|December 13, 2012
Dixon community meeting airs concerns about youth
By B.L. Azure
THHS Public Information Office
Pearl Yellowman Caye, THHS Youth and Wellness Program, informs folks at the Dixon community meeting of several upcoming youth events. (B.L. Azure photo)
DIXON — Last Thursday dozens of Dixon Elementary School students and their parents, grandparents and guardians gathered in the lunchroom to discuss the social dysfunction they see in the off-the-beaten-path community as well as the former Bureau of Indian Affairs Agency complex a couple of miles northeast of town.
While the community gathering was going on the saddest of ironies was happening near the former agency with the horrific homicide of Doug Morigeau and the attempted homicide of his wife Cheryl. They were both employees of Two Eagle River School in Pablo, and well regarded there and in the Dixon community.
“We want to get a conservation going about what we can do better for the kids of Dixon,” Amy Elliot, Dixon School mental health therapist, told folks gathered at the meeting. Because of the relatively large tribal member presence in the town, agency and school, Elliot said a solid connection has to be made with tribal programs that can assist families. Many don’t know whom to call to help address their concerns, be they law enforcement- or socially-related.
Elliot felt the at-times dysfunctional situation would improve the outlook of youth and the community with a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes law enforcement presence.
While their parents and guardians discussed the need for youth activities these young ones were creating Christmas-related crafts. (B.L. Azure photo)
“Many (tribal member) parents feel there is a need for a tribal police presence in town,” Elliot said. “They say it’s hard to get tribal police here when they need them. Many have lost a lot of hope because they feel their concerns aren’t being addressed, especially when police don’t respond to them.”
Pearl Yellowman Caye of the Tribal Health and Human Services Department Youth and Wellness Program said she and Elliot got together at the beginning of the school year to discuss what they could do to help the children and their families in Dixon.
Caye said the Youth and Wellness Program is on the path to provide positive activities for the youth of the Flathead Reservation — that includes the youth of Dixon.
“We will continue to plan activities for reservation youth,” Caye said. “We are trying to reach all kids and provide them with healthy activities. We want to work with the Dixon School to better serve the kids of the community.”
While the parents, grandparents and guardians were meeting in the cafeteria the youngsters were busy in the gym playing games and doing craftwork.
Some of the young ones at the Dixon community meeting had a hard time waiting to bite into the cupcakes they had to decorate prior to be given the green light to “officially” munch on them. (B.L. Azure photo)
Elliot said Dixon is somewhat off the beaten path and consequently off the minds of law enforcement.
“There is a lot of poverty here and people feel left behind,” Elliot said. “Things are a lot more accessible in the other communities — those along Highway 93. They have better access to law enforcement and many have SROs (school resource officers) on campus.”
Elliot said the school is a big component of the social fabric of the community but it is the parents that are the key to mending the frazzled fabric.
“My goal — my hope is to increase the contact between school personnel and the parents,” Elliot said. “This meeting is an opening of a door for a conversation with the parents and establishing a relationship with them. We want them to know that we are here to help them.”
One parent said that is easier said than done. “I wish there were more parents here,” she said. “Every time we do family activities the parents drop off their children. It’s always just kids, kids, kids but no parents. I love that this is happening. My hope is that more parents will come to the next meeting.”
Hope springs eternal and is now needed more than ever with the brutal events near the Dixon Agency last week.