Emergency Hunger Relief Provided to Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy's Reservations
May 1, 2019
In the aftermath of the 35-day Federal Government Shutdown, the A’aninin and Nakoda Tribes on Fort Belknap Reservation and the Chippewa and Cree Tribes of Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana were facing food shortages. Many people collaborated and cooperated to restock empty food pantries and to provide immediate hunger relief to these tribal neighbors.
After the A’aninin and Nakoda Tribes on Fort Belknap Reservation and the Chippewa and Cree Tribes of Rocky Boy’s Reservation heard about the eight thousand pounds of food that had been delivered to the Blackfeet Reservation, they reached out to Reverend Calvin Hill of the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish about their worsening food crisis.
Reverend Hill contacted Reverend Jack Mattingly of the Harlem Methodist/Presbyterian Parish, who met with the Fort Belknap Tribal Business Council to discuss the ensuing implications. They reported 359 families directly affected by the furlough, which extended to 1,100 individuals in their households. Food pantries that regularly service the community were overextended, their shelves empty. Those who rely on local food banks also faced a hunger crisis. Most families did not have resources to fall back on, and those who qualified for SNAP benefits were only guaranteed those benefits through mid-February. Although negotiations over back pay to furloughed government employees continued, back pay was not guaranteed and paychecks would not arrive for weeks. Tribal leaders reported hundreds more affected in the same way on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
To address these immediate needs, on January 31, led by Reverend Hill, 10,000 pounds of potatoes and 1,000 pounds of additional food was loaded from Flathead Food Bank by fifteen Kalispell Rotarians onto a trailer bound for Fort Belknap. That weekend, all the food was distributed by Jim Kennedy of the Fort Belknap Food Pantry, along with meat from twelve bison that the tribe had slaughtered so that their people might survive the crisis.
In early February, Jason Cronk, President of Kalispell Daybreak Rotary and Chief Executive Officer of Emmanuel Lutheran Homes of Kalispell, delivered 38,000 ounces of baby formula and 5,000 diapers from Costco to Fort Belknap to provide food security to the very youngest caught in the humanitarian crisis.
The tribes expressed gratitude for this support, yet more food was needed. On February 12, Daybreak Rotary committed $2,000 in relief aid. Generous donations also flooded in from the B’nai Shalom Jewish Congregation. With these funds, five pallets of food—two pallets from the Flathead Food Bank and three pallets of mixed non-perishable food from Costco—was delivered on Valentine’s Day to the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
Relief to these two reservations, in addition to relief provided to the Blackfeet Tribe in the Browning area, constituted generosity in action. Reverend Miriam Mauritzen, Community Pastor of Serious JuJu Skateboard Ministry, reported that “All told, we collected more than $12,187.37 in Tribal Hunger Relief from a variety of local individuals, a community choir, rotary, and congregations. Our relationships are strong and enduring. These were life-saving gifts of love. Reverend Calvin Hill of the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish served as an excellent trusted point of contact between all the tribes. The love for our brothers and sisters is real!”
Founded on July 7, 2007 and located at 707 West Center Street in Kalispell, Serious JuJu is a skateboarding based Christian ministry outreach provided to area skaters and youth.
The Collaborative Response Team consisted of Rev. Calvin Hill, Blackfeet United Methodist Parish; Rayola Running Crane, Blackfeet United Methodist Parish; Jim Kennedy, Fort Belknap Food Pantry Distribution Coordinator for Relief; Jamie Quinn, Director of Flathead Food Bank; Rev. Miriam Mauritzen, Serious JuJu Skateboard Ministry in Kalispell; Rabbi Francine Roston, B’nai Shalom Jewish Congregation; Rev. Dawn Skerritt, United Methodist Church of Columbia Falls and UMCOR Relief Coordinator; Tom Esch, Member of First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell and Kalispell Rotarian; Rev. Maggie Lewis, Chinook Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Havre; Rev. Jack Mattingly, Harlem United Methodist/Presbyterian Church and Chinook United Methodist Church; Rev. Glenn Burfeind, First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell; Rev. Scott Thompson, Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Kalispell; Jason Cronk, President of Kalispell Daybreak Rotary and Chief Executive Officer of Emmanuel Lutheran Homes of Kalispell.