One of the Glacier Reporter’s long running columns has poetically described life in Browning and surrounding communities, a familiar topic to those who live here. But since the combination of four local papers into the present form, some folks reading “Bruno’s Best of the Rez” are asking who the author might be. Wayne Bruno is a longtime resident of the Blackfeet Reservation and an acute observer of history and human behavior.
“Who knows how life is going to end up?” he writes. “I didn’t think I’d be doing the things I’m doing. I worked at Blackfeet Community College for a long time and got to witness the beginning of the Tribal college movement, and I thought to myself education was probably the only way I was gonna make it in this world.”
For inspiration, Bruno has only to reach back into a rich and colorful past amid equally interesting people.
“I owe encouragement to the thinking back in the 70s,” he said. “I knew I’d live in Browning, probably for the rest of my life. I love the people in this community. I won’t make a big thing out of it, but I’ve been treated pretty good here. I was raised in hard times, and my Mom was my main backer. Spike had my back lots of times. However, we all have experienced tough times in this community.”
Looking back can be bittersweet as so many people have gone.
“My generation has replaced many folks we all know” Bruno said. “We are the ‘replacements,’ if you will. It’s difficult for me to forget everything. It just sticks in my mind. I’ve had lots of fun with everyone, and I know I’ve probably pissed a few off, but in later years we’ve gotten over the issue or forgot about it. I experienced lots of sad times.”
In terms of his writing, Wayne said, “I haven’t intentionally gone out of my way to make someone feel uncomfortable, although I’ve wanted to a few times. I’m not a violent person. The stuff I write is from my experiences in Browning on the Blackfeet Indian reservation, and they’re all true with the exception of two where I needed to make the poem rhyme. Of course, some folks will totally disagree and that’s their prerogative.”
His connection to Blackfeet country runs deep.
“I’m an enrolled Blackfeet Indian,” he said. “I also have Ojibway, Cree, French and Scottish blood, and I’m very proud of my background. Monroe and Burd is my Blackfeet. My ancestors are all buried here, and I cross their paths every time I take a ride. After a while I decided not to be ruled by my peers’ thinking or their comments of ridiculing my ideas.”
Although his recollections of the past form much of his narrative, his true inspiration comes from closer to home.
“The most important part of my inspiration for writing is my kids: Angie, Erin, Bobi and Casey. I think back in my younger days I would not have survived a period in my life if it were not for my kids. Just their presence kept me going and focused on the future. I owe a lot to them. Lastly, I’ve been an advocate for students in my working days and an advocate for the underdog. I’m a humble person and avoid attention.”