After the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians gained federal recognition six months ago, students from the University of Montana School of Journalism talked at length with tribal members about what that means to them. Here, student Allison Berrian produced this interview with Terrie LaRocque, who until recently worked at the Little Shell tribal headquarters.
“I was living up on the Hi line in Chinook for about 20 years. I used to be a semi truck driver, and so, I bought a house and got married and lived up there for a long time. But when I got divorced, I have three brothers that live here in town and they wanted me to move down here. They found a job before I even found a place to live.
“I wear many hats. I answer the phones, of course, as the receptionist. I also take care of the building when people have problems. I do enrollment. I help in the enrollment office.
"A lot of stuff that comes in is it bills, requests for the Indian Child Welfare Act. And we determine on whether or not those children are eligible for enrollment or are enrolled to be covered under the Indian Child Welfare Act. And that just means that if they are placed in foster care, that they get placed into a home, preferably a native home, if they're Native American.
"I think it's important to keep the culture alive and the children or develop that sense of culture and children if they don't already have it. And I grew up with a Mormon family, which was wonderful. They were great.
“I grew up always knowing that I was a Little Shell Chippewa Cree. So, I always knew that but it didn't mean a lot to me till I got probably 18, 19.
“And I started enrolling into the tribe and talking to my grandmother about the history of our family. I found out one of our founders, one of her great grandfathers, or her grandfather, was one of the founding members of Lewistown. So that was kind of interesting to know. So, I didn't appreciate it until I got older. But now that I work here, I do a lot more research about my family and where we came from and it's been an experience that has changed my life in a good way. This is where I was meant to be."
Terry LaRocque has been a member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians since 1991.