In Memoriam, Dale Pepion

 

Friend of Our Montana Service Program

In Memoriam, Dale Pepion

 

Friend of Our Montana Service Program

This season we took time to celebrate and acknowledge the life of our beloved friend, Dale Pepion. Dale passed away in Kalispell, MT on January 11 at the age of 84.

He was a Blackfeet Indian from the well-known Pepion family and served as the ranch manager where our program resides every summer. Tough as nails but quick to smile and laugh, he was a close friend of VISIONS and mentor of our Montana Blackfeet Program for many years. His peers in the community said that “he rode tall in the saddle.”

Dale grew up on his parents’ cattle ranch, and like many reservation families, did not have electricity or running water. At the end of a driveway that stretched for a couple of miles, he lived with a cattle dog companion named Dog.

Our time with Dale connected VISIONS to the Blackfeet community and history in an intimate way. His great grandfather was Mountain Chief, a legendary leader of the Blackfeet Nation. One of his brothers was the famous artist, Ernie Pepion. The late Elouise Cobell was one of Dale’s sisters and another dear friend of VISIONS. She was known by the Blackfeet name Yellow Bird Woman, and the conservation ranch where we live is named for her. Until her death in 2011, Elouise was a tribal elder, activist and lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against the U.S. government for mismanaged Indian funds. The case settled in 2010 for $3.4 billion dollars, which has been used for scholarship funds and to buy back native lands.

“To work with Dale and the Pepion family has been such an honor. He showed us parts of Blackfeet Reservation life that are hard to tap into anymore, because he was an elder in his eighties and also in the front row of his sister’s work to right some of the wrongs in our country,” VISIONS Executive Director Katherine Dayton said.

In addition to seeing him at our home base, we usually visited Dale at his ranch, where he ran cattle with one of his sons. We’d help him out with ranch chores for a day or two. He loved having the VISIONS kids around, and like any salty grandfather figure, he was quick to straighten us out if he didn’t approve of how something was being done.

Dale is missed and not forgotten. We are grateful and honored to have been part of his life. If you would like to make a donation in Dale’s honor, you may do so through the VISIONS Foundation website and all funds will be distributed to Blackfeet nonprofits that Dale cared about.