Thursday, October 01, 2015


Clifford Kicking Woman

Newspaper obituary:

Clifford George Kicking Woman, whose Indian name was “Thunder” (Ksis-si-kohm), was born Dec. 16, 1946, to George Kicking Woman and Mollie Blood. He went home on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at Benefis Medical Center in Great Falls.

He was raised in Starr School and Browning – Fort Kick, Montana. Clifford earned his Bachelor of Arts degree – social services from San Francisco State University in San Francisco, Calif., in 1983. He lived in San Francisco, Phoenix and Havre for several years where he made many friends.

His employment included Blackfeet Manpower Program, Blackfeet Family Services, assisted with tribal, local, state and national elections – the Obama Campaign. He served on the Siyeh Board of Trustees, Blackfeet Community College Board of Trustees and Glacier County Election Board. He worked in Helena at the State Capitol in education.

He enjoyed playing bingo, listening to music, watching tennis, football, basketball, baseball and reading the newspaper. He was his son Keyhn’s number one fan at his football games. He was very proud of Keyhn. He loved the San Francisco 49ers. He enjoyed joking and laughing with his huge smile. Clifford enjoyed his bingo partners, enjoyed being with his family, being at the family picnics and getting his sports pools going. He sponsored Fort Kick and Jazz baseball teams and enjoyed being in the beer garden at the baseball fields.

Clifford was preceded in death by his parents George and Mollie Kicking Woman. Sisters include Susan Ann Kicking Woman Heavy Runner, Maybelle Kicking Woman Omeasoo, Rita Many Hides Old Chief, Eula Kay Kicking Woman and Irene Last Star. Brothers include Leland Kicking Woman, William James Bear Medicine, Wilbur Lee White Calf, Lawrence No Runner and Aaron Shoots First.

Clifford is survived by his son, Keyhn Long Time Otter Kicking Woman; sisters Doris Kicking Woman, Delores Kicking Woman Iron Shirt and Diane Kicking Woman Dorris; brother Leland Kicking Woman Jr.; and nieces Lissa and Kenland Kicking Woman; adopted mother Margaret Plain Eagle from Brocket, Alberta; aunts Helen No Runner and Hazel Shoots First; and numerous nieces, nephews and relatives from Montana and Canada.

Our family would like to thank everyone who helped our family during this time of sadness and sorrow. It is very difficult without our parents George and Mollie to help us through this challenging time of losing our last brother and uncle.

If we forgot to mention a relative, friend, co-worker or someone that Clifford had a profound impact on, we apologize to you. He touched many lives and had many friends to mention.


I’m one of those people Clifford touched, one of the first of the boys who taught me what it is to be Blackfeet when I came in 1961.  He was assigned a composition about his home so he told about how proud he was that that the family’s Thunder Pipe Bundle was hanging above his bed, an honor and an obligation to protect.  For me it was the first mention of a Sacred Bundle and through the decade this grew deeper and deeper with meaning and connections.

It was at the Kicking Woman’s home that we attended our first Bundle Opening.  Clifford’s parents helped develop Bob Scriver’s ceremonial Badger Tipi.  Bob and I had become the Bundle Keepers for the Long Time Bundle with the little green parrot that was transferred to us by Richard Little Dog

Badger Tipi

Years later I moved into an empty old house where the Little Dog family had once lived and  discovered a cluster of big nails over the location of my bed, clearly where the Bundle had been.  I had no Bundle except in memory (quite vivid), but  when I wallpapered that room, I made an opening for the nails to stick through.  Molly said that since I’d participated in Bundle Opening with Bob after our white man’s legal divorce, in the old-time Indian way we were still married.  Things persist, relationships continue.  But they change.

The Sacred Pipe Bundle at the Scriver Studio

I think it was Charlie Morgan who opened another realization.  He wrote that his family had just moved into a different house away from Moccasin Flats and it had piped water in the house, so he no longer had to carry water from the neighborhood communal hydrant.  Moccasin Flats was just outside my classroom window.  That row of log cabins, originally built at the turn of the 19th century to house aged Blackfeet, was still inhabited by the families of the original Nitsitahpi.  We had thought it was part of trust land, but it turned out to be privately owned, which meant that we were no longer entitled to the tax compensation money the federal bureaucracy was supposed to pay -- a rather big hit for the budget of School District #9.

Another bitter lesson came later from a boy in Heart Butte who was in special ed classes but often hung out in my classroom room before school, tearing off strips of Scotch tape to chew, and generally goofing around.  A few years after he “graduated,” he got high, went to a party, walked up to Clifford Kicking Woman’s mild-mannered, devout and studious cousin whom he didn’t really know, and stabbed him in the gut, killing him.  No one understood it, then or now.

Gabe Grant was in one of my classes.

A mixed memory is in Heart Butte, sitting on the floor, legs straight out and back against the gymnasium wall, monitoring basketball practice.  Sitting next to me was the third generation of Kennedy’s I taught.  I was sitting in my classroom at lunch time with this boy's grandfather in Browning when the word came over the loudspeaker than John F. Kennedy (no relation) had been assassinated.  Decades later this boy in Heart Butte was complaining to me that I had ruined his life by doing something I don’t remember.  Put him on detention at a crucial moment, gave him a bad grade, something like that.  He’s done pretty well since then -- ups and downs like everyone.  I’ve always had a special fondness for this family.  In my mind they WERE somehow related to JFK, who was the instigator of new housing on the rez.

One of the boys did very well indeed, Kenny Scabby Robe, the grandpa who founded the Black Lodge Drum group, was in my eighth grade class once in a while.  Often he was on the road, sometimes in Europe, for competitions and exhibitions.   I’ll try to attach a sample because I particularly love their pow-wow songs for kids.  If it's "Mighty Mouse," I have to get up and dance!

Another boy, a writer of dark stories, I could not help.  He served ten years in a federal penitentiary for manslaughter.  I tried to help him for several reasons, guided in part by his sister.  I sent books, accepted phone calls, and passed family messages.  I read his case file and talked to his public defender.  I had taught his father, worked with his grandfather and great-grandfather, and had the idea that he could be like another of his relatives, Percy Bullchild, author of “The Sun Comes Down.”  When he got out of prison, he didn’t want to speak to me, was not grateful, and soon broke his parole.  Some said his father was a zealot, an AIM type with shamanistic overtones.  The manslaughter was over a quarrel about part of the family that was diverting the old age pension of the great-grandfather.
Later an uncle killed his step-grandmother over money and hid her body under her own house.

Marvin Weatherwax, an intelligent boy, went his quiet way, learning to speak Blackfeet and the foundational myths.  Now he is a respected professor at Blackfeet Community College, teaching Blackfeet.  Gary Foundagun had an IQ about forty points above mine and drive truck for a living for a while, then got a job with the government.

Vietnam veteran Marvin Weatherwax presents an eagle feather to Martin Connelly.

Mike Doane grew up on the ranch Bob Scriver owned for a while, now the Flatiron Blackfeet and Nature Conservancy Consortium for Environmental Study.  He is the only student of mine who died in combat in Vietnam.  I have a rubbing from his name on the memorial wall.

"Turk" Cobell married Eloise Pepion, so then she was Eloise Cobell, but I can't claim her because she went away to school.

Curly Bear Wagner became an official heritage rep of the tribe.  

Since Curly Bear's death, John Murray has become the historical preservationist.
Background is the Badger-Two Medicine country that is sacred.

All the boys are grown up now.  Corky comes to save my house from complete collapse.  Francis Wall is a successful abstract painter in Helena who graduated from American Indian Art Institute.  His brother Thomas says he went to a lot of trouble to learn how to paint like a child.

"Prairie Home" by Francis Wall. "

I wonder where Pat Fields is now.  He was Milo and Irene Fields' son and Milo was the owner-editor of the Glacier Reporter.  In 1966  Pat had his boot heel shot off by Charles Whitman at the U of Texas clock tower.  Whitman is considered the first mass shooter/domestic terrorist.

I’ve always felt that I failed these kids (girls, too), that I didn’t teach well enough, didn’t try hard enough.  Maybe remembering them is really all I can do.  So I do it.  How can I not?

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