Saturday, June 25, 2016


St. Anne's, Heart Butte, MT

The last time I saw Delores Mae Butterfly Bird, whom I knew as Delores Butterfly, eighth grade student in my first classes when I came in 1961, it was about 1990 and she was teaching in Browning.  She laughed her musical giggle and said,  “You know, when I married I went from being Butterly to Bird, so I kept my wings!”  As far as I’m concerned, she’s still got wings whereever she is and probably a halo as well.

In the buffalo days there were women like Delores, small, quiet, very smart women who were devout, diligent, and loving centers for their families.  The People honored them and made them the Sacred Persons who fasted and prayed at Sun Lodge ceremonies.  Their behavior would assure the safety of the People through the coming year, so the most reliable, irreproachable, and respected elder women were chosen.  The outside world is impressed by warriors but the Inside People knew who was strong: grandmothers.

A version of Guan Yin

The parallel honoring of a woman in Christian terms is Mary the Mother of Jesus In the Asian context she is called some variation of Guan Yin - Bodhisattva/ Goddess of Compassion.  The fact that she is a recurring image in so many places shows how universally this sort of women is valued.  As the Bible says, her price is above rubies.  This is not to be mawkish or sentimental, nor does it take away from the uniqueness of a special person.  No one can “try” to be like this — they are simply born that way.

If the Darrell Blackman in the obituary is the son of Mary Blackman, then I will say that he was also deeply religious and an informant for Bob Scriver’s understanding of Blackfeet ways.  Mary, who was like Delores, was also a helper.  Because there were valuable things in the household, Bob would hire Mary to clean.  She took a pan of soapy water, a soft cloth, and — with great dignity and thoroughness — she went through the rooms.  If there were coins on a tabletop, she picked them up, cleaned the tabletop, polished the coins, and replaced them in exactly the pattern she found them.

Delores, Gerald and Geraldine, and Roger were boarding school kids because their home allotment was in the country near Heart Butte along Badger Creek and inaccessible in winter or if the weather was wet.  The soil out that way is gumbo and no roads were paved until after the Flood of ’65.  These sibs were vivid personalities, full of energy, and if they suffered from living in boarding school, they didn’t complain.  The sociological principle that families were broken and relationships were lost was not obvious, though they are the only witnesses who can say.  Maybe boarding school WAS a family.

The obituary says nothing at all about Blackfeet ceremonial practices and that is as it should be.  Father Mallman, the strong old priest who ran St. Anne’s in Heart Butte was a fire and brimstone preacher, but even he was known to turn his eyes away sometimes.  The Methodist presence out that way was Chief Bull, one of the pair of Sandoval or Sanderville brothers who were political translators.  Mike Swims Under was the first Blackfeet ceremonialist to surface, but he was only quietly known in the Sixties.  If Delores was true to form, she honored all religions that were good for people.

It’s unusual for a woman to sponsor feasts and I don’t know where Big Badger Grotto might be, except that it is on one of the river-based communities near Heart Butte.  An inquirer is always divided between knowing about things and not prying or even asking, because it can change the dynamics and effectiveness of human relationships.  But the obituary does note these things as points of pride.  Maybe someone else has picked up that devotional work or maybe this is the end of it.

Delores Mae Butterfly Bird

Formal obituary:
June 22, 2016  Glacier Reporter

Delores Mae Bird (Butterfly), 67, passed away on June 11, 2016.

A funeral mass was held Monday, June 20, at Little Flower Catholic Church.  Burial followed in Big Badger.

She was born on Oct. 5, 1948, to Dorothy Mae Yellow Owl and Henry Albert Butterfly in Browning.

Kenneth Leo Bird and Delores Mae Bird (Butterfly) were married Nov. 10, 1968, in St. Anne’s Parish located in Heart Butte.  Kenneth and Delores were married for 48 loving years and together had five children: Douglas Wayne Bird, Kenneth Allan Bird, Kendra Mae Wesley, Dana Leigh Bird and Karla Denise Bird.  Together, Kenneth and Dolores raised their family in Big Badger.

Delores loved spending time with her six grandchildren: Tiahna Rose Bird, Sabrina Marie Bird, Jonathan Wesley, Philip Sure Chief V, Jaden Sure Chief and Ethan Sure Chief.  She enjoyed reading books, singing songs and telling stories to her grandbabies.

Delores valued education and instilled the importance of learning in her family and community.  She received her Associate in Arts from Flathead Valley Community College in June 1971 and her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Rocky Mountain College in August, 1974.  Delores began her professional endeavors as an educator at Heart Butte Public Schools  and then transitioned to Browning Public Schools for the remainder of her career.  In addition, Delores pursued her Librarian Endorsement from the University of Montana-Western and became a librarian after several years of teaching at Napi elementary school.  Delores served as an educator within the public school system for over 40 years.  She loved working with children and was very passionate about teaching.

Delores’ siblings include Darrell Blackman, Henry Butterfly, Harold Butterfly, Gerald Butterfly, Geraldine Butterfly, Roger Butterfly and Kayla Schafer.  Her brother-in-laws were Winston Bird and Rodney Bird, as well as two sisters-in-law, which included Audrey Williamson and Mary Aimsback.  Delores has numerous nieces, nephews and cousins and friends that she held dear to her heart.

Delores loved taking care of the Big Badger grotto, after the passing of her mother-in-law Rose Bullshoe-Bird.  She would host celebrations at the grotto to honor three feast days:  The Sacred Heart of Jesus in June, The Immaculate Heart of Mary in May, and Our Lady of the Rosary in October.  Delores loved her family dearly and enjoyed raising her children and grandchildren.  She dedicated her entire life to children, throughout her personal and professional life.  Delores loved to sew, crochet, read books, tell stories, and travel.  She spent her life praising the Lord and instilled faith into all she encountered.

Delores will be dearly missed by her husband, children, grandchildren and extended family; however she will now be a peace with the Lord in Heaven.

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