Leadership Montana Classroom Reflection: Indigenous Immersion Initiative Reflection: John Morrison, Helena, Class of 2005 and III 2022
Flagship Session: Erin Bennett
September 30, 2022
Indigenous Immersion Initiative: Jo Ann Eder
October 31, 2022


Emily Yost, Livingston, Class of 2022 and III 2022

Indigenous Immersion Initiative Reflection

Emily Yost, Livingston, Class of 2022, and III 2022

From Livingston, Montana, in the company of the mountains I know as Sleeping Giant, neighborhood trees whose leaves are turning yellow and falling to the ground, and the changed banks of the Yellowstone River.

I am honored and grateful to be part of the inaugural Indigenous Immersion Initiative.

We started our time together by listening and learning about the difficult history and violent policy intended to eliminate Indigenous people, and the hope within Indigenous communities today.

The phrase, “We are still here,” gave me pause early in our time together. An important part of this experience for me has been self-reflection and becoming more aware of my thoughts, particularly related to race. As I reflected, I learned I didn’t realize Native Americans were missing from my life in the first place. That’s how much Native Americans have been missing from my frame of reference, my friendships, and communities. The fraction of what we have learned about our history and policy related to Native Americans has been eye-opening, which, in part, reflects success of our policies.

I have been reminded of the importance of intention throughout our experience, especially as we have difficult and necessary conversations. From the start, Marci asked us to leave blame, shame, and guilt out of our experience. Through our homework, I was introduced to the concept of cultural humility (meaning there is lifelong learning, not a sense of accomplishment). As we learned about urban Indian populations and later prepared for our visit to Blackfeet Nation, I thought more about the traditions I hold (or don’t) and began to feel bereft of culture. But I am becoming more aware of the water I swim in, the dominant culture.

This experience for me has marked a return to ways of being that I know and got away from over the last few years. We have been introduced or reminded of ways to do things–at the right time, when it is time. We start when we’re ready, and end when it’s done. Do it and get it right. I discover more of my culture as we learn together this way. I am grateful to my classmates and their willingness and openness to learn together through this experience.

I will remember the generosity we experienced at Blackfeet Nation and the care at Northern Cheyenne Nation. In both sessions, we learned about challenges through a trauma-informed lens and about impactful work being done by the community, for the community. Last week in Northern Cheyenne Nation, I heard (and felt):

We are all connected. We need to heal together.

I am grateful that we will be hosted by two more of the eight tribal nations in Montana next year.