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Two Americas: A closer look at healthcare and family on the Crow Indian Reservation

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Posted at 5:53 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 19:53:06-04

Two Americas: This time we hear from three generations of a Native American family as we get a closer look at life on the Crow Indian Reservation

The Doyle and Whiteman families open up about issues that are important to them and perspectives that shape their heritage.

“I really enjoyed being a nurse and taking care of people, helping them as much as I could,” said Rosie Doyle. Rosie is a Northern Cheyenne woman. She recalls decades of work as a nurse at Crow Hospital. She spent 46 years caring for Native American families like her own. She says over that time she got to know her patients, spending much of her time in the E.R.

“They relate to you,” she said. “Patients like to see someone like them.”

She says she saw plenty of ups and down in Native American health care over the decades.

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Cheyenne Whiteman's grandmother, Rosie Doyle

One challenge: Access to resources, including doctors and other specialists.

“They only last a little while and then gone again,” said Rosie. “Most of the doctors we had lived in Billings or Hardin.”

It is one of many challenges she knows her people still deal with today.

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Photos of Cheyenne Whiteman walking on the MSU campus, Whiteman studying in the American Indian Center, her grandma Rosie Doyle working in the clinic at the Crow Hospital, and Whiteman and her grandma taking a selfie.

She still lives in a home on the Crow Reservation. Her daughter and son-in-law live just yards away, right across the rural road. Doyle tells us growing up on the reservation Northern Cheyenne, her father was always passionate about education. In fact, he founded Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer.

Meanwhile, life and culture are quite different almost three hours away in Bozeman. Right now the third generation of the family, Cheyenne Whiteman is a nursing student living both worlds as she follows grandma Rosie’s footsteps. She plans to bring her nursing skills back home.

“It is important for patients to have representation,” she said. “It is important to have someone like you.”

Together, the family shared what it's like to live on Crow Agency.

“There are a lot of poor people on the reservation,” said Cheyenne’s mother, Valerie Whiteman. “There are not a lot of jobs here. We don't have a grocery store."

They also spoke out about what it’s like to be a Native American family in today's world.

“A lot of people don't know what it's like to live on a reservation,” said Rosie.

So the family says they invite people from towns outside to come to see what it's like, to come to pow wows, to have conversations - and maybe -see that some ideas and stereotypes aren't accurate.

“They seem to think the government just hands us out money,” said Rosie. “We don't get any money. We have to work like everyone else.”

“People are always welcome to come to the reservation,” said Rosie.

Her daughter and son-in-law agree there are eyes that need to be opened.

“We are just like any other community,” said Quentin Whiteman. “We aren't that different, people hear ‘reservation’ and it turns them off but we are just like everybody else.”

“There are always ways to do a better job to understand another person's culture, you have to have an open mind, accept them, understand them,” he said.

They display a beautiful culture across the walls of their home. One that honors family and preserves long-held customs like dancing, artistry, and gathering.

They say at the heart they want people to know deep down native families hold the same values: To be loved, to be understood, respected, connected, and seen.

“That we are equal to everybody else,” said Rosie. “We are a different color but we are the same.”

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Two Americas: A closer look at healthcare and family on the Crow Indian Reservation