Thursday, October 15, 2015


Eugene Heavy Runner, Jr.


Eugene “Buzzy” “Spang” Charles HeavyRunner Jr. passed away from a car related accident on Friday Oct. 2, 2015 at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula Montana. He was 66 years old.

Eugene “Buzzy” “Spang” Charles HeavyRunner Jr. was born to Eugene HeavyRunner Sr. and Gertrude Ground HeavyRunner on June 20, 1949 in Browning. He was a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his Indian name was “Issoko Maakaan” (HeavyRunner) which was the name of his great paternal grandfather.

He attended and graduated high school Browning. During this time he extended his education at the University of Montana and the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago, Ill., where he spent time with social justice groups. This is where his activism roots began to grow. He was a firm believer in the Blackfeet and traditional way of life and honored the Blacktail Bundle. He spent many years of his life with the American Indian Movement to address tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, spiritual and tribal leadership. He was very proud of his involvement at Wounded Knee, the historic D.C. Occupation and his contribution with The Longest Walk. He was versed in treaties and tribal histories, a musician, loved to cook and spent many years as a cook at Glacier National Park and Two Eagle River School in Pablo.

Survivors include his mother Gertrude HeavyRunner; sisters Linda Warden, Dr. Iris PrettyPaint and GayAnn Spotted Bear; and brothers George, Lyle and Keith HeavyRunner; companion Karen Coffee and family; sons, Jason HeavyRunner, Casey HeavyRunner, Sundance HeavyRunner, Dayna Bullshields-Pepion (Melinda Bullshields) and Eugene Henry HeavyRunner III; his grandchildren Maria, Soul, Kesley, Autum, Liyah, Aiyanna, Nizhoni, Issac and Nidua. He a hand in guiding his granddaughter Maria; and is also survived by nephews, nieces, uncles, aunts and many cousins from his very large family.

He was preceded in death by his father Eugene HeavyRunner Sr.; brothers Carl, Duane, Glenn, David, Ike and Kermit; and his sister Bonnie HeavyRunner; and the mothers of his children, Maria Beth Charlo and Barbara Bugbee.

Because Buzzy had travelled extensively throughout his life he had a very large and extended circle of relations, lifelong friends and relationships with the Blackfeet and Flathead Nations. The family recognizes you and thanks you all and apologizes for not being able to list everyone.
Rosary Services were held at the Stickgame Arbor in Browning Wednesday, Oct. 7. Funeral Services were held at the Little Flower Parish on Thursday Oct. 8. Eugene was laid to rest at the Ground Cemetery in Starr School.


Al Racine's recurring Napi cartoons were popular in Browning.

"Buzzy" was one of the most memorable Blackfeet boys I taught.  He was small when I knew him but near-explosive in terms of energy and ideas.  Around here we know people by their family names and Heavy Runner is the name that sticks out because Heavy Runner was the leader of the band massacred one terrible winter night on the Marias River.  I read that the name is a too-short rendition of his Blackfeet name which celebrated a feat of endurance and strength a long time ago when an ancestor traveled with a very heavy pack on his back.  Napi, another mythic representative, marked the two-sidedness of life, so that he was both a dangerous fool and a inspired creator.  In my experience this was also true of Heavy Runner family members:  on one side spiritual leaders and justice workers but, when out-of-control, dangerous.  Zealots.  

Buzzy's mother was from the Ground family (that name came from the original patriarch’s preference for fighting from the ground rather than horseback) whose members have been thoughtful, religious in a quiet ceremonial way, patient negotiators, but just as mentally brilliant as the Heavy Runners.  I never got close to Buzzy, mostly because he was never still enough to talk, but he’s one of the few of that generation that I remember at any of the Bundle Opening ceremonies.  His uncle, Leland Ground, had many of Buzzy’s appealing qualities, but was composed enough to get to know, and served on the Tribal Council. I count him as an adult friend.  (He lives in the house where Bob Scriver grew up.) 

Bonnie HeavyRunner

The women of that family have had impact.  Gertie Heavy Runner, Buzzy’s mother, was the daughter of Mary Ground, the ancient matriarch who was always having to defend herself against the accusation that she was white because her eyes were blue.  Perhaps defensively, she was a strong defender of the old ways.  Bonnie Heavy Runner -- who died far too young -- was a scholar and leader who was much loved and respected.
Floyd "Tiny Man" HeavyRunner

I’m unclear about the family relationship between Floyd “Tiny Man” HeavyRunner and Buzzy, but Tiny Man had that same vibe of being intensely political and spiritual at the same time.  Floyd’s son, Joshua, has an overabundance.  It’s a knife-edge sharpened when circumstances remove some of the restraints and balance.  I’m talking about poverty, injustice, broken families, and the other seeds of rebellion.  Material for novels and shamans.  Lyle HeavyRunner is an artist and leader with edge but also a handle. 

Lyle HeavyRunner and friend

Besides the Napi figures of Blackfeet legends, there are parallels in Loki, Br’er Rabbit, Nanibohzo, and other tricksters from many cultures.  They are always male, always free-spirits, generally mischief-makers who get mixed results -- not from being powerful but from cleverness.  They are sometimes intensely sexual, but in a pre-adolescent way.  That is, more passionate than productive.   In fiction I would name Kim, Mowgli, Huck Finn, Peer Gynt, the kind of boy who is a messenger, a little outside civilization, surviving in the chaos of war and frontiers.  “Empire of the Sun” is an excellent example and includes the dimension of attaching to an older resourceful man.  So, Batman and Robin, Red Ryder and Little Beaver.  Possibly George R.R. Martin’s Arya in “Game of Thrones” is a female version.

But I’m talking about Buzzy, that kid who in the Sixties could circle a classroom at top speed three times while everyone else was trying to find their seat.  I wish I’d known him as a grown man.    I hadn’t known about the Ecumenical Institute or that he’d ever participated, so I include this description.  I hadn't known about his presence in Wounded Knee either.   I’m sure he brought much of what he learned back to Heart Butte in a good way.  But maybe not.  The Flathead tribes are an entirely different game, particularly the Missoula connection.

I just cared about this character and so did a lot of other people.

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