Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

For the Record
May 2009

Thomas "Bearhead" Swaney
POST CREEK — Thomas "Bearhead" Swaney, 78, of Post Creek passed away Thursday at the home of his daughter Patty Stevens and son-in-law Willie Stevens in St. Ignatius. Dad was a true warrior and battled with cancer to the very end and died surrounded by family and friends.

Bearhead was born in St. Ignatius on April 16, 1931, the youngest of seven children born to James "J. D." Swaney and Mary Catherine McDonald. He was raised in Dixon and he was known to proudly proclaim that he "graduated 4th in his class" (Dixon High School only had four graduates in 1950).

After graduation Bearhead enlisted in the military and served in the Air Force during the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1954. Upon his return home he attended college at what was then Western Montana College in Dillon. He majored in English and anyone who knew him knew how loquacious he was and how much he loved "the King’s English" as he often referred to it. While he was in college he met Dorene Dupuis and the two were married in 1958. With two children in diapers and a third one on the way, Bearhead fell six credits short of graduating but instilled the importance of education in his children, three of whom went on to earn college degrees. Bearhead and Dorene divorced in 1979 but in later years maintained a friendly relationship.

Bearhead went to work for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in 1960, serving as the Tribal Treasurer. He then worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including a brief stay at Crow Agency, Montana and Riverside, California, and then returned home for good in 1968. At that time along with his good friend the late Dave Harriman he began working toward what would become one of his greatest legacies, that of protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Flathead Reservation. Through those early efforts he met Dennis Villegas and Archie Carpentier, both of whom forever after called him Dad.

In the 1970’s Bearhead’s life took many paths and dramatic turns. He and Wayne Hamel established "Ram’s Horn Post and Pole" on his property at Post Creek and the tribal government also established a game bird facility ("the Bird Farm") and bought a herd of elk that were housed on a portion of the property. In 1973 he lost his lifelong best friend Wayne Hamel but remained close to the rest of the family for the remainder of his life.

Bearhead was one of the most active and outspoken tribal leaders of the day. He served two terms on the Tribal Council, including a stint as Tribal Chairman. He was well known for his fiery disposition and blunt nature, and he was an unrelenting advocate and defender of tribal sovereignty and continued to work to preserve the natural environment of the reservation. He advocated for protection of the South Fork of the Jocko, for wilderness designation for the Mission Mountains, and helped establish one of the first voluntarily adopted Class I airsheds in the nation over the Flathead Reservation. He also directed the Air Quality program during its infancy. He was staunchly opposed to several efforts to locate additional dams on the lower Flathead River, and led numerous float trips to raise awareness of the issue. In part for these and other efforts, in 1979 he received a national conservation award from the American Motors Corporation. During this time he also helped formalize the planning committee for the Arlee Celebration, and in part through these efforts he developed a close relationship with Doug Allard (who always claimed he was "the younger and better looking of the two").

In the 1980’s Bearhead’s life took on new directions as he worked in the field of health care, including directing the Tribe’s Health Department. He found ways to incorporate his beliefs into programs aimed at involving young people in natural resource settings as a way to cope with addiction and alcohol. He became a grandfather, and though he tried hard to not enjoy it, we knew that he secretly did. He began to take more time to enjoy the fruits of his labor in resource protection by his pursuit of hunting, fishing and camping. He took many enjoyable trips to the mountains with Karen and Ray Hale, and with Bob "Big Darlin" and Mary Clairmont.

Bearhead retired from service to the tribal government in 1997 and seamlessly transitioned into duck hunting, ice fishing and watching any Indian boys’ high school basketball team he could in the winter, and then to golf and more fishing in the summer. At that time he became closer to Bear and Erma Malatare and their family. He also spent more time at his property at Post Creek in various and sundry pursuit of farming and ranching. He would say "it took 70 years for the Dawes Act to work on me, but I’m finally becoming a farmer", and if someone was looking for him he would say "I’m out standing in my field". Anyone who saw him at the "Bird Farm" often would wonder exactly what he was doing out in that field. In between arguments with Doug Allard and golf with Gene "Cousin Snooks" Sorrell he hunted and fished with Eddie Ivanoff, Bob Marsenich, Fred Steele, Ray Ochoa and whoever else was brave enough to tag along.

Bearhead left a lasting legacy, not only on this reservation but in Indian Country nationwide. He was preceded in death by his brothers and his grandson Thomas Lyles. He is survived by his oldest daughter Kim Swaney and grandchildren Jamie Dickson and Ray Adams; his middle daughter Patty Stevens and her husband Willie and grandchildren Joanna Phillips and Joe Stevens; youngest daughter Ruth Swaney and grandchildren Marianne and Catherine Addison and James Carpentier II; and son Bill Swaney and Dawn Thomas and grandchildren Kyle Thomas, Kale Gardner and Kayla Dix. He also is survived by numerous nieces and nephews and their children, and by eight great-grandchildren and one on the way in June.

A wake and visitation began Thursday night at the home of Patty and Willie in St. Ignatius. The wake closing was Saturday at the St. Ignatius Community Center, with burial with military honors followed at the Decker Family Cemetery near Mission Dam. Pall bearers were Ron Swaney ("Rambo"), Fred Steele, Bob Marsenich ("Bobo"), Eddie Ivanoff, Ernie Moran ("Turnip Farmer"), Austin Moran ("the Little Turnip Farmer"), John "Bear" Malatare, and John Malatare ("Johnny Appleseed"). Honorary pall bearers were Doug Allard, Gene Sorrell, Charles "Chuck" Tellier, Joe McDonald, and Larry "Big Sky" Anderson.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be sent to the Summer Theatre Fund, c/o Arlee Community Development Corporation, P. O. Box 452, Arlee MT 59821.

Lorene P. Farrell
POLSON — Long time Polson resident Lorene P. Farrell passed away on May 28, 2009 at her home while surrounded by members of her loving family. Lorene was born February 9, 1915 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Fred William Steese. Jr. and Ethel (Miller) Steese. When Lorene was two years old, her mother relocated the family to Polson following the accidental death of Lorene’s father.

Lorene attended grade and high school in Polson, graduating in 1933. Following high school she worked for Dr. P.C. Noble and during this period sang in many local choir groups. On August 8, 1940, she married Thomas A. Farrell, a high school classmate, in Polson. The couple lived at Kerr Dam, where Tom was employed, until 1942 when Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army. During the time her husband was overseas in the Philippines, she lived with her uncle, Claude Miller in Los Angeles, CA where her first son was born.

At the conclusion of WWII, Lorene and Tom returned to Kerr Dam where Tom was once again employed. Lorene went to work for Dr. Tanglen. She continued singing in Polson city choirs and sang in the summer Show Boat productions.

In 1964, Lorene went to work for Sheneman’s Clothing Store (First Resort) on Main Street. She continued working there until the early 1980’s when she retired.

Lorene has been an active member of the Polson Christian Church since the 1920’s, sang in the church choir and participated in numerous church activities. She also did volunteer work at the Polson Country Store. She loved working in her garden, cultivating beautiful roses and caring for all of her cats.

Husband Tom preceded Lorene in death in 1985. She is survived by brother Harold Steese of San Diego, CA; sister Winifred Scott of San Lorenzo, CA; sons Thomas J. Farrell (Dianne) of Polson; Richard L. Farrell (Sharon) of Boise, and daughter Carol Jo Farrell of Polson; and four grandsons and four great-grandchildren.

She was a dedicated and nurturing mother, who was very proud of her family and received an abundance of blessings in return.

In lieu of flowers, memorials on behalf of Lorene may be made to the Heritage of Faith Christian Church (John Payne, pastor), the Polson Humane Society or the Polson Senior Citizens Center. A memorial service for Lorene will be held at the Heritage of Faith Christian Church on June 13, 2009 at 11 AM. Condolences to the family can be made at

Molly Marie Barnett
SEATTLE, Wash. - Molly Marie Barnett, 31, of West Seattle passed on May 17, 2009.

She was born in Havre on April 3, 1978 and raised in both Ronan and Seattle, WA. where she graduated from Kennedy High School, class of 1996.

As a child Molly was active in softball, Girl Scouts and developed a love of traveling. Amongst her favorite trips were trips to London, Southeast Asia and Brazil. Her curiosity and friendly disposition resulted in a large group of friends not only in Seattle and Montana but around the world. Her interests were as varied and numerous as her friends, including a love of Reggae music, animals, the outdoors, reading, making people laugh and Hawaiian shirts.

Molly is survived by mother Carlene Engstrom and her husband Dale of Polson; her father Bill Barnett and his wife Rusty of Spokane WA.; brothers Micah (Lisiane) and Casey (Srey Nin); grandfather William Barnett; her partner Joy Ellis; and numerous friends and relatives.

She is preceded in death by her cat Froggy and her grandmothers Bernice Bryant Clairmont and Trudy Barnett.

A memorial service was held at the Polson Senior Indian Center on Sunday May 25, 2009. Internment was at Ronan Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorials can be made in her name to the SKC general scholarship fund.

"Hit me with music because when the music hits, you feel no pain." B.Marley

Corinne A. (Clairmont) Couture
PABLO — Corinne A. (Clairmont) Couture, 45, passed away Friday at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula.

Corinne was descendant of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes and was a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Cree of North Dakota. She was born on Sept. 21, 1963 in Los Angeles, CA to Robert and Mary (Azure) Clairmont; she was raised in California and in the Polson area. She had worked as a flagger, for Jore Corporation and as an over-the-road truck driver and saw the country from coast to coast.

Corinne and Rodney Couture were married in 2003 and made their home in Pablo where she enjoyed the outdoors, whether it was fishing, hunting and camping and all knew her as Rod’s special "Hoochie Mama". She also enjoyed the ocean and was fascinated by whales.

She was preceded in death by her father and cousins "Gus" and "Porge".

She is survived by her husband Rod and his two sons Randy and Jacob of Pablo; her mother Mary Clairmont Jessen and her husband Dick Jessen of Ronan; sister Carla and brothers Bob, Steve and Jim Clairmont; mother-in-law Judy Phillips; sister-in-laws Arnell Phillips and Rita Wolf and a niece Daffney who held a special place in her heart, as well several nieces, nephews and cousins.

A wake began Saturday at Foster Funeral Home in St. Ignatius with the Rosary being recited on Sunday. Wake closing was on Monday in the Chapel with funeral services at the Assembly of God Church in Ronan with Pastor Dean Buffalo officiating.

John William Browne
SAN MATEO, Calif. — On Sunday, May 17, 2009, John W. Browne passed away after a long illness.

Born in Montana to Thomas Browne and Josephine Marion Browne on January 8, 1921, John, whose ancestry was Irish, French and Native American, had fond memories of the time he spent on his great-grandparents’ ranch in Polson. His great-grandmother spoke English, as well as three or more tribal languages. He cherished the times when she would build a bonfire and tell stories, which always began with, ‘A long, long time ago.’ His great-grandfather took John on a cattle drive, which was a great adventure for him. John was proud of his Native American heritage and when, as a child, he was asked what part of him was Indian, he would reply, ‘The best part.’

After graduating from school in Polson, John had various jobs, until he was hired by the Border Patrol. He then volunteered for the Air Force, where he remained until May 1946, when he was discharged at the end of the war.

A few years ago, the Confederated Tribes of Salish and Kootenai honored John as one of the few surviving tribal veterans of World War II by presenting him with a beautiful buffalo print blanket specially designed for the Native American veterans.

It was during his service in the military that he met and later married his wife, Almarene. They were married February 24, 1946. They began their marriage in Oceanside, California, where John returned to his position in the Border Patrol. He was soon made an investigator for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He was transferred to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. John and Almarene spent the last 53 years living in Belmont, California.

John is survived by his wife of 63 years; his son, John Timothy Browne of Redondo Beach; his daughter, Ann Fox, who lives in London, England with her husband, Christopher Fox; two grandchildren, Paul and Abigail Fox and a niece and nephew, Linda Memmett and Richard Browne. He was pre-deceased by a son, Thomas Newton Browne, who died in infancy.

John was interred at Skylawn Cemetery in a private family service on Friday, May 22, 2009.

Mary Maass
ST. IGNATIUS — Mary Maass, 97, longtime resident of St. Ignatius, passed away at St. Luke’s Hospital in Ronan.

She was the second of eight children born to George and Mary Morris in Belt on September 12, 1911. She began her grade school education at Belt and finished at Augusta. In 1924 the family moved to a farm on the Fairfield Bench, located midway between Choteau and Augusta. She attended Teton County High School in Choteau, graduating in 1929 with a two-year teaching certificate.

Her teaching career began in a one room rural school near Dutton. Here she taught for four years, attending summer sessions in Dillon and Missoula University to update her teaching credentials.

In 1934, she married Karl Maass and they made their home in Great Falls for several years. Their three children were born there. In 1945, they moved to the Mission Valley and settled on a 120-acre farm west of Charlo. They raised clover seed, sugar beets and potatoes and operated a small dairy.

After the death of her husband in 1954, Mary renewed her teacher’s certificate and resumed teaching. She taught one year in the Charlo elementary school and 22 years in the St. Ignatius Elementary, retiring in 1978.

She spent her early retirement years traveling to various places in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the States. In her later retirement years she did volunteer work at the St. Ignatius Public Library, grade school and the Senior Citizens Center. She was a member of the Leon Community Club, of the Ronan Faith Lutheran Church and a 35-year member of delta Kappa Gamma International Society and was involved in many of their activities. Her hobbies included reading, sewing, crossword puzzles, crocheting, quilting, bowling and spoiling "her grand and great grandchildren."

Beside her husband she was preceded by her parents, three brothers and one sister.

She is survived by her two sons, Karl of Missoula and George (Joyce) of Corvallis; daughter Marilyn (George) Broadwater of Missoula; sister-in-law Emily of Riverside, CA; brother Arnold (Phyllis) of Portland, OR; two sisters Ruth Morris and Edna Minckler both of Great Falls; nine grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren; five great-great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Cremation has taken place and a memorial service has tentatively been scheduled for Saturday, May 24 at 1 p.m. in the Faith Lutheran Church in Ronan with Pastor Rand Drollman officiating.

Donations in her honor may be given to St. Ignatius Senior Center, Leon Community Club or Ronan Faith Lutheran Church.

Debra A. Bouma
DIXON — Debra A. Bouma born June 14, 1956 joined in marriage for sixteen loving years to John B. Bouma lost her battle to cancer on May 12, 2009.

She was born in San Diego, California but found her home here in Dixon. She was an angel who testified of Christ even on death’s door. Her loving spirit lives on with her six children and fifteen grandbabies. Her precious loving nature will be greatly missed by all that were blessed to have known her.

Lance Martin Demarais (Fyant)
PABLO — Lance Martin Demarais (Fyant) passed away May 7, 2009. He was born May 31, 1984 in Providence, RI to Melody Demarais.

Raised in Pablo by his parents Melody and Louis Fyant, he attended school in Ronan and Two Eagle River School where he made many friends. He enjoyed many outdoor activities, especially fishing with friends. Lance was a kind, hard working man most recently employed at American Truss. He was preceded in death by his grandfather Ernest Martin Demarais of Malta and many other relatives on both sides.

He is survived by his parents Melody and Louis Fyant; his love Rosie Gurule; brother Louie; as well as a large extended family and all his friends.

Lance was buried at Jocko Cemetery in Arlee.

Laurina Trahan Orr Wallace
BOZEMAN — Laurina Trahan Orr Wallace passed away on May 2, 2009 at the age of 79 in Bozeman. She suffered from Alzheimers and other health problems.

She was born in St. Ignatius to Albert Luke Trahan and Philomene Ducharme Trahan on October 9, 1929. She grew up in St. Ignatius and married Leroy Charles Orr on November 30, 1946. They had nine children together but later divorced. She had two more children by Robert Bradbury.

Laurina is survived by her children: Bev (Dewey) Richards of Pablo; Dan (Alexis) Orr of Warren, OR; Sue (Chris) Olson of Polson; Bobbie Orr of Acworth, GA; Cyndy (Vern) Clairmont of Ronan; Tedd (Tammy) Orr and Gordon (Trish) Orr of Three Forks; Tina Orr of Billings; Teri (Mike) Aldrich and Laurel (Chuck) Bulson of Helena. She is also survived by her grandchildren: Justin Borders, Alyssia Lokken, Joshua Orr, Brenda Steiner, Anna Olson, Shanna Depner, Jason and Jeff Clairmont, Amanda Fouty, James Orr, Ashley Young, Teddy Rae Orr, Niki Balbach, Brad Orr, Shienne Spatzierath, Tyler Orr, Jeremy Aldrich and Michelle Orr; her great grandchildren Kylee Lokken, Kylie Mortenson, Madyson Lokken, James Steiner, Jr., Ashley Steiner, Gracie Waterman, Nika Waterman, Keston Depner, Cooper and Addison Clairmont, Mason and Asyln Fouty, Kodie and Hunter Bailey, Jayce Olsen, Tycee McVicker, Lilyana Orr and Amaya Valdez; her sisters Marie Cowan, Eileen Quist and Theresa Morigeau and brother Hank Trahan.

She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers Lyman "Luke" Trahan and Sidney Trahan and sister, Theresa "Tessa" Shourds, son Curtis Bradbury and grandson Michael Terrence Orr.

Laurina will be cremated and her ashes placed with her mother, Philomene Trahan and son, Curtis Bradbury in St. Ignatius.

A memorial will be planned at a later date.

K&L Mortuaries & Crematory of Three Forks assisted with arrangements.