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Connecting to Build Community

Last weekend I was honored to attend the 13 th annual Return to Foretop’s Father 2023, where members of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe re-connected with their ancestral sacred land where they lived before the Crow people were forced onto a reservation in Montana during the 19 th century. Foretop’s Father, now called Heart Mountain, is near Cody and Powell, and overlooks the memorial to the tragic Japanese American Internment Camp that occurred during World War II. Heart Mountain is fortunately now protected by the Nature Conservancy that successfully prevented plans for housing development for the elite. The Nature Conservancy’s act of protecting our pride in the land allows freedom to honor places like this that private ownership likely would prohibit. This annual gathering began years ago with Mary Keller and her friends in the Cody and Powell area with hard work to re-connect the Crow to their land while respectfully benefiting from the sharing of knowledge and culture. A Crow tribal youth group participated as part of a summer tour they are doing to re-connect with their heritage. I loved the sound of elders talking with the youth in their Crow language. A tribal elder, Cedar Bulltail, educated us about the spiritual meaning of the teepee including facing the east and how every pole and the cover of 14 to 16 buffalo hides, all significant symbols, related to leadership, protection, honor, and purity. The teepee is their second mother, with the natural mother being the first mother and the earth being the third mother. The Return to Foretop’s Father is a great example of how to build community. It brings together current residents of an area, descendants of former residents – not only the Crow people, but also descendants of the prisoners at the internment camp, and all who hold place sacred in an honest and caring way. Next week I will share with you what Highlands Presbyterian Church is doing to build community with the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice. Chesie Lee

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