November 2, 1937 – November 4, 2021
Helen Baker was born in Independence, North Dakota on November 2nd, 1937 delivered by a midwife at her family home. She was a Waterbuster Clan member and a Child of the Knife Clan. Her parents were Philip and Delia (Montclair) Baker of rural Independence, North Dakota. Helen was raised in the traditional manner of the time alongside her beloved siblings, Milton, Ethel, Lyle and Linda.
In her younger years, she went away for schooling like most kids from Fort Berthold to attend Pierre Indian School and Flandreau Indian School. She graduated from Flandreau in 1957. Upon graduation, she moved to Lawrence, Kansas and attended Haskell institute to further her education. She had many fond memories of her time in Lawrence and made many lifelong friends, including Billy Mills.
Her next stop took to the east coast to begin her prestigious Federal Government career with the Indian Health Service in Rockville, Maryland in 1959. Helen rose through the ranks of the agency starting in the administrative field and then eventually attaining her GS-15 prior to her retirement as a Policy Analyst. She had a very fulfilling career helping Indian people advance the quality of health care in Indian Country.
Some of her most memorable times were serving as a Special Assistant to the Director of the Indian Health Service Dr. Emery Johnson and Dr. Everett Rhodes. During this time period she helped facilitate the roadmap for improving Indian Healthcare working alongside influential national Tribal Leaders. During a brief period in the 1980’s, she was also the Acting Service Unit Director for the IHS Mini Tohe Clinic in New Town, ND.
While back east, Helen’s home was the center of all family activities hosting numerous Thanksgivings, Easter and Christmas dinners. She welcomed many Native professionals who were relocating to Washington DC to her home while they started their new jobs and looked for housing in the area. Her door was always open and a good cup of coffee was always ready to be served.
Helen retired in 1994 and moved home to Mandaree as she always planned during her long work career back east. In retirement, she was active on the Board of Directors for the Elders Organization for the MHA Nation. She also served on the Independence Congregational Church Board.
One of the joys of her life were her boys, Wesley and Philip. She enjoyed watching them play sports at the local ball parks and eventually seeing them both complete their college degrees at James Madison University for Wesley and Jacksonville State University for Philip respectively. She was a strong believer in higher education.
Helen could always be seen in retirement with her sisters Ethel, Linda and her brother in law Sonny at the local Pow Wows, Bingos and of course at her favorite slot machines at the Four Bears Casino.
Just prior to her passing, Helen shared, “her greatest joy in life was her family.”
She is preceded in her death, by her parents; Philip and Delia (Montclair) Baker, brothers; Milton and Lyle Baker. Her Paternal Grandparents; James and Ethel (Tail) Baker, Maternal Grandparents; Hollis and Sally (Smith) Montclair.
She is survived by her children; Wesley Picciotti (Wanda) of Scottsdale, AZ, Philip Picciotti (Kristina) of Loxahatchee, Florida. Grandchildren; Zachary Picciotti (Cassandra) of Mesa, AZ, Paige Loy (Scott) of Carrollton, Texas, Daniela Picciotti of Loxahatchee, Florida. Sisters; Ethel Reeves (Sonny) of Mandaree, ND and Linda Baker of Mandaree, ND. Numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren.