Roger Henry St. Pierre, Sr. passed away peacefully at his home in Rocky Boy on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, surrounded friends and family.
Roger was born at the Fort Belknap Indian Hospital in Fort Belknap, Mont., on Nov. 10, 1942. He was given the Cree name, Ki-I-Wah-w Kah-Wi-Che-Wah-t ,meaning “He Travels With the Eagles.” His parents were Albert St. Pierre Sr. and Margaret Demontiney St. Pierre. Roger, one of six children, was raised on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in northcentral Montana. He was a native speaker of the Cree language and was reared with the traditions, values and knowledge of his Chippewa Cree ancestors.
Mr. St. Pierre attended schools on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and graduated from Box Elder High School in 1960 as the salutatorian of his class. After high school, he attended Montana State College (which later became Montana State University) where he majored in business accounting and economics. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Accounting in 1964 and later passed the national Certified Public Accountant examination. During his last year at college, he was one of only six American Indian students attending MSC at that time. Similarly, he was one of the first members of his family, as well as one of the first people in the history of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, to graduate from college.
St. Pierre had seven children, Roger Jr., Nathaniel, Voyd, Guy (deceased), LaCrissa, Brittany and Brooke St. Pierre Sosa. He was a strong believer in education. He was instrumental in providing guidance, direction, and encouragement to his children, where he was able to observe most of them receiving bachelor and advanced degrees.
His professional career spanned nearly four decades and he had a distinguished career providing community and economic development, leadership, cross-cultural relations, public service, and humanitarianism. His influence was evident in such diverse disciplines as health, education, politics, agriculture, business, tribal and federal program administration, civil service, and tribal-state relations. He worked for 20 years in different branches of the federal government that included the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service. He also worked 20 years for the Chippewa Cree Tribe in different programs and capacities like health director, dam safety, and housing. Also during that time he served on many committees such as Education, Law and Order, Housing, Natural Resources, etc. In addition, he was elected to serve as a member of the Tribal Council on several different occasions and spent nine years as a tribal leader.
He also served on various tribal, local, state, and federal committees and organizations. For example, he chaired both the Rocky Boy School Board and Stone Child College Board of Regents, was a member of the Native American Stockmen’s Association, the National Indian Education Association, the Montana/Wyoming Indian Education, the Montana/Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, Mni Sosie Intertribal Water Coalition, and established the distribution of Christmas toys for families on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
Roger was one of the first Indian cowboys. At a young age, he was known for his horsemanship and skills breaking and training horses. He was one of the few cowboys that could round up a herd of horses by himself. Roger continued his love of his horses by starting and owning one of the first quarter-horse ranches on the reservation. His skills also helped him become successful in cattle ranching. With his love of cattle, he took pride in his stock as well as the yearly branding season. He enjoyed attending rodeos, participating in calf and team roping, as well as watching PBR bullriding.
It would not be an overstatement to say that as a tribal organizer and leader, St. Pierre was involved in nearly every major event at Rocky Boy since the late 1970’s. For example, he helped the late Dr. Bob Wright establish the first high school on the reservation. He also spearheaded the establishment of Stone Child College in the early 1980’s. He led the tribe to establish what would become the Chippewa Cree Café and Casino. While serving as the vice-chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, he was instrumental in settling a long-standing debate regarding a water compact for the tribe — this resulted in a $47 million water rights settlement in 1999, known as Public Law 106-163. This act was the culmination of 17 years work of tribal leaders such as St. Pierre to settle water rights claims and a compact was made between the Chippewa Cree Tribe and the State of Montana and allocated 10,000 acre feet of federal storage for water for the future water needs. In short, St. Pierre championed tribal water rights for the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
Some of the key positions he held over his career include: Auditor and Investigator, USDA, Western states region (1965-75); Member, Chippewa Cree Tribal Council, Rocky Boy, MT (1975-77); Loan/Credit Officer, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Portland Area Office and Chippewa Cree Tribe, Rocky Boy, MT (1977-78); Chief Accountant, Billings Indian Health Service Area Office, Billings, MT (1978-80); Administrator, Rocky Boy Health Board, Rocky Boy, MT (1980-82); Chippewa Cree Tribal Council member, Rocky Boy, MT (1982-85); Chippewa Cree Development Corporation, Rocky Boy, MT (1986-88); Safety of Dams Coordinator, Rocky Boy, MT (1988-94); Member, Chippewa Cree Tribal Council, Rocky Boy, MT (1994-98), and; Management team member, Chippewa Cree Tribal Housing Office, Rocky Boy, MT (1998-2005).
One of Roger’s hobbies was researching and learning about tribal history and family genealogy. In the late 1970’s, he worked closely with tribal elders to trace his family roots. He subsequently helped other tribal members conduct similar genealogical research. He had gathered an extensive personal collection of tribal stories, family photographs, and historical documents.
He was a self taught artist and enjoyed drawing, sketching, and painting. He especially liked to illustrate Native American scenes and often found joy in creating a variety of cartoons.
He was one of 14 tribal “elders” who were appointed by the Tribal Council to serve on the Tribe’s Traditional Peacemakers Circle. As a “peacemaker” he served as a moderator or arbitrator in settling disputes between two opposing parties by using traditional and cultural approaches.
Roger is survived by his current wife Donna of Rocky Boy; sons, Roger Jr. (Donna) of Billings, Dr. Nathaniel of Rocky Boy, and Voyd (Margaret) of Havre; daughters, LaCrissa, Brittany, and Brooke St. Pierre Sosa all of Rocky Boy; adopted sons, Kermit (Wilma) Morsette of Rocky Boy and Dean (Crissa) Sutherland of Rocky Boy; brother Morris of Rocky Boy; sister; Mary Ruth of Rocky Boy; uncle ;George St. Pierre of Rocky Boy; aunt; Mary Rose Riotutar of Capitola, Calif.; 12 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews
Roger was preceded in death by his parents; a brother; Albert “Tumsy” St. Pierre Jr.; sisters, Alberta St. Pierre and Ethel Harriett St. Pierre Denny; a niece, Cheyenne St. Pierre; a son; Guy Lynn St. Pierre; and granddaughter Kristie Dawn St. Pierre