New plaque commemorates 1908 Sun Dance in Helena

1908 Sun Dance commemorative plaque.jpg
Posted at 10:36 AM, Sep 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 13:37:15-04

HELENA — This Wednesday afternoon, Elder of the Little Shell Tribe, Daniel Pocha, helped commemorate a plaque at the Lazy Green. The plaque commemorates a 1908 Sun Dance that took place on the spot.

“The late Nicholas Vrooman, who was a big part of this event too in the years it’s taken to get it off the ground, told me once that there’s enough history in the northern plains for a dozen historians to devote their lives to and never overlap. So, this is an important piece of recognizing that and commemorating it and kind of bringing us out of the shadows of these events that we were participants in, as well,” says Member of the Little Shell Tribe, Chris LaTray.

The plaque commemorates a Sun Dance done in the same spot in 1908. The Dance was performed by Chief Little Bear of Rocky Boy’s Band.

In the late 1800s, Native American Sun Dances and other indigenous ceremonies were criminalized by the government.

Following the dance, Native Americans went to meet with Congressman Carter asking for a reservation for the Landless Indians of Montana.

Daniel Pocha, an elder of the Little Shell Tribe, says that the Little Shell Tribe, which only became recognized by the federal government in 2019, still does not have a reservation.

Pocha expounded on the importance of passing along this history to the children of Montana in order to keep these stories alive.

“Because our biggest hope is that we can ignite a spark in them, that want them to take possession of this and the story and then move forward with it. Because we don’t want this monument just to be in the ground and forgotten. We want it to be a story that lives on in the school,” says Pocha.

LaTray says that this history is a lot closer to us than we might think.

“Well, when we think about some of the things that happened in the early 1900s or late 1800s, we think of that as ancient history, and it’s not. We’re talking, in my case, 3 generations from the last people who hunted wild buffalo on the plains, and that’s not that long ago,” says LaTray.