We flew in to Denver, CO. to meet with the then president of the American Indian College Fund, Rick Williams. After many phone calls and back and forth, we finally had the inevitable meeting. Where do you start a movement (not another charity) for Native Americans? Native Americans have the lowest college attainment level of all minorities. A study from 2006 shows that Native Americans account for only 1% of the people enrolled in college. We didn’t know what we would say or how we would be received. What would they say to our crazy ideas like a full scholarship for a Native American to go to Chiropractic College, establishing a Chiropractic clinic, making real health and social changes on a reservation, and continuing to come back to further the changes and momentum. When we met with Mr. Williams, we were so enthusiastic, but so ignorant of the REAL problem. He said, “I like you guys. You don’t know squat about what’s really going on, but I can feel your hearts.”
He told us that the most progressive reservation he knew of was the Fort Peck Reservation in MT. “Aren’t there any closer to an airport?” I asked. A 5 hour drive one way on top of the long flight certainly didn’t sound easy. He simply responded, “You must go to Fort Peck Reservation and implement your vision.” He wrote down the name of a person who would change our lives as well as the lives of many others.
The wind was howling, and it tossed the 8 passenger plane around like a rag doll when we finally arrived at Wolf Point at midnight in -40 degree weather. The man who was supposed to meet us was the president of the community college on the reservation. There was no one at the tiny shelter next to the airstrip except one sleep deprived airport employee. After about 30 minutes, we really started wondering, where is this guy? Cell phones didn’t work back then with so few cell towers, so just when we were thinking we might be left to our own devices, a guy came in and said, “Are you Dr. Kevin?”
He showed us around the next day and then handed us off to Kenny Smoker. Secretly, I think he was relieved that we graduated to Kenny, because of our crazy dreams, our boundless energy, and the fact that we wanted to get everything done yesterday. Kenny listened very carefully to our puppy-like enthusiasm and said with the wisdom of an older dog, “I love your vision. You are the answers to our people’s prayers.”
Kenny Smoker gets things done. He is the most honorable man you will ever meet. He tirelessly works on the behalf of the people of Fort Peck. He has been to many of our seminars and has had us give seminars on the reservation. He always makes things happen to the best of his ability. Without his help, his effort, his trust in our vision, LHNC would not be where it is today.
In addition to all the things mentioned above which all have been achieved, we have handed out hundreds of thousands of gifts, toys, articles of clothing around the holidays with our Christmas on the Reservation program. We have built a skate park, refurbished a movie theater the kids can use for movies and indoor archery, built a synthetic basketball court, helped the Boys/Girls Clubs, and have an annual summer Fun Day for the kids. This year will include two Fun Days, four concerts, meals on wheels, and a feast to honor the partnership between Fort Peck and LHNC.
Ten years running, and we’ll keep on coming until there is no more hopelessness on the Fort Peck Reservation and beyond. Thank you for your continued love, support and donations.