Montana Ethic Project: A good legacy a matter of choice


Joey and Libbie Early

Bill Yellowtail talks about how we can become “good ancestors.”

This is the 15th chapter of the 32-part video series “The Montana Ethic Project.” This chapter features Bill Yellowtail, a former state senator from Wyola, speaking on “Futuring and Native Leadership.”

You can watch the whole video below. Here is how it begins:

“We Montanans are a people of a proud heritage.

“Our cultural heroes, our magnificent landscape, our august statesmen all inspire. But the question for us is what will be our legacy?

“Recently I listened to a bright young American Indian man challenge everyone of use to, ‘be a great ancestor.’ That’s a powerful order that will demand we be ever mindful and vigilant about ensuring that our descendants, Montanans all, can be as proud of their heritage as we are of ours. That mindset requires a dynamic that I want to call ‘futuring.’ That is, we must have and work diligently toward a vision of our legacy, your legacy, my legacy, our family’s legacy, and our community’s legacy.”

Here is another, edited excerpt from Yellowtail’s presentation:

“We have to stop defining ourselves by our tragedies and begin developing ourselves by our possibilities.

“I believe that too many of us Indian peoples have become mired in our tragic history, as if Wounded Knee or the Baker Massacre happened to us personally. We even have a name for this dynamic these days: historic trauma we call it. Some Indian scholars, in fact, have risen this term to a pseudo-science, arguing that this intergenerational trauma is now embedded in our genetic code. Thus, I say, suggesting there is little that we can do about it. Now I don’t ever wish to be accused of denying the trauma and tragedy that were imposed upon American indigenous peoples, nor that contemporary bigotry is excusable in any form, and we must know that many of our ancestors did indeed suffer unspeakable traumatizing abuse and forced change. History is fact. I acknowledge that some people, even today, do indeed suffer from trauma of various sorts.

“But I do object to our perpetuating inter-generational trauma by rehearsing it, groveling in it, teaching it.”

PERC_Logo_MontanaEthicPERC—the Property & Environment Research Center—is a proud sponsor of the Montana Ethic Project. To learn how PERC’s ideas can help us honor one another’s rights to land, water, and wildlife,visit

First week: Project introduction.

Second week: Richard Drake on “Terrorism and the Consolation of History.”

Third week: Mike Gear on “The Value of Athletics.”

Fourth week: Franke Wilmer on “Gender Equity.”

Fifth week: Gordon Brittan: “The Founding Fathers.”

Sixth week: Jim Posewitz: “Montana Sportsmen and the Hunter’s Ethic.”

Seventh week: The Rev. Jessica Crist: “Religion and Politics: Can They Co-exist?”

Eighth week: Chuck Tooley: “The Montana Character.”

Ninth week: Steve Bullock: “Citizens United v. Montana.”

10th week: Carol Williams: “The Imperative for Female Government Participation.”

11th week: Bob Rowe:  “Towards Technological Development.”

12th weekGeorge Metcalfe: “Economic Development in Africa and Its Relationship to Montana.”

13th weekBruce Smith: “Montana’s Food Economy.”

14th week: Peggy Beltrone: “Montana Wind Energy—Business and Politics.”

15th week: Mark Solon: “Creating an Intermountain West Startup Economy.”

Next week: Judy Martz: “Trust in the Lord and He Will Direct Your Path.”

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