GREAT FALLS — The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Great Falls announced that Duncan Standing Rock passed away on Sunday morning. The tribe said in a social media post that Standing Rock was one of the last two known fluent Little Shell Chippewa/Ojibwe speakers.
The tribe noted that it was because of Duncan that their staff was able to engage his expertise in the analysis, interpretation, meaning, and correct pronunciation of the language, which is currently being taught to and learned by Little Shell Tribal members.
"It's a huge loss for the Little Shell Tribe,” said Gerald Grey, the Little Shell chairman. "He was brought on by our language program, which did a lot of videos of him speaking the language, saying words, so we could put those out there to members."
A few years ago, MTN talked with Standing Rock as some of those videos were being made. "We're losing our language really fast,” Standing Rock told MTN.
"I'm going to miss him dearly,” said Jonathan Windy Boy, the Rocky Boy Historic Preservation Officer. Windy Boy said that Standing Rock was a mentor to him and someone he has the utmost respect for. "He's always been a breath of fresh air as far as playing a huge part in my life and I would say the same for the community."
The Little Shell Tribe's language program is working with Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota to create some programs to help carry on the language.
The Little Shell Tribe, headquartered in Great Falls, includes more than 5,000 enrolled members around the state.
Here is the feature that we ran in 2016 about preserving and teaching the language, featuring Standing Rock: