RETIREMENT CEREMONY AT THE TRIBAL COUNCIL
By: Sherry Stevens
Will Maquire of KMHA 91.3 submitted audio and photos in this article
*This article is lengthy (comprised of almost 4,000 words) as the ceremony was transcribed from audio, and almost all parts were captured to reflect its fullness in content. Unfortunately, there were a few inaudible parts found within the recording and are marked as such.
TRIBAL COUNCIL MEETING, NEW TOWN – While at the Three Affiliated Tribal Council Meeting, Chairman, Mark N. Fox, conducted a retirement ceremony for four long-term, retiring employees of the MHA Nation. He presented retirement award plaques to all four well-recognized and established employees; Ramona Two Shields, Jeffrey Fox, Benita ‘Walking in Beauty’ Spotted Elk, and Marilyn Jacobs. Chairman Fox also delivered an Honorable Mention to Ms. Ramona Two Shields for her exemplary work in the Constitution Department, where she lay the groundwork for current and “up and coming” changes by future referendum.
Chairman, Mark N. Fox explained, “We have four special guests today whom we want to recognize. These are long-time employees that have performed significant work for the Tribal Nations. We have a letter for each with a summary for each (individual) and we will have them speak. [After], we have plaques (to give them). We want to express our appreciation for them at this time, and [although it is] hard for me to talk with this mask, with the recent spread [the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases] and how fast it is spreading, and it has become so prevalent, we really have to dig in to be more cautious than ever before. I’ll try my best to wear this mask, the best I can, and speak clearly here.”
Biography of Ramona Two Shields:
Ramona graduated high school from Flandreau, South Dakota, in 1958. She graduated from Haskell Technical College in 1960 and that same year, got on a bus to Dallas, Texas, where she started a job with the Federal Aviation Agency, which was located on Main Street. Before the day Jack Kennedy was assassinated, Ramona had shaken his hand three months prior, as he and his wife Jackie came down the street in the famous motorcade.
Ramona met and married her husband in San Antonio, where he was located and enlisted in the Air
Ramona Two Shields is read her Honorable Mention by Chairman, Mark N. Fox at the Three Affiliated Tribal Council Meeting on Thursday, October 8th, 2020
Force. After he was discharged, they moved to San Francisco, where Ramona got a job with the Department of Navy. Ramona worked her way up to the Director of Contracts and Engineering Division, where the Navy procured and shipped supplies and various materials overseas to Vietnam during the war. Ramona had a very lucrative career with the Navy and was able to travel all over the world to places such as; Japan, Guam, The Mariana Islands, The Philippines, Canada, Italy, and was even detailed to work in Hawaii for two months to help negotiate an awarded contract.
Ramona received many awards and commendations during her career with the Navy, and she eventually retired in 1997. She and her daughter Minnie moved home, and she began her career with the Three Affiliated Tribes in 2001 as the Head of Contracts. She later transferred to the Elders’ Program as the Director. She worked in the Constitution Department under the Tex Hall Administration, and was working for Chairman Fox until her retirement last month, which she enjoyed very much. Her official retirement date was September 25, 2020.
WORDS OF Ramona Two Shields:
I’ll make this short and sweet. I really enjoyed my career with the Navy. I did many things; traveled all over, but the career I enjoyed the most was with my people. I really enjoyed working with Chairman Fox, and as I stated before, Chairman Fox is our nephew. He was my brother Mickey Packineau’s adopted son. There’s a little story behind that one which Mickey told me:
One time I came home with my husband on vacation from San Francisco, and we were all sitting around at Iva’s because that’s where we were staying. They were talking about some uprising going on in Newtown at that bar they used to have; they said, “Who was the leader of that? and what happened?” Then they kind of mentioned Mark Fox, and I said, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Who is Mark!? And Mickey said, “Jay, he’s my adopted son.” (Chairman Fox responded to her, “That was a mistake, it was Mervyn.” Followed by laughter from the crowd)
I really enjoyed working for each and every one of you. Dr. Mayer, Congratulations on your recent election. Of course, my nephew Mervyn and Chairman Fox have been strong supporters of the Elders’ Program, and I want to take the opportunity to thank them. Of course, I can’t forget my little Clan Brother, Cory. I enjoyed working with you, Cory. Same here, you’ve always supported the program too. Thank you for that, and my nephew, Fred, “Thank you.” I enjoyed working with you too. I hope I didn’t forget anybody, but Randy isn’t here; Randy is our Clan Brother too. Again, I thank each and every one of you. I was surprised at this. I didn’t realize you were going to do this but, “thank you,” before I get emotional, I will quit.
Chairman Fox added a Noble Mention for Ms. Ramona Two Shields due to her hard work in laying the foundation for the “up and coming constitutional changes” which he believes, “we will see very shortly”:
NOBLE MENTION OF RAMONA TWO SHIELDS:
For years now, there were previous actions taken [by Ramona Two Shields] to our constitutional referendum and subsequent elections; changes made, and there are some things that were put into place, and they were challenged. We are dealing with those issues now. At the same time, I am 100% confident that because of her legwork, the foundation for change that she has laid, I am thoroughly convinced that we are going to find a way in a very short amount of time, to change our Constitution to make our government better—all based upon her thoughts, ideas, and her hard work. I know we’re going to get there, and I know the Council is in that position. I truly believe that it is now time to move forward and get that passed by referendum if need be. Then onto a Constitutional change with the secretarial election. All because we need it for the people. Ramona has a lot to do with laying the foundation and groundwork for making that happen. She kept pushing things forward. So, when that time comes, there will be a great deal of gratitude from the people, and I want to mention that and that it has been work well done, “With our greatest appreciation, we hereby honor, Ramona Two Shields. Thank you for your service and patience over the years. Wishing you a happy and fulfilling retirement, signed October 8th, 2020, by Chairman, Mark N. Fox.
Jeffrey Fox is read his Dedication of Appreciation made by the Three Affiliated Tribes at MHA Nation’s Retirement Ceremony
Retiree, Jeffrey Gene Fox:
Chairman Fox always remembers Jeff being busy and working hard. No matter what he is/was doing, he is always remembered for working hard and fixing things. Chairman Fox states, “Jeff Fox came on board to help out Ramona Fox in Constitutions, and at that time, I said, “C’mon aboard, and you can work with Ramona to move some things forward with your ideas.”
He was always working hard in Housing and Development and also in Constitutions. He would say, “We need these things to change; we need things to be different.” Chairman Fox further mentioned he was always respectful when he would see problems in need of change. He would present these things to the Counsel, and he was respectful about it.
Biography of Jeff Fox:
Jeffrey Gene Fox is a member of the Hidatsa Tribe and of the Xo’Shga Band. His Hidatsa name is Walking Bull. He is a proud member of the Kit Fox Society and grew up throughout the Mandaree and Newtown areas. His parents are George “Chubby” Fox and Goldie (Drags Wolf) Fox who both worked for the tribe for many years – Chubby as a Mailman, and Goldie as a Cook. Gloria Fox was the granddaughter of Chief Drags Wolf. Jeff has two children, a son and daughter.
Jeff attended boarding school at Marty Indian School and at Chamberlain Boarding School in South Dakota. Jeff was happy to return home to attend Mandaree High School until his junior year before transferring to New Town High School where he graduated in 1974.
In his youth, Jeff did a lot of ranch work and enjoyed rodeos. He competed in saddle bronc, bareback, and bull riding for many years until the mid-1980s. Jeff attended NDSU Bottineau, United Tribe Technical College, and our very own Nueta, Sahnish, Hidatsa College. He has worked as a carpenter in the oil field industry and in construction. In 1984, he went to work at the MHA Housing until 2012, where he worked his way up to be an Inspector and the very first-ever, safety officer. He took a year off, but then in 2013, he went to work for the tribe as a construction inspector and assisted in the Constitution Revision Committee.
His career accomplishments are many, and he’s appreciative that he has stayed fairly healthy and has had the ability and opportunity to help out the MHA Nation in so many ways throughout his life. It was in September of this year, Jeff decided to officially retire for good. He plans to stay busy. Jeff has served on the North Segment Board for 20 years, and he remains serving as the Chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes’ Museum Board and the Chairman of the MHA Nation’s Elders Board. His hobbies are helping people, supporting and attending rodeos, doing leatherwork such as horse halters, and a lot of hunting and fishing.
WORDS of Jeffrey Fox:
I just wanted to say, “Maacagíraac” for all the years that people put their faith in me to help them; our people in all segments. I worked under Judy, and I worked with Mervyn for years and the Chairman; I know all you guys understand where I came from. I came to help people, and I’ve always lived here all my life. I did various jobs, and I always did them the best way I could. The housing authority was a big program, and at one time, that’s all we had for the Tribe. The money that the Tribe gave us, we made good use of it. We built a lot of houses, and we renovated a lot of houses. We did our own work because we didn’t have the oil fields and we didn’t have certain things the Tribe has now. Our number one goal was to help families have homes, and I always was told that. My parents always said, “if you’re going to do a job, do it the best way your know-how. Nobody’s perfect, but if you do your best, people will know how you are.” I have always kept that in mind. I always got along, and I always did my job and did what I was told, and meanwhile, I always took and got my education along the way. People come to me for advice and I always say, “I don’t just give advice, I give it to whatever I have learned and what I have been told by my Elders and so I kept it that way.”
I have always been proud to work for the Three Affiliated Tribes. I am proud of where I came from. This is our home. I know with this Pandemic, it’s made it hard for everybody; we can’t hug each other, and we can’t tell each other how much we love each other, and we want to hold each other but yet, in our hearts, we are always there, we are always together. I always say, “If my folks were alive and my grandparents and my ancestors, they’d have their heads down because of the place that we are now but yet, even though there would be sorrow, they would be proud of us all and how we have adapted to it and in just a few short months and maybe we can continue on and pray to God.
The Chairman, he prays to God for all of us and we all pray at home for our little ones and for our grandparents, everyone. This is something now, that was taught, and I learned on the way as I go. But I have always been proud of where I am from; I tell everyone where I am from. I just want to thank each and every one of you for recognizing me, and I have worked with some of you, and I have been here for a while, but now it’s just time for me to step down and do the things that I would like to do. I will always be around to help someone, and I just want to say, “Maacagíraac” (Thank you) and “Maabicagí” (Good day).
Chairman Mark N. Fox reads the dedication plaque: With the greatest appreciation, we want to honor Jeff Fox. Thank you for your service and dedication over the years. We wish you a happy and fulfilling retirement. October 8th, 2020
Retirement of Benita ‘Walking in Beauty’ Spotted Elk:
Retiring in 2020 is Benita Spotted Elk and she is a member of the Maxo ox adi (Alkali Lodge) Clan and a child of the Ciicga, Prairie Chicken Clan. Her parents are the late, Martha Fox and Benjamin Lone Bear, Senior. She had eight siblings; six sisters and two brothers. She raised two daughters and four sons. She’s a proud and loving magúu to nine grandchildren.
Bonita Spotted Elk receives her plaque from Chairman Fox as a symbol of appreciation for her many years of dedication
Her education began at Wahpeton Indian School. Her first language was Hidatsa. She Graduated from Standing Rock Community High School. She also attended the Fort Berthold Community College, where she received her Liberal Arts Degree. Her mother, Martha, and her family were very proud of her accomplishments. Benita followed a life as an Educator in the footsteps of her mother, who worked for over 30 years in the Tribal Head Start Program. Her eldest sister, Bernie, was the first Education Administrator for the newly 638 contracted BIA Education Office. Benita is the longest-serving employee of that education department. Consequently, it is a historically-fitting occasion that Benita is retiring from her long-term services at the MHA Nation in the education field.
Benita’s career in education began in the New Town Public School District, where she worked for 13 years in the elementary school as a Teacher’s Assistant. She enjoyed her many duties, especially developing many wonderful decorations and bulletin boards. She made the student environment beautiful and inspiring. The teacher’s working with her gave her outstanding evaluations. She also served the MHA Nation as a Contract Credit Department Employee, providing needed services for the public. She became indispensable with her knowledge and skills, working with budgets and finances.
The second phase of her education career began in 2005 as the tribe’s Education Department’s, Executive Assistant. She also provided administration duties for the newly developed Early Child Tracking (Child) Program. She was a truly vital and essential worker for the smooth and professional operations important for all the programs she worked in.
In addition, as a department employee, she also worked to help implement the first written TAT Educational Mission of the Tribe passed in 1992. Consequently, Benita was actively engaged in the language and culture revitalization efforts set forth in the education department of the Tribe. Bonita was raised to respect the clanship, language, history, and culture life-ways. This was manifested in all of her duties in her work. This respect for the cultural life-ways and belief systems gave her the energy and heart for Benita to work on the many vital and significant projects to promote the Tribe’s language, cultural identity, and sovereignty. This focus, she knew, meant the survival of her people.
Examples of the major projects she actively supported were; Earth Lodge Learning Center, Hidatsa Clanship Directory, The Nueta, Hidatsa, Sahnish Revitalization Committee (2005-2007), TAT Educational Summits, TAT Educational week, Education Code Draft, Language Declaration Drafts, Outreach Mobile Units for the (CHILD) Programs, TAT Week of a Young Child, TAT Rehab Program, and the Little Shell Celebration – “Clan Directory Day” (13 years).
Agu Niiri Cagihidish, she carries her name proudly and respectfully. She believes that “walking in beauty” means to honor and respect the language and cultures of the MHA Nation. Further, she believes the backbone of the MHA Education Department with the Language and Cultural Division, is to strengthen and ensure the perpetuity of our people.
As the longest-serving employee for the Education Department, she has always encouraged and supported this belief in her work for the Tribe and the people of the MHA Nation. Her hope is that the Education Department and the Tribe do not lose this focus. Her retirement will be a chance to experience and enjoy new adventures and activities. Her dedicated and devoted educational work will ensure the strengthening of strong cultural identities, will continue with her time with her children, grandchildren and family. She has not retired; she has just extended her time to work hard as she always has done.
WORDS of Benita ‘Walking in Beauty’ Spotted Elk:
First of all, I would like to thank all of my people to have allowed me to serve. But I’m still going to continue on with my own cultural language, and I would like to encourage everyone to at least speak a few words of our language daily because that’s how we are going to grow stronger, to learn our language and our culture “Maacagíraac.”
Marilyn Jacobs with her Pendleton and Plaque standing beside presenter, Chairman Fox
Retirement of Marilyn”Tootsie” Jacobs:
Marilyn “Tootsie” Jacobs was born in Richardton, North Dakota, to Loretta Eagle and Eugene Jacobs on November 4th, 1954. She is the granddaughter of the late Martina Eagle Ross and Anna Crows Heart Eagle. She was raised on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and
attended elementary school in Twin Buttes, graduated from Haliday Public High School and went on to receive her AA Degree in Early Childhood Education from The Fort Berthold Community College and went on to earn her BA Degree in Early Childhood from the University of Maryland. Marilyn had five sons, four being in her Head Start Classroom as well as her granddaughter, and sacred many, many, other students who have gone through her classroom in the 40 years she has been a Head Start Teacher.
I grew up in a household with nine siblings, with my mother, father, and my grandmother, Anna Crows Heart Eagle. She spoke the Hidatsa language in front of all the children in the household, and when her friends visited the home, she spoke the Mandan language. Grandma Annie taught me many things about the Hidatsa/Mandan ways of life. She told us cultural stories in the evening from both sides of the Tribe. From my grandmother, I learned how to plant a garden, care for it, and harvest it. I helped her dry meat, corn, and berries to make pemmican and corn balls. She canned many things from the garden as well as berries picked. Many evenings I would cut diamonds for the star quilts she made.
In my years of growing up around her, I always admired her ways of teaching and thought that when I grew up, I wanted to teach others as she did. My grandmother was an inspiration to me as well as, a couple of my teachers in school, and led the way for me to want to become a teacher. I know I have chosen a rewarding and promising career path, and I hope I have made a lifelong impression on countless young lives. I was taught that our children are ‘special’ and ‘sacred’, ‘Leaders of the future.’ They rely on us for the guidance and good teaching to help them adapt and grow into responsible, intellectual, and curious human beings.
WORDS of Marilyn Jacobs:
I just wanted to say to the MHA Nation, to the Head Start Program that I worked for such a long time, and I enjoyed it. I’ve had a wonderful journey. I’m blessed to have worked with so many families, so many children over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve learned a lot in my job. I got to further my education and still support my family, my children, and go to work. It was an awesome job. I have learned a lot from my children and families over the years. I didn’t want to retire, but I have grandchildren I would like to spend more time with and with my family so, that’s the choice I made.
I still will be going to the Head Start in (inaudible) and checking them out. We need to do as much as we can while we can do it. I am grateful to the Tribe and to the Council for helping them in their program and helping the children because they are the ‘sacred ones’, and they will be leading MHA in the future. I have worked with a lot of good people. I’ve met a lot of good people. It takes a certain person to work with little children, and we were lucky enough to get those few people who were patient, kind, and always love the little kids. I have had a good journey in my life, and I am so blessed to have had that job. Thank you.
(Applause and end of audio).