Office of American Indian Outreach

In the News

In April the MSUB/EMC Alumni Association awarded the 28th Annual Outstanding Alumni Awards. The Office of American Indian Outreach would like to recognize the two American Indian Alums who were honored. Excerpt was taken from recent The Alumni Jacket Special Edition Newsletter.


SEE ALSO:  MSU Billings Alumni Association



Henry Real Bird


Henry Real Bird

Occupation: Rancher and Educator
Degrees: 1971, B.S. Elementary Education
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
1990, M.S. Education Montana State University Billings



Change life through thought is my main cue card,” wrote Henry Real Bird. He has devoted his life to sculpting the lives of those who are fortunate enough to come in contact with him or have the privilege of learning from him.


Since completing his Masters Degree from Montana State University Billings, Henry Real Bird has worked constantly at improving the quality of life for the students on the Crow and Cheyenne Indian reservations. He has taught school from kindergarten to the college level. He has served as a teacher, administrator and perhaps most importantly as a mentor. His latest endeavor is to save the Crow language by changing the alphabet to the American English alphabet. Crow is still his primary language.


Henry Real Bird began writing poetry in 1969 after an extended stay in the hospital and has never stopped.


According to Hal Canon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center, Real Bird’s work is in the “greatest tradition of the best poets. His work is an interesting melding of cowboy, horsemanship and Crow culture. There is no difference between his poetry and everyday life.”


Henry Real Bird has worked for the YMCA Writer’s Voice since 1992 as a visiting poet in dozens of schools all across eastern Montana. He has shared his work and the Crow language with thousands of students and teachers. Corby Skinner, Director of the Writer’s Voice wrote, “As an instructor he infuses a love of language and an appreciation of landscape into the minds of his audience and students.”


In 1996 Real Bird won the Western Heritage Award for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 2002, he and Stephanie Davis performed her song, “Why the Cowboy Sings” at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Arts Festival. He also performs annually at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and will be the 2010 keynote speaker. Henry has had six anthologies, four poetry collections and twelve children’s books published, along with many other articles, tapes and CDs. In 2009 Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed Henry Poet Laureate of Montana. His wit and humor, combined with his deep commitment to the traditions of the Crow Indians, make him exceptionally qualified for this honor.



Ivan Small


Ivan Small

Occupation: Director of Schools
St. Labre Indian School
Degrees: 1977, B.S. Education
Montana State University Billings
1980, M.S. Education
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT


A “Call to Greatness.” This is not only a program conceived and developed by Ivan Small, but also the standard by which he lives his life.


When Ivan Small recognizes a problem, he immediately approaches it as an opportunity to improve. It is this enthusiasm and dedication to Indian education that has allowed Ivan to excel as an administrator and an advocate for all Indian education systems throughout Montana and the surrounding region.


Ivan is extremely proud of his heritage and is an enrolled member of the Crow tribe with Cheyenne heritage. His father is Northern Cheyenne and his mother is Crow. Ivan graduated from Montana State University Billings in 1977 with B.S. degree in Education. He immediately went to work in the classroom teaching fourth, seventh, and eighth grade in Lodge Grass Public Schools.


In 1979 he was presented with an opportunity to enter an Educational Leadership program offered by Montana State University. He graduated with a Masters Degree in 1980 and worked as a liaison between Lame Deer Schools and Montana State University Billings. He was the Director of Career Opportunities program, which was a teacher training program. Ivan eventually earned his administrative certificate and this launched a whole new career path for him. Ivan has served in an administrative capacity since that time. During his entire educational career Ivan has worked for six schools and three Head Start centers on four of the seven Indian reservations in Montana.


There are two particular programs initiated by Ivan that continue to have a positive impact on Indian education. The “Call to Greatness” initiative was conceived by Small after the news that 33 Indian schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind requirements. With the help of the Office of Public Instruction, Ivan gathered school principals, superintendents and school boards together to work toward positively impacting student achievement. The “Call to Greatness” program is dedicated to the systematic improvement of standardized test scores on Montana’s reservation. Since the program was initiated, the test scores have improved.


The other program Ivan championed was the “I Lead” program which was implemented with Montana State University in Bozeman. This program is designed to train Indian School administrators. This first group had 45 participants and by November 2008 there were 90 participants in this program. Every reservation in the state has participated in the program.

One of Ivan’s colleagues wrote, “On the national stage, Ivan had been one Montana’s greatest exports. He is a visionary with absolute commitment to the education of all students, especially Indian children.”