Western Native Voice works year-round to inspire Native leadership so our communities flourish. We are excited to share, with you, this month's Community Spotlight. The Western Native Voice Community Spotlight is designed to highlight grassroots organizing and individuals creating change from across Montana and in Indian Country.
This month we visited with BethYana Pease, Lodge Grass Alderwoman and organizer, to learn more about what inspires her activism and community involvement. BethYana has launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People movement on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, a Build a Bike program in her community of Lodge Grass (#LGBaby), and other amazing efforts to “take back Lodge Grass” and build unity across Indian Country.
Organizations: Town of Lodge Grass, Jump Start Healing, Valley of the Chiefs Neighborhood Watch
Community: Lodge Grass
“I am BethYana Pease, enrolled in Canada, a Cree from the First Nations People of Little Pine SK and in Rocky Boy, MT. I am a great great granddaughter of Horse and White Man Runs Him, I am the great granddaughter of Ben and Tillie White Man Runs Him Pease. I am the granddaughter of Ben and Marge Pease and Alex and Bernice Frank. My mother is Linda [Warren] Bell and father is Kelvin (Julie) Frank. I have been raised Crow and live on the Crow reservation, in the beautiful Valley of the Chiefs, Lodge Grass, Mt. I am a single parent of 4 children, J'Ree, Leroy Jr., CanonBuddy, MargieMae and my granddaughter Arya J'Rysa OldBull. I love racing horses, fishing, cooking, camping, building bikes, and spending time with my grandma Margery, who is 93 years old.”
Who are your supporters?
“I find my biggest support in Lodge Grass, however I have supporters throughout Indian Country, that believe in my dream for UNITY across the state of Montana.”
In what way are you involved or give back to your community?
“Above everything everything I am a sundancer, I am a woman of the Creator, he does his work through me. I am somewhat of a baby veteran in the Yellowtail Sundance, I have been in 10 so far, my sisters and brothers dance beside me. And my son is making his mom proud, he is only 17 and he is about to complete his fourth Sundance this summer. I am also apart of the NightHawk Society and a member of the newly made Lodge Clan. I come from the band of The Kicks in Belly and was raised a good Crow woman.
Last year, I started taking small steps in my neighborhood to become a better leader. I started The Valley Of the Chiefs Neighborhood Watch, currently we have 20+ active volunteers and the #BuildABike program in LG, building over 100 bikes last year alone. I have recently taken on a new role in life, which has brought me into the world of politics, where I can shine. I decided in August I was going to run for an Alderman seat inside the local city government of Lodge Grass, MT. I ran as a write in and my aunt Janine Pease was my campaign manager, my running partner Quincy Dabney, filed for the mayor position of LG, also as a write in. We both swept the election, as of now, we have a new city treasurer Collena Brown, and a new appointed alderman Berni Garder, and we are looking forward to appointing two more Alderman next month. Since my election win, I have started many other programs. #JumpStartHealing which hosts many community events throughout the year. Missing.Murdered.Indigenous.Peoples' movement on the Crow reservation and Northern Cheyenne reservation, which brings awareness to those individuals that have no voice and families looking for justice. I am currently working on a young leadership program with Lodge Grass High School and I hope that by next school it will be a reality.”
What motivates you to effect change in your community?
“I come from a very successful family, a family of leaders. I grew up going to NIEA and AIHEC board meetings. I watched my mother and aunties change Crow country, by founding LBHC, to reintroducing a new tribal constitution and everything between the lines. However I took a different route in life, and developed an addictive personality. I am a recovering addict of 15 years, I seen both worlds, the good and the bad. In the past I turned a blind eye to destruction of my community with drugs and alcohol. When I finally decided to grow up, I looked around and decided no way does another child have to grow up the way my oldest son had too. I believe the Lord put my son and I through the struggle, so we could come out on top and share our story. People trust me, because they have seen me at my worst and watch me grow to what I am now. We have so many leaders in the Valley of the Chiefs that are just waiting to be empowered!
My community is a forgotten, lawless piece of heaven. We are so very unique, with jurisdictional tugs at all angles. Lodge Grass is a incorporated town, which falls under Big Horn county, State of Montana, but lays on the Crow reservation, which automatically falls under BIA. Not one of those entities cared enough to care about the people in the community and the lack of opportunities. All it took was someone to step up and empower young families, elders, children, and addicts. Now our community crime rate has dropped, bootleggers feel the pressure, drug dealers are not welcome, and hope has been restored, to a once forgotten town. The Valley Of the Chiefs is known for producing leaders, and that is exactly what I am bringing back to this community.”
What kind of change do you want to see in your community 5 years from now?
“In the next five years I plan to see our town of Lodge Grass with a flourishing local government and even a down town economic center. At least 5 new business throughout the community, new homes and people coming back to Lodge Grass. I want bootleggers to put away the booze and start a cafe. I see the addicts building a family based treatment center for people in the struggle. I want to see those stuck in the federal prison system coming back into the community and having opportunities for them to succeed in life. I believe in 5 years there will be a new wave of leaders coming out of Lodge Grass!”
How can people, both neighbors and strangers, help your efforts?
“Both neighbors and strangers can help our efforts by simply taking the time to check one another and offer help, if needed, donate time by volunteering and help with funds to our new organization UNITY×POWER, which covers our Neighborhood Watch, #BuildABike, #JumpStartHealing, Missing.Murdered.Indigenous.Peoples' movement. And coming soon, a Lodge Grass food bank, Lodge Grass High School leadership program, Native Scouting under Boys Scouts of America, and a Equine Therapy program.”
What has been a major event for your community?
“We had a triple homicide on Aug 4, 2017, that rocked this little community to the core. Three young lives were lost, and two girls lost both parents and 4 kids were left without a dad. My community was destroyed by such a tragic event. Our hearts were literally on the ground and the light at the end of the tunnel was so dim, we could hardly see it. I decided to step up and jump start healing with a huge community event. We started it off with a non denominational Sunday service held in the park. Followed by a prayer parade, with 16 stops, and the children leading us in prayers at every stop. Then the families were able to paint murals on abandoned buildings in town, followed by a concert in the park, by local musicians. After that, we all gathered for a community potluck dinner with 100+ people in attendance. The next day, local artists Ben Pease and Chip Janis painted a huge mural of our last chief Dr. Joe Medicine Crow on the side of our local IGA. All the community members were able to be a part of it, by placing their handprints on the painting, each taking part of