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Treyace Yellow Owl joined 66 other BCC graduates in ceremonies held at the BHS Tipi Dome last week.

Originally, graduation at Blackfeet Community College (BCC) was intended to be held outdoors in the quad at the college campus. However, typical spring weather in the northern Rockies meant a last minute change in venues, and fortunately the Tipi Dome at Browning High School was made available at noon on Friday, May 18.

Fire engines from the Browning volunteer department carefully cordoned off areas still needed for high school operations while college graduates, administrators, staff, friends and families parked “out back.”

Many referred to this year’s commencement as “bittersweet.” The recent battles with COVID-19 and the resulting loss of life was certainly one reason, but the unexpected loss of BCC math instructor Jim Polk due to a vehicular accident saddened what would have otherwise been a completely happy event. Pictures of the late instructor were on display, and honor songs were performed for him and his friends and family.

Additionally, one of BCC’s original founders, Carol Murray, was celebrated on her retirement. Her’s was the vision that gave the college its shape and destiny. Always focused on traditional Blackfeet culture, it was she who began the annual commemoration of the Bear Creek Massacre. Her list of accomplishments and offices took many minutes to read, including having been president of BCC for several years. Gifts were presented and honor songs sung as she thanked the college for “letting me live my dream.”

BCC President Dr. Karla Bird set the tone for commencement, welcoming one and all, and introducing speakers as their turns arrived. Blackfeet Vice Chairman Lauren Monroe Jr. addressed the graduates, noting he’d interrupted his doctoral pursuit in order to run for Tribal office. He encouraged the graduates to continue to learn, to grow and to become a benefit to their communities.

The keynote speaker was Jesse DesRosier. Currently a teacher at the Cuts Wood immersion school, he began his education as a student there. He talked about being a successful student while retaining his cultural roots, finally returning to Cuts Wood to become a teacher himself.

Kathy Tatsey was the 2022 Salutatorian and spoke about going to college as a grown person and the opportunities that has afforded her. 

The Class of 2022 sported three co-valedictorians. Donald P. Fish was not in attendance, but Jennifer Lee Baker-Biegler and Dennis Fredrick White Quills related their life stories that led them to graduation as top students in their class.

While it may have been “bittersweet” on some levels, the Class of 2022 enjoyed a heartfelt and emotionally fulfilling graduation that day in May at BHS.

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