chores will also be a great way to teach the children how to earn a weekly allowance. The residential home will be a home for children who need that extra love and attention. As Dorothy Law Nolte writes, “If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident, if a child lives with recognition, they learn to have a goal.”
In conclusion, a residential home on the Fort Peck reservation would be extremely beneficial to our community. This home would provide a safe, healthy environment for students and families in need of shelter. It would teach students characteristics and morals they need to be successful in their lives. Having a residential dormitory on the Fort Peck reservation would be beneficial by making it possible for students to stay on the reservation instead of leaving. They would be able to continue going to school where they are most comfortable.
Alissa Smith and Carrie Manning are students at Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Montana.
Bureau of Indian Affairs. (2011). Tour of Blackfeet Dormitory. Retrieved at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m29c1rtceAk
Law Nolte, D. (1972). “Children Learn What They Live.” Unpublished personal poem.
National Coalition for the Homeless. (2008, June). Retrieved http://nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/youth.html
State of Montana. (n.d.). 2015-2019 Child & Family Services Plan. Retrieved at http://dphhs.mt.gov/CFSD.aspx