The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Cranston Hawley


January 13, 2021

Cranston Hawley, 93, died of natural causes at his home with his family by his side on Saturday morning, January 2, 2021. A wake began at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, January 8, 2021, in Cranston's garage located at 425 2nd St. SW in Harlem, and continued until 9:00 p.m. that evening.

Holland & Bonine Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements. Please visit Cranston's online memorial page and leave a message of condolence for his family at

Cranston was born on October 8, 1927, to Nykee Cranston "Jim" Hawley and Florence Ellen (Morris) Hawley. He was born at Fort Belknap and was the fourth of five children in his family. He was an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Tribe. He attended school in Harlem and joined the Navy at the age of 17. Cranston proudly served his country during World War II. He married an identical twin, Ruth Helen Olafson on November 27, 1947. Ruth's twin, Rose and husband, Dean were close friends and together, they traveled far and wide to go dancing! Cranston and Ruth had five children. Later in life, Cranston married Jesse James who had 3 children and together they had one daughter.

Cranston became the Chief Tribal Judge of the Fort Belknap Reservation in 1956 and served in this capacity until March, 1992. During this time, he was a member of the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA) for 14 years and was the President of the NAICJA for eight years (1977-1983). In his tenure of the NAICJA, he was instrumental in helping to create the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978. He was also given the task of training other tribal judges, court clerks, and staff. At one point, Cranston was the longest serving Tribal Judge in the nation. He was a very distinguished leader and the laws he helped put into place continue to serve the people he loved. He was straight forward, honest, and wanted the best for those who went before him. Even when he was officially retired, he remained the Senior Chief Judge and was still willing to help those in need.

Cranston was first and foremost a rancher. He raised cattle until the day he died. He loved the land, his cows, and his horses! He rode cows and bareback horses during the Chuckwagon Days in Harlem. Last week, he got bucked out of his recliner and he quipped that he hadn't nodded for that ride!! He taught his children to be hard workers and that your word was your bond. He loved rodeo, whether watching his own daughters or traveling around the west to watch the big shows or watching on TV.

Cranston was one of the founding members of the VFW 4744. He helped build the Vets Club building. Cranston often spoke about how honored he was to be able to serve in the Honor Guard for his fellow veterans. His final service in the Honor guard was for his friend, Charlie Brekke in June, 2020.

Cranston was also one of the founding members of the KA-EYTA Company. This was set up to provide employment opportunities and exposure for the Native American creative and artistic people around Fort Belknap and Harlem. It featured bronzes, beading and artwork.

Cranston is survived by one sister, Dallas; son, Jim (Cynthia); daughters, Sharon (Sid), Linda (Mike), Tammy (Dave), Cathy (Steve), Becki and Dawn (Buster); 29 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews and his cat, Gray Bob.

Cranston was predeceased by his brother: Granville, sisters: Phyllis and Audrey; both his wives, daughters: Erin and Nykee.

The family would like to use memorial money to honor Cranston's memory by placing a bench with a plaque in front of the Fort Belknap Tribal court. Other memorials may be sent in Cranston's name to the American Legion Post 110 at Fort Belknap or to the American Legion Post 4744 in Harlem or to a charity of the donor's choice.

As Cranny would say, "And that's just life in the great Northwest!" "Ya savvy?


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