|February 7, 2013
Dixon Agency meeting focused on the present and future of the children
By B.L. Azure
Leslie Caye facilitated the recent Dixon Agency community meeting where community members want to map out a brighter future for the youngsters at the Agency. (B.L. Azure photo)
DIXON AGENCY — The once thriving Bureau of Indian Affairs Agency complex has seen better days. That’s for sure. Regardless, the former-BIA headquarters complex is now and has been for many, many years a small community with home fires burning for its residents. It has also been labeled as a drug haven; the residents acknowledge that, however they maintain that is a misnomer. Or that if that was once true it is not apropos now.
A couple of weeks ago several Dixon Agency community members with many children in tow gathered at the Agency Blue Building to begin the process of mapping out a route to a brighter future for what they consider the future: their young children. More than a dozen young and middle-aged parents and grand parents as well as nearly twice as many children attended the community meeting sponsored by the Tribal Health and Human Services’ Youth Health and Wellness Program.
Pearl Yellowman Caye, YHWP manager along with husband Leslie Caye, Ronan School District 30 counselor, facilitated the meeting that opened with a community dinner.
Following the dinner the young ones were shepherded into a small room where they were kept busy with activities. Meanwhile the adults gathered in the large open kitchen area to mull over the present situation at the Agency and how to rectify the perceived shortcomings.
The residents of the off U.S. Highway 93 burg feel they have gotten a bad rap. Times have changed for the better they maintain but they are a far cry from what they need to be. Time and again they said they want to make the Agency environment a better and safer place to raise children, to raise families.
They feel they are much more than six miles away from the main north-south thoroughfare that slices through the Flathead Indian Reservation. They feel that out-of-sight equates off the minds of decision makers or those that can help them tackle problems they want to address and rectify. It is all about the young ones of the agency, their future but more importantly their present and near future, and how the adults can pivot from the present not so rainbowie situation to a brighter one.
“The thought around here is that the Dixon Agency has been forgotten,” said Nadeen Dumontier, who along with husband Kenny have been Agency residents since the early-1970s. They have seen a lot come and go — a lot of changes, some good and some not so good. But through it all, they maintain that a spirit of community was ever present. “We are just as much a part of the reservation as any other place on the reservation, just as much a community as the other communities on the reservation.”
The recent random-act homicide across the state highway from the Agency has been a sharp spur to the flanks of the desire to make the Agency a safer place to raise children. They view the homicide as a major assault to the innocence of the youngsters of the Agency. They want to protect them, to keep the busy with positive activities so minds don’t wonder as a result of idleness.
“We need something for the kids to do every day after school from five to eight,” said Katy Coffey, a young mother who was raised in the agency and continues to reside there with her children and spouse. “We’ve been talking about this for many months now. The kids have nothing to do, we want something for them to do, to keep them active.”
Coffey said when she was a youngster growing up at the Agency it seemed that there was a smorgasbord of things to do, much of that was the result of the parents taking the bull by the horns.
“Years ago we had the same issues, there was nothing for the kids to do, there wasn’t any organized recreation,” Nadeen said. “Back then all the adults got together to clean up and take care of the park and playground. We started to have movie nights, took kids camping. There were around 14-15 kids plus our three. It worked out really well.”
It takes a community to raise a family, Kenny said.
“I have always liked to help with the the kids. I like to take them hiking and fishing. Keep them busy and interested in what we were doing,” Kenny said. “I am glad to see all the parents here tonight. We can do things like that. Let’s throw out some ideas and let’s do something about turning them into reality.”
Nadeen Dumontier discusses the needs the Dixon Agency community could use to make the Agency a better place for the children there. Her husband Kenny is on the left and Jennifer Defrance is on the right. (B.L. Azure photo)
Katy Coffey was one of the many youngsters that the Dumontiers as well as other Agency adults and parents kept busy with semi-organized activities a generation ago. That kind of Agency community effort is needed again, she said.
Victor Manuel had been living in the Dixon Agency for three years and is raring to get going with providing activities for the youngsters at the agency.
“Back home in Arizona the YMCA provided the organized activities,” Manuel said, adding that without such outside activity facilitators, the adults of the Agency must provide that leadership. “Kids need a lot of love and affection, and support. This is an opportunity for the community to come together with that. We can be the answer to a prayer. We can keep these kids busy with positive activities.”
The dozen or so adults, mostly all parents, reeled off their thoughts about what can be done on the dime and what takes a dollar to get done. There are a lot of things the parental volunteers can do with their dime and time but there are many things where they’ll need help. On top of the dollar-list is the park, basketball court and playground in the middle of the Agency as well as streets and street lighting.
The dilapidated and unsafe playground equipment has to be made safe. That includes refurbishment and/or replacement of portions of it. The lawn grasses are infested with weeds and thistles, and brown and bare spots. Water spigots are needed to properly water the park grass. When watered now hoses are tapped onto private residential buildings and some of the hoses belong to the residents in the buildings. Lawn care equipment is also needed.
The ad hoc parent group would like to be able to use the Agency Blue Building as a community center for meetings, indoor activities and staging area for outdoor activities including field trips. It could also be used to store equipment needed for activities and park/playground maintenance.
Access to a safe transportation vehicle — a large van or small bus — is also an issue high on the ad hoc committee’s wish list.
Nadeen said everything is possible if people put their minds, hearts, time and sweat into a common effort with common achievable goals. However missing from the equation is money. It’ll take money and other types of assistance to jump-start and maintain the effort.
“It’s important that we fix up our surroundings,” said Lucille “Muffy” Ross. “We will try to fix it up down here, it’s our home. It’s our kids’ home; they feel comfortable here. There are a lot of things we can do. It takes money but we can raise some of that through fundraisers.”
Kenny said the improvement of the streets and lighting would be outside of the ad hoc committee’s ability to remedy on its own. He said they would need assistance from Mission Valley Power and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Road Program.
Pearl Yellowman Caye advised the community members to come up with a set of goals and to categorize them as short-term and long-term goals to present at the next Agency community meeting.
“We need to reestablish the community relationship Nadeen has been talking about,” Yellowman Caye said. “There are some urgent safety issues that need to be addressed.”
Leslie Caye told the folks gathered that their ideas have to be developed into doable sequential actions, and that there will be successes and disappointments.
“You know what your community needs and you need to establish an ongoing process that will help achieve the needs,” Caye said, adding that the initial energy generated at the meeting must be maintained throughout an extended process. “We’re all going to go home happy thinking, ‘Wow, the Dixon Agency is going to come alive now.’ We can’t get lost in this momentum thinking it’s going to carry us through. We must maintain it and turn these words and energy into short- and long-term actions. We have to get our hands dirty. This is not an easy process, you won’t accomplish everything you want to and not all people you think are in positions to help will or can help. The first step is always easy but you need to put a shield on your hearts because the future steps we take can be hurtful. Keep positive. We are building roads to all these ends we want to have. As we build these roads the momentum will grow. Keep that in mind.”
Dixon Community Dinner set
DIXON — The Dixon School Parent Community Coalition will host a community meeting from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21 at the school. All community members, especially parents of school-aged children, are encouraged to attend. There will be a dinner served and discussions about safe learning environments.
The Agency residents came up with a set of goals with priorities that will be discussed and culled at the next community meeting. The time and date will be announced well in advance.