Mountains

Lenore Ann Stiffarm

1944 ~ 2021 (age 76)

Obituary

Dr. Lenore Ann Stiffarm made her journey to the other side camp on September 6, 2021 in Billings, MT surrounded by love and family. She always said her greatest gift and accomplishment was being blessed to be a mother to three beautiful children. Her love, influence, kindness, and resilience will never be forgotten.

Dr. Lenore Ann Stiffarm ʔíθaaʔ cɔɔʔɔ́cikʔi taasiʔ ʔɔhɔhʔnáákʔi - Woman sits on the rock, was born at the Old Fort Belknap Agency hospital to ʔɔhɔhʔnáákʔi (John Stiffarm) and ʔíθaaʔ ítéh (Katherine Capture) both of the ʔɔʔɔ́ɔ́́niiih (Gros Ventre) Tribe. Lenore grew up with 10 siblings in a one room cabin in Dry Lake on the south end of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. In her early years she helped take care of cattle and horses, tended a garden that fed many people and watched over her younger siblings. She grew up on horseback and throughout her life she looked to the horse spirit for safe travels, much of her teachings in life were taught to her by the horse. Due to medical malpractice at Indian Health Service, she was left with a damaged heart at a young age, doctors told her she could never have children. She attended boarding school in Crow and Haskell making many lifelong friends while suffering the effects of the boarding school’s agenda for Native children.

Lenore then decided to pursue her life’s work for education in the realization that whoever controls the education of children, controls the future. She graduated with an undergrad in Education from the University of Montana and worked in the Seattle public school system. Lenore then pursued education at Harvard and received three degrees, Masters of Education M. Ed., a certificate of advanced study and a Doctor of Education Ed. D. Thus, she was the first person from Fort Belknap to pursue and achieve a doctoral degree. Again, she made lifelong friends, this time in the Boston metro area. After Harvard, Lenore worked for the Confederated tribes of the Colville Reservation in Omak, WA at the Paschall Sherman Indian School. Lenore worked diligently using her hard-earned education to create understanding, attempting to build a bridge between non-Native people and Native Americans. Much of her work entailed healing Native American trauma using traditional teachings and western methods, to give people tools to help themselves and exposing that many trauma survivors have symptoms instead of memories. Lenore lived in several places working and was instrumental in starting multiple programs across the United States and Canada. Some of these places include teaching at U.C.L.A. in Southern California and working in the Los Angeles Unified school system showing teachers how to work with minorities, the University of Lethbridge in Alberta working largely with the Kanai and other bands of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the University of Saskatchewan assisting the Nehiyo Confederation reaching objectives through education. To name just a few of her local accomplishments at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation include starting the Kwik Stop gas station, Buttrey’s at the agency so young mothers wouldn’t have to travel far for food and milk, several language preservation grants, research and feasibility of a would-be dialysis center, did much of the leg work for multiple departments for years and started her own non-profit Aanaak (speaking Whiteclay and preserving our culture).

Lenore loved her Native culture, ceremony was her life. Over the years she healed her own life’s trauma through ceremony and prayer always putting the creator first. She encouraged everyone to be kind and loving to each other and set this example. When not working, she spent much of her life at ceremonies in Alberta, 

Saskatchewan and Montana and those who were in attendance may share a story or two with you about that.

Lenore provided a wonderful home where she grew up in Dry Lake and enjoyed most watching her family grow. She loved to cook and help people out anyway she could. She enjoyed dancing at powwows, singing any chance she got, sewing, listening to classical music, working on resources and projects on her computer, walking with her dogs, horsemanship and most of all spending time with her family.

She endured three open heart surgeries in her lifetime, twice being told she would not make it through surgery. More recently, Lenore suffered several severe strokes being told that she would never walk again, talk or think but her drive and prayer proved this incorrect. With these crippling setbacks she still managed to sponsor ceremonies and a Sundance before leaving this world. Lenore was given half an hour to live and went nineteen hours before expiring, she fought and charged for life until her last breath. Dr. Lenore Stiffarm will be incredibly missed by countless lives she touched. So much of her experiences and life cannot be summarized at this time, there is just too much to tell. She lived an extraordinary life and worked with the hand she was dealt. Her blessings and love will never be forgotten. She left this world with a gentle breath, like the buffalo’s breath on a winter morning. Ɔtɔnɔ́́hɔbáanʔɔ

People that Lenore wanted to acknowledge:

Nursing staff at the Billings Clinic ICC unit, Delores Plumage, Kathy Meses, Manuela Twitchell, Donna Marie Horse Grant, Malcolm, Jackie, Yellowtail, Joyce Ironstar, Jackie K., Cheryl Belcourt, Brian Miles, Manny Healy, Dominic Messerly, Loretta Kirkaldie, Verna St. Denis, Henry Pretty on Top, Corky Old Horn, Lynn & Corky Johnasson, Wilton & Evelyn Goodstriker, Pam & Lucius Wadsworth, Stewart Weasel Moccasin, Warren & Wilma Matte, Frank Ryan, Gator (her Haskell friend from the Seminole Tribe), Jennie Joe, Earl & Carol Sisto, John Dawson & family, Michael Joseph Raymond, Allison Davis, Christina Padilla, California Sun Dance crew, Tina Phillips, Elsa (Canary Islands), Alaina Buffalo Spirit, Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls, Walter Old Elk & family, Renita Longknife, Michelle Ereaux, Clarena Brockie, Lana Stiffarm, Nicki & Mo Caputo, Ahhaitty family, Willie Bradley, Gert Werk, Tom Christian, Art Simiga, Ed & Helen Hofer, All of her Haskell family, family and friends of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Marge Flying.

She always acknowledged her Stiffarm Family, Grandma Warrior family, as well as all her adopted family of sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandchildren. In our time of grief please forgive us if we forgot to mention anyone, it is unintentional.

Paternal Grandparents: θeih Wɔsʔi (Peter Stiffarm #1) and Nɔ́́cʔbiikóóúhsíisʔi (White Moon)

Maternal Grandparents: kɔɔkóunííθíhkʔi (Ed Capture) and ʔíθaaʔ ítéh (Pretty Woman)

Children: Denise (Charles) Werk, John (Nancy) Stiffarm, AJ (Alpha) Stiffarm

Grandchildren: Carla (Tough) Medina, Brandon (Maribeth) Stiffarm, Juan Carlos Medina, Ihte’ Stiffarm, Kehtsin Stiffarm, Nihani Siis Stiffarm

Great Grandchildren: Lincoln Werk, Ezra Snow

Living Siblings: John Matthew Stiffarm, James ‘Bobsy’ Stiffarm

Preceded in death by parents John and Katie Stiffarm, brothers Ed Filesteel, Ben Striker, Louie Stiffarm, Carl Stiffarm, sisters Ramona (Striker) Cliff, Helen (Striker) Jones, Thelma (Striker) Yellowtail, nephews Tom Filesteel, Sherman Jones, Kim Jones, Rudy Yellowtail, Joey Yellowtail, Marcus Christianson, William Stiffarm, nieces Tracy Stiffarm, Melissa Stiffarm

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