New president takes oath for Northern Cheyenne urging unity, healing
LAME DEER — Hundreds of Northern Cheyenne members assembled on Tuesday to usher in a new tribal administration.
Lawrence “Jace” Killsback was sworn in as president of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe during a ceremony, in which he called on residents to carry forward his campaign slogan, “We are a nation.”
“Our nation is in pain,” Killsback said. “You feel her pain. I feel her pain. It’s our duty — all of us here — to heal our nation.”
The ceremony also recognized the elections of Conrad Fisher as vice president, as well as Roni Rae Limberhand Brady and John Robinson as tribal judges. Waylon Rogers, Ernest Little Mouth Sr., Dana Eaglefeathers, Merlin Sioux and Debra Waters Charette took office as new tribal council members.
The ceremony began at the tribal headquarters on the south side of town. Pickups lined up for the parade, adorned with the Northern Cheyenne flag.
Some, like Dean Wallowing Bull, decorated his truck with buffalo hides and other traditional items, including his war bonnet, pipe bag and gloves.
The parade moved up Cheyenne Avenue. Elected officials and women wearing traditional regalia walked behind the color guard. The pickups followed, and some carried trailer-loads of teens.
Outgoing tribal President Llevando Fisher rode along on horseback.
People lined the streets, honking and cheering as the parade moved by. The line turned east on Highway 212, up to the Charging Horse Casino, where the inauguration was held.
Bertha Brown and Jenelle Timber Jones walked along with the parade. Both women said that they’d like to see the new administration address health disparities on the reservation. Both women work for the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health.
Brown and Timber Jones also spoke about giving women more of a voice in the community and holding the government accountable.
“Here on the reservation, pretty much everybody knows everybody,” Timber Jones said.
“So we are our own watchdogs,” Brown said.
The Northern Cheyenne Reservation has had a tough year with violence, particularly in Lame Deer. In March, then-President Fisher imposed a curfew on tribal members after a daytime shootout that tore through the center of town.
Less than a week later, the community took to the streets to decry the drugs and violence on the reservation.
Less than two months later, a 21-year-old man was stabbed to death in Lame Deer.
On Tuesday, Killsback called for unity.
“It’s time that we begin to part ourselves from a lot of negative things that have split our nation for so long,” he said.
The inauguration included statements read by representatives of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Crow tribal Chairman-elect A.J. Not Afraid gave brief remarks of congratulations, but the day belonged to the Northern Cheyenne leaders.
Both Killsback and Vice President Fisher spoke about unity and cultural identity. Fisher said that holding traditional ceremonies and speaking their own language are ways to carry on that identity. Fisher gave a longer speech in Cheyenne than in English.
Killsback gave an emotional speech as well, and tears formed at one point. The crowd, filling the large casino room, reacted in applause. He called on each resident to look out for the spiritual health of the Northern Cheyenne.
“If we help one another and care for the land,” Killsback said, “we care for our nation.”