September 7, 2017

Building on the Resilient Foundation That Was Laid Before Me

a small plant growing from the earth

There’s a saying that I usually hear in passing, “They must have gotten tired of trying to save the world.” This is usually said in reference to individuals who come back to the reservation to “save” their people within a limited timeline, and so they aren’t able to meet their goals within that period. I typically don’t like to be labeled and put into a statistic, so that’s one reason behind my motivation to join AmeriCorps for a year of service.

My name is Ramona King. I’m an enrolled member of the Assiniboine (Nakoda) on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, and I am a Cultural and Climate Tribal Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA member.

Focus of Building Capacity Locally on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation

I’m serving under Opportunity Link, which is a nonprofit organization based in Havre, Montana, serving 11 counties and three reservations. Opportunity Link established relationships with communities in Northcentral Montana by assisting with resources and by building sustainable programs that focus on building capacity within the communities.

I am honored to serve in the communities on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the homeland of the Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) people. From my office, I’m fortunate to be in the same building as Fort Belknap Planning Department and Montana State University-Extension, also known as Fort Belknap Reservation Extension to the locals.

These two separate entities are housed in the same building, yet they both serve the communities in different impactful ways. Fort Belknap Planning Department provides guidance with determining the future direction and resources needed to achieve target goals. Montana State University-Extension serves by identifying local needs, planning and prioritizing work, creating resources and extending resources to the local communities.

Within this year of service so far, I have helped and collaborated with existing programs and organizations to build capacity for economic growth and food sovereignty. Recently, I’m assisting Fort Belknap Extension (Montana State University-Extension) and other programs in constructing a food policy or a cottage food law that will be used on the reservation.

It’s Not About “Saving the World”

I didn’t realize for a long time that the geographic location of my community is not ideal; driving long distances for produce and general shopping was just the way of living in rural Montana. After starting my undergrad, I realized that I lived amongst poverty and a food desert. But that knowledge can be used to better our situation and circumstances.

It’s not about “saving the world.” It’s more about helping others within a communal framework. I believe this work matters because we all need help and reassurance from our communities to realize that we’re not in this alone.

Ramona King is a Cultural and Climate Tribal Resilience VISTA hosted by Opportunity Link.