This was originally posted by Brenda Norrell at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/
With a heavy heart I share with you the news of Jim Main Sr., (Gros Ventre) passing to the Spirit World. As many of you may remember Jim Main, he was a steadfast and unrelenting warrior for Indigenous Peoples and especially for our homelands and sacred sites. In fact, his words and guidance helped inform our Sacred Sites Protection Campaign – including our memorable person Sacred Earth Summit in 2001 in Seattle, WA, and again, in 2002 in San Diego, CA.
A member of the White Clay Society, Jim was a treasured leader to Seventh Generation Fund for many years. He will be sorely missed by our organization. We trusted Jim. We were honored when he attended our convenings and shared his great wisdom, wit, and generous spirit. He taught us through his conduct and his dedication. We looked to him often to help us. And, he was always generous.
Jim was a true and consistent warrior, to be sure. And, as such, he was also a gracious, kind, thoughtful and honorable leader that set for us a clear pathway of how to continue work on behalf of our respective peoples.
Jim would be so pleased to know of recent sacred sites victories in places like Panhe in California, and just a couple of days ago in Zuni, New Mexico. It would have been great to march with him in Redding, in the struggle to protect Hatchet Mountain (Pit River Country) from (so-called green) windmills that will damage a sacred area, and severely impact golden and bald eagle habitat. He knows, where he is now in the other world, that we will continue the good fight for our peoples. Today, in mourning, and reflecting on how much we have learned from Jim Main Sr., we carry forward – heavy hearted but as determined as ever to strive, to fight, to honor our ancestors, as he did.
It is always so hard when we lose one of our elders. The world seems that much emptier, bigger, more difficult to travel through. Jim’s presence meant a great deal to so many of our community and projects. SGF sincerely hopes that our work continues to carry forth the great legacy and integrity of Jim Main Sr., a warrior of character, determination, and outstanding leadership. On behalf of our organization, board, staff and the Indigenous communities we serve throughout the Indigenous World, I extend a heartfelt condolence to Jim’s family, community and Nation.
May he be in peace.
All Our Relations,
Tia –Tia Oros Peters, Executive Director, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Development, Office Ph: 707-825-7640 x111 http://www.7genfund.org/
Supporting Social, Environmental and Cultural Justice for 32 Years (1977 – 2009)
In memory of Jim Main, Sr., the following interview is posted, written while I visited with him and his family at home, on Gros Ventre land two years ago. Sincere condolences to his family. Jim was a true warrior, arising with courage in his lifelong fight for the people, Brenda Norrell
In Montana, Indians are guilty until proven innocent
By Brenda Norrell
HAYS, Montana – James Main, Sr., Gros-Ventre and longtime advocate of Indian rights, said some conditions have improved for American Indians in Montana, particularly the treatment of Indians by government officials. Ranchers in north-central Montana often get along well with
However, the treatment of Indians by the Montana Justice System has not improved its treatment of Indian people.
“We’ve got a long way to go with the Justice system. I’d like to see a handful of radical attorneys come over here and shake this place up, attack the system,” Main said.
Main, known internationally as a voice for Indigenous Peoples, now in poor health following open-heart surgery, has a personal view of the state system.
James Sr. laughs remembering how Bill Means said Jim Jr. should be a comedian because of his impersonations of John Wayne and others. Jim Jr. was the caregiver of his mother, Vernie White Cow Main, who lives on the homesite where she was born on Big Warm Creek on the Fort Belknap Nation.
James Sr. said, “Jim took care of her. He almost had to be a nurse for six months. He trained himself to take care of her.”
James Sr. spent his life traveling for Indigenous rights, helping those who needed him. “I decided to do some good,” he said of his decision to live a life in service to humankind.
“I learned a lot about different people and different cultures. I never knew there were other Indians in California. I thought John Wayne got them all,” James Sr. joked.
“It’s good to travel, travel around.”
Seated at home in the community of his childhood at Hays, James Sr. is surrounded by memories and the passing of time.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to last. I have got a lot of people praying for me. These Mayan Indians went up on a pyramid in Guatemala.
It must have been a very powerful ceremony. I knew; it was in my mind.”
On his living room wall, there is a huge poster of a Gros Ventre man. It reads, “Sits on High, EK-GIB-TSA-ATSKE, of the White Clay People A’AH’NI NIN.”
James Sr. looks at the poster and says, “He did what they wanted him to do, settle down. Then, they took his land.”
Speaking about those who took the land here, rich in gold, water and forests, he says, “They make a fortune and they die.”
These days, James Sr. teaches his grandsons the philosophy that he has lived by. It is the philosophy of pride, self-esteem and honoring the culture.
“Go back to your old ways, traditions and culture. That is what I teach my grandsons. Try to get the language back,” he adds. There are only a handful of speakers left.
James Sr. remembers the harsh years at St. Paul’s Mission School.
During second grade, when the children went to pray during Christmas mass, the nuns told them Santa Claus would come if they had been good.
If not, there would be willow switches waiting. When they returned, they expected presents and instead found a stack of willow switches. There was also writing on the blackboard.
“I recognized the writing. It was a priest’s, telling us how bad we were.”
The little children were often beaten. James Sr. remembers, “They would slap us around for nothing.”
Remembering his father Tom Main, James Sr. said, “He was a humanitarian, a real leader. He did things for nothing. He could have amassed a fortune, but he didn’t.”
James Sr. said Tom Main served as an interpreter at a time when few White Clay People spoke English. Tom served on the executive committee of the National Congress of American Indians.
“I learned a lot from him, he was honest to a fault,” Jim Sr. said of his father.
“We had a pretty rough upbringing, we were poor and we had to haul water a long way. We burned wood, so we had to saw wood. My mother used to wash on Saturdays, all we did all day long was haul water.”
James Sr. grew up with three brothers and four sisters. Today, all of his brothers are living and the oldest is 86. He served in the Air Force in Japan and was there when the Korean War began in 1950.
James Sr. also worked in the copper mines for 15 years. “That’s where there was never racism, a melting pot.”
The happiest days of his life were spent during his high school years. “We rode horseback, we rode bucking horses; there were lots of wild horses. We had powwows during the holidays, I really enjoyed those. We had bone games, hand games, we would sing songs and have a guessing game. We tried to guess whose hand the bone was in.”
The men and women played each other. Kumeyaay have similar games, he said. During their travels, both Jim Sr. and Jim Jr. earned the respect of Indian people.
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