December 1, 2023
With the conclusion of Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to share stories and accomplishments of members of the Montana Western Community that were shared on our Instagram account throughout the month of November.
Native American Heritage Month, observed annually in November, is a time dedicated to honoring and celebrating the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and contributions of Native American and Indigenous peoples. It serves as an opportunity for reflection on their history, resilience, and ongoing struggles, promoting awareness and understanding of the unique challenges and achievements within Native communities. Throughout the month, events, educational programs, and cultural activities take place to highlight the significance of Native American heritage and foster appreciation for the enduring legacy of Indigenous peoples in the United States.
Joelnell (Nelly) and Kyla Momberg
Growing up in a small town, sisters Joelnell (Nelly) and Kyla Momberg grew up appreciating the love and support provided by a tight-knit community. Enrolled in the Blackfeet Tribe and hailing from the Chippewa-Cree Reservation in Box Elder, MT, and members of the women’s basketball team, Joelnell and Kyla are true inspirations to their community. These incredible sisters are not only dominating the basketball court but are also proudly representing their heritage during their time on campus.
As dedicated student-athletes, Nelly and Kyla exemplify their commitment to their studies, their community, and their sport. Nelly, a senior studying business, and Kyla, a sophomore studying early childhood education, have demonstrated their passion on and off the court. The sister’s embodiment of strength and resilience serves as an inspiration to those around them.
In Nelly’s own words, “It’s very important to me that I always honor and acknowledge my culture for myself, to educate others, and for future generations.”
This sentiment reflects a dedication to preserving and sharing their cultural heritage, encapsulating the impact these sisters have made beyond the basketball court.
Brandon Aimsback is a senior pursuing a degree in kinesiology. Originating from Heart Butte, MT, Brandon is not only a dedicated student but also a proud member of the Navajo tribe and a descendant of the Blackfeet Nation.
“Honoring my culture has a big meaning to me in being able to express and show my heritage that was built by my ancestors. Which was then passed down to my great-great-grandparents and so on down the line until continuing with me, giving me the ability to honor my ancestors in what they created,” said Brandon.
Brandon’s unique narrative highlights the depth of his cultural heritage and the distinctive perspectives he brings to the campus community. While hours away from his family, Brandon discovered a sense of connection and identity through his involvement in football. As a vital member of the team, the camaraderie on the field has played a pivotal role in building bridges and fostering a sense of community, even when far away from his hometown.
By bringing his culture and traditions to the forefront, Brandon has created a unique and enriching learning experience for himself and those around him.
Senior Tana Campbell, a Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet descendant, will leave an indelible mark at Montana Western. Through her work as President of the Multicultural Club, she has encouraged and promoted the Indigenous presence on campus by hosting events including Rock Your Mocs and organizing student trips to nearby powwows. Tana was also influential in restarting the American Indian Scholars Program on campus with the American Indian and Minority Achievement (AIMA) Committee and worked with campus leadership to increase recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“While I am not enrolled and did not have the strongest connection to my culture growing up, I have tried very hard to build connections and gain knowledge about my culture. I have also tried to provide opportunities for education about Indigenous tribes and connections for students on campus,” she said.
For Tana, this work allows her to honor her heritage.
“As someone that didn’t have the chance to grow up connected to my culture in the way I would’ve wanted, I try my best to make up for that. My mom, who is not Native, did her best to teach me about my heritage and get me involved. I want others like me, that didn’t have that strong connection to know that it is possible to form one. There are resources and people out there who are willing to help build that connection with you,” she said.
In a short amount of time, Tana has built remarkable and inspiring connections. Her work with raising visibility and planning events for Indigenous peoples will positively impact campus and Native students for years to come. Tana will participate in Commencement this spring as as an English major with professional writing minor degree candidate.
Franky Werk is a junior studying business with a focus on farm and ranch management. Franky is originally from Hays, MT, located on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation near Malta.
For Franky, honoring his culture and heritage is a key aspect of his identity. When asked why these components were important to him, he responded, “It’s how I represent who I am and how we as Native people keep our different cultures alive and thriving.”
Hailing from a small Eastern Montana town, Franky has made sure to share his heritage with those he encounters.
“I feel like by bringing myself and just being who I am, in some way, I am bringing my culture with me. Being Indian is not just about how much blood you have, so I feel that the way I go about my day and view the world with the influences of my home I am bringing my culture to Western. I have talked with a few non-Native people about being Indian and answered the questions that they had.”
An enrolled member of the Gros Ventre Tribe on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Franky values both sides of his heritage stating, “I am definitely not the most Native-looking person there is because my mom is Irish, but I still tightly embrace both sides.”
Having enrolled at Montana Western as a transfer student, Franky appreciates the community presence on campus.
“In my own experience as a transfer student, from two previous schools, Western was the only one that actually felt like a community. Everybody is involved with something, I mean everybody… I just made some new friends, and they have been great. We all have something in common and seem to enjoy the same activities, especially when it comes to the outdoors. Dillon is a great place to be if you enjoy your time with nature,” he said.