By Tilden Bird
On Monday, Feb. 15, while the nation celebrated President’s Day, members of the MHA Nation gathered to honor Chief Robert “Bobby” Bear Jr. Bear, 79, has served as Chief for the last 55 years on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Bear’s Arikara name is nikutawikusu’ neehUhkatariiNU, which means Swift Hawk. Responsibilities of chief include advising the people in cultural and traditional affairs, and maintaining good relations amongst all members of the MHA Nation and other tribes.
The honoring was held in the Ralph Wells Complex in White Shield, with approximately 60 people in attendance. The event also drew the attention of multiple media sources from the surrounding area.
Following the bringing in of the colors by American Legion Post 253, a meal was served while Bear was presented with blankets, a cowboy hat and neckerchief, and a plaque which read “In Recognition and Appreciation of your years of dedicated service as neeshaanu’ niinneetuhkUx Sahnish (Chief where the Arikara village is).”
The public was then allowed a chance to speak, with several coming to the microphone to tell humorous stories about Bear, to which he responded with smiles and laughter.
“He’s been a good uncle,” said Austin Gillette. “His door has always been open. I’ve always been welcome to his place, as others have been. And he’s always in good humor. He’s always got a good story, about rodeo or an activity that took place long ago down in Nishu, Elbowoods and throughout the reservation. He’s been a good member of our Legion Post also here, a veteran of the Navy. I just enjoy having him with us.”
Following the open mic, an honor song was played for Bear as Legion Post and Ladies Auxiliary took him around the Ralph Wells Complex. Afterwards a small give away to the post, auxiliary, and drum group was held and the colors were retired.
“We’ve never done this before. It’s good you know,” stated Councilman Fred Fox. “We never know what’s going to happen tomorrow so I think it’s good that we honor our chief, and even elder and veteran.”
Bear served in the United States Navy as a Fireman.
“I went in a little bit late though, I missed the Korean conflict,” Bear said of his military service.
Bear was born to Robert Bear Sr. and Dora Hopkins on the Fort Berthold Reservation where he spent most of his life. The direct relation to Chief Son Of The Star was taught tribal history from his father and other family members as well as the Sahnish language, Grass Dance songs, Veteran songs, Old Scout songs, and Ree hymns. Bear also rode broncs in his life and currently fills the role of Chief he assumed in 1961 after his father was killed in a coal mining accident.