BROWNING – Blackfeet Community College (BCC) will honor Elouise Cobell, also known as Yellow Bird Woman, on Monday, November 5 with a special ceremony to name a new building after her.
Cobell was the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit Cobell v. Salazar, which challenged how the United States mismanaged trust funds that belonged to more than 500,000 Native Americans. The U.S. Government awarded a $3.4 billion dollar settlement in the case, the largest settlement in American history.
Former President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Cobell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
The recently opened $7.5 million Health Science and Education Building offers a long-term solution to help residents in and around Browning address a lack of access to qualified healthcare professionals and services on the Blackfeet Reservation, according to a BCC press release.
The new facility will advance training opportunities for Native American nursing and education students to meet increasing healthcare and education needs locally and throughout Montana.
“We believe that investing in quality health science education addresses the root cause of so many of the health disparities we see on the Blackfeet Reservation,” BCC Interim President Carol Murray stated. “The new Health Science & Education Building replaces overcrowded and outdated facilities, creates capacity for more students, and attracts the faculty we need to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. It also brings us one step closer to expanding from a two-year to a four-year degree program in Education and Nursing.”
BCC will name the new building Oahtkwii Piiksakii Iikohkon-Yellow Bird Woman Lodge in honor of Cobell. The special ceremony will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dignitaries expected to speak at the Naming Ceremony include Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Tim Davis, BCC Board of Trustees Chairman James McNeely, BCC Interim President Carol Murray, Elouise Cobell’s son Turk Cobell, Blackfoot speaker and former POW Marvin Weatherwax Sr. and others.
The press release states that with the support of BCC partners, BCC secured financing for the new $7.5 million Health Science and Education Building with the help of First Interstate Bank and an innovative federal program, New Markets Tax Credits, through the community-based nonprofit lender, MoFi.
“The opening of the Yellow Bird Woman Lodge represents the best of this community,” said Dave Glaser, President of MoFi. “We are thrilled to help finance a project that will create jobs, new facilities and, more importantly, pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for the people of Browning.”
In 2015, Governor Steve Bullock proclaimed November 5 of each year as Elouise Cobell Day in honor of her birthday.