By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - A visitor information center and a lodge at the ski bowl were among more than 30 suggestions made Monday by the Rocky Boy Tourism Committee while meeting with a Travel Montana coordinator.
Rocky Boy was chosen last year as one of three communities in the state that Travel Montana will assist through its yearly Community Tourism Assessment Program. In June, at the end of the nine-month program, Rocky Boy will have a chance to apply for a $10,000 grant toward one of the tourism projects.
"It's kind of the graduation gift," said Victor Bjornberg, tourism development coordinator for Travel Montana. Rocky Boy's proposal will have to meet certain criteria, but otherwise the grant is a sure thing, he said.
The committee narrowed down its 30 proposals to five that members will research over the next month.
A visitor center
A 10- to 12-room lodge in the Bear Paw Mountains at the Bear Paw Ski Bowl
A KOA-style campground with showers
A casino on U.S. Highway 87
Youth camps in the Bear Paws, similar to those offered to tribal members, marketed to nonmembers. Subjects taught could include animal tracking and Native American cooking.
Ideas that were tabled included an elder hostel program through Stone Child College, a virtual tour and a signage project.
Bjornberg also presented the results of a survey of 178 Rocky Boy residents conducted last year. Residents were generally optimistic about the potential for tourism to help create jobs and bolster the Rocky Boy economy, he said, but were split on the extent to which cultural sites and spiritual traditions should be shared.
He advised the committee to use the information as a supplement to its own knowledge of the community. The survey indicated that tourism projects should be pursued with sensitivity to those who might feel nervous about allowing too many people into too many places. The Sun Dance ground was a location that people agreed they did not want shared.
None of the committee's suggestions for projects involved sharing the reservation's spiritual or historical sites.
"We have to be really sensitive to the diverse needs and interests people have ... and we have to protect that," said committee member Joan Mitchell.
Ruby Stump, who is an adviser to the committee, said it might be good to invite outsiders to participate in sweats to dispel misconceptions about them. Stump said her grandson told her Sunday night that on a cartoon he was watching, white people went into a sweat lodge and then hallucinated about violent deaths. Stump said sweats are not for hallucinating, but for prayer and for physical and spiritual renewal.
Rocky Boy tourism efforts got a major boost last year when the tribe received a $295,000 grant for each of two years from the federal Administration for Native Americans.
The grant went toward hiring four employees who are working on tourism projects. At the end of two years, the tribe plans to have a 10-year plan.
Last year, the grant went toward building four cabins near the ski bowl and was supplemented by $30,000 from the tribal government for improving picnic grounds in Pah-Nah-To Recreational Park.
Travel Montana assisted Havre with an assessment from 1997 to 1998, and with a subsequent grant. The money went toward expanding the Havre Railroad Museum to include a downstairs railroad exhibit, which is under construction, and toward purchasing new windows for the Heritage Center.