Pulling Reservation Schools Back From the Brink
Fort Belknap, Montana—Tuffy Helgeson, 31, is one of the country’s youngest fluent speakers of Nakoda, his native language. He’d like to change that.
In 1978, just a few years before Helgeson’s birth, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act became law, finally affirming the right of country’s indigenous people to access sacred sites, worship in traditional ceremonies, and use materials they consider sacred artifacts, like eagle bones, which non-Indians are generally restricted from obtaining. “That, alone, moved mountains,” Helgeson said. It also moved his grandmother to teach him, her youngest grandchild, to speak Nakoda. He thinks the law made her feel it was finally safe.