On Sunday, Nov. 28, Diane Queen Miller, KOFI radio office assistant and vice president of Kalispell’s Native American Resource, Research and Cultural Center, awoke with the sun to find mustard covering a mural on the hood of the center’s blue Geo Tracker. Beneath a painted banner reading “Sioux-phisticated,” the hood of the truck depicts a white buffalo in front of mountains, thunder and lightening and an eagle symbolizing the Creator. Below are the words, “Tatanka oyate,” or “Buffalo Nation.”
“They went specifically for the Indian markings,” says the center’s president, John Gisselbrecht.
Local law enforcement, whom Queen Miller says responded promptly, reported the incident as “criminal mischief to a vehicle.”
Though it is only petty vandalism, Queen Miller and Gisselbrecht decided to file a police report since, they say, this is merely the most recent in a series of vandalisms targeting their nonprofit Native American center.
“We’ve had a number of things that have occurred like this,” Queen Miller says. “There have been eggings. We’ve had somebody empty their garbage on our front area. The previous landlord stood outside the window calling me a prairie-nigger. A few things show up missing now and then. Prayer sticks have been taken a number of times. Some were just broken and left in the yard. It just kind of goes on.”
Queen Miller says part of the reason she and Gisselbrecht decided to come forward after this latest incident was local feedback on the Working Group documentary The Fire Next Time, which deals with conflict and “hate speech” in Flathead Valley. Many citizens have been quoted in local publications, including the Independent, as saying that the film is not representative of the valley. “We don’t believe in tying up the police force over eggs when people are killing each other in Marion,” Gisselbrecht says. “But, when people are all up in arms about The Fire Next Time not being representative of the valley, they need to know that these things do happen. They’re just not always reported.”