Written by John Plestina
Breaking with a long-standing tradition, the Christmas Parade of Lights will not be held this year. Instead, the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture wants to take the kickoff of the holiday season in a new direction.
The first “Get Lit In Wolf Point: Festival Of Lights And Stroll” along with the annual Northeast Montana Health Services Charitable Foundation Festival of Trees will open the holiday season Friday, Dec. 5.
Dwindling parade participation in recent years prompted the new direction, said the chamber.
All downtown businesses are asked to light up and decorate for the holidays. It is hoped that all downtown Christmas lights be turned on at 5:30 p.m. The public could stroll the downtown area, viewing the lights and holiday displays.
The chamber is also seeking volunteers to build stationary holiday displays that could be set up in Sherman Park.
The Festival of Trees fundraiser, where people can win a fully-decorated Christmas tree, will be held in the upstairs bar area in the Wolf Point Elks Club on the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue South.
The NEMHS Charitable Foundation will sell tickets at the Elks Club Friday, Dec. 5, from 11 a.m. until the drawing at 7 p.m.
Decorated trees will be displayed in the Elks Club for one week during lunch hours from Friday, Nov. 28, through Friday, Dec. 5.
“We are assisting the Optimists this year and having one of their Angel Trees at the event also,” NEMHS Charitable Foundation executive director Beth Pickthorn said.
“I do not know how many trees we’ll get donated at this time. We had nine the first year and 13 last year. This is only the third year we’ve held this, and the first year at the Elks, as we always had used the empty Bryan’s store that Gysler’s [Furniture and Appliance] is now in,” she said.
Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch will be at the Festival of Trees, Friday, Dec. 5, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Photos with Santa will be available by local photographer Nicole Huber.
Written by John Plestina
School administrators sounded an alarm over enrolled students who are not attending school during the monthly Wolf Point School Board meeting, Monday, Nov. 10.
There are 20 junior and senior high school students and more than 10 elementary students not attending school on a regular basis.
Administrators and school board members assigned blame on some parents for the truancy problem.
“That’s educational neglect of their children,” board chair Martin DeWitt said, likening the situation to a parent not feeding a child.
He said the court systems, both tribal and state courts, could hold parents responsible.
With the first quarter of the 2014-15 school year ended, the principals of all three of the district’s schools told the trustees that while most students are attending classes, there are too many who are not and too many parents who appear to not care.
The district reports that attendance at Wolf Point High School was 85.54 percent up to Thursday, Nov. 6, and 88.72 percent for junior high students for the same period.
WPHS principal Kim Hanks said 16 high school and four junior high students have missed 15 or more days of school since the beginning of the school year, which was Aug. 20.
“We’d like those numbers closer to 90 percent,” Hanks said. “We are frustrated with those numbers.”
Northside Elementary School principal Hannah Nieskens said 11 students have missed at least 10 days of school, which is over 25 percent of instruction time.
She said it is a small number of Northside students who are not attending school and she blamed parents.
Southside Elementary School reported 17 percent of students were absent eight or more days.
Steps taken to get habitually truant students back in school include phone calls to parents each day a child is absent where the parent did not call the school, letters to parents, home visits by school staff or a tribal education liaison, requests for meetings with parents and students, truancy meetings, a 21-day attendance challenge incentive, referral to courts for uncooperative parents, social services referral and home welfare and safety checks by police.
Nieskens said some parents have not cooperated by not answering the phone or not answering the door.
“The parents need to be aware how serious this is,” board member Janice Wemmer-Kegley said.
“At that age [elementary school], you can’t blame the child,” superintendent Joe Paine said.
There was a discussion about getting the Fort Peck Tribes and the tribal court more involved in the truancy issue.
Fort Peck Tribes education director Neil Taylor said due process in the court systems takes time. He called for speeding up and refining the process of addressing absenteeism.
“We don’t want to see any more kids get expelled because they aren’t coming to school or their parents aren’t sending them to school,” Taylor said.
Hanks said WPHS has started a weekly perfect attendance drawing. Early results were 101 high school and 68 junior high students with perfect attendance the week of Oct. 27-30. The high school perfect attendance percentage was 45 percent and 51 percent for junior high students.
Southside School recognizes classes with perfect attendance.
Because of the high number of families the district must address the situation with, the board will hold one or more special meetings where parents or guardians will be requested to attend and meet with the board and administrators. The first special meeting for parents will be Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the WPHS library.
Written by Richard Peterson
Nellie Silk of Wolf Point, a fluent Dakota speaker, talks about a painting of her late grandfather, Chief Follows The Road, in the documentary film Cante Etanhan Iapi [Language of the Heart]. The 36-minute film is about the preservation and revitalization effort by the Fort Peck Tribes to save their Dakota and Nakoda languages. (Photo by Rich Peterson)
Leroy Comes Last of Poplar works with a horse in the documentary film Cante Etanhan Iapi [Language of the Heart], produced by the Fort Peck Tribes about the effort to save the Nakoda and Dakota tribal languages on the reservation. (Photo by Rich Peterson)
Ramey Growing Thunder is the director of the Fort Peck Tribes’ Language and Culture Department. (Photo by Rich Peterson)
The Fort Peck Tribes Language and Culture Department will premiere its documentary video, Cante Etanhan Iapi [Language of the Heart], on Thursday, Nov. 13.
Faced with a dwindling number of Dakota [Sioux] and Nakoda [Assiniboine] language speakers, the department hopes the 36-minute film will inspire its 13,000 tribal members to learn and preserve the languages.
Currently, there are only 25 Nakoda and 35 Dakota speakers remaining on the reservation.
The video highlights efforts being made to revitalize the languages among Fort Peck youth. A camera follows the summer immersion program as they learn about their culture and history by traveling to the tribes’ buffalo ranch, Little Bighorn Battlefield, gathering traditional foods and summer pow-wows. Included are interviews with some of the remaining language speakers.
“Cante Etanhan Iapi sheds important light on our language and culture with the elders and youth. The elders are waiting to hear and help the youth with our language and culture. The youth are going to carry the message and our language and culture’s future from the elders,” said Ramey Growing Thunder, the director of the Fort Peck Tribes’ Language and Culture Department.
“All this happens because our ancestors are with us wherever we go and whatever we do. They are the ones making the connections. And it is Creator that’s at work for all of us. How beautiful it is,” Growing Thunder said.
The video for the premiere will be held Thursday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m., in the historic Poplar Theater.
The video was funded by the Fort Peck Tribes and the Montana Indian Language Preservation Pilot Program. The program developed from Senate Bill 342, passed in the 2013 Legislative Session and sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, to help preserve and teach Montana’s native languages on the state’s seven Indian reservations.
Written by John Plestina
The developer who is interested purchasing property from the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture off U.S. Hwy. 2 near the Homestead Inn and constructing a 26,000-square-foot building for a national retailer said Monday, Nov. 10, that site prep costs are going to be higher than expected.
Drew Johnson of Oppidan Investment Company, a Minnetonka, Minn., commercial developer, said the still unnamed national retailer would make final decisions about the development.
“With the help of a lot of hard work with a lot of local contractors and consultants, we have estimated the cost to get to a buildable pad,” Johnson said.
The preparations include removing remnants of the railroad yard that was once operating at the site, trucking in fill, water service and paving a portion of First Avenue North near the development site.
Johnson said a “wildcard” is the Oct. 12 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by ALCO Stores, Inc. As a result, the future of the Wolf Point ALCO store is uncertain.
He said Oppidan is not likely to purchase the 25,000-square-foot ALCO store, but the developer is watching the situation.
The chamber board of directors voted unanimously, Tuesday, Sept. 2, to sign a buy-sell agreement with Oppidan to sell up to 10 acres of the 25-acre site for $35,000 per acre. The chamber has owned the land since the 1970s.
Johnson has called his company’s client a general merchandise retailer that would lease the building from Oppidan.
Oppidan handles property acquisitions and develops construction sites for several national retailers, grocery chains and restaurants.
It is unknown if more than one business might locate on the site.
Written by Herald-News
Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture executive director Julie D’Ambrosio presents the First Dollar Award to Josh Toews, owner of Josh Toews Hay Grinding Inc., Friday, Oct. 31. Toews recently began doing business at 173 Nickwall Rd. south of Wolf Point. (Photo by John Plestina)