Elouise Cobell fought and won more
than one battle for Natives

Great Falls Tribune
November 10, 2011

The untimely death of Elouise Cobell reminds us all of what a huge loss she was to our community and tribe. The remarkable life of this incredible human being living here in Blackfeet Country is truly a legacy that will be told and retold, as in all the stories of the Nits-tsi-tapi that will live forever.

I reflect on one of the many efforts Elouise Cobell supported.

This one, not as famous as the case against the Department of the Interior, but important as well, took place here in Blackfeet Country.

In the spring of 1992, I approached the National Park Service as an individual Indian entrepreneur to advocate a business opportunity here in Blackfeet Country for Native interpretive tours into our ancestral homeland, Glacier National Park. Against many roadblocks, I received immense support from my friend, Elouise Cobell. While she was working for the tribe, she also contributed countless hours of work alongside others with me to help negotiate an agreement.

I could call her anytime and ask for help whether she was at the office or in her home. Her efforts to assist and promote a young aspiring businessman seeking an opportunity was a goal she embraced.

The idea that it entailed reclaiming something the U.S. government had taken — Glacier National Park — made it even more desirable.

The uncooperative entities made her even more passionate to seek what we believed was right all along and what was right for our people.

It was this fortitude and determination that created a successful contract with the National Park Service and Glacier Park Inc. The case took on huge ramifications of treaty rights, monopolies, public demonstrations, protests and years of appeals to charges filed.

We landed in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals presenting arguments based on history, which caused charges to be dropped only to be sent back by a simple agreement to do a new business in Glacier National Park. Because of our negotiations and concessions by all, we were permitted to do exactly that.

However, we regretted the battle over Blackfeet rights under the 1895 document would not yet be settled. This still awaits another charge.

The help provided by Elouise Cobell led the way for me to start a small business successfully here in Blackfeet Country. 2012 marks the 20th year of my business venture — operating a seasonal concession tour service in Blackfeet Country, which is Glacier National Park.

The road has been rough from the start, and every year is a challenge as in all businesses and even more in Native-owned businesses. Nonetheless, from the support and strength of Elouise Cobell, we look forward to completing our remaining 10-year contract. Elouise Cobell was proud of our success!

I have huge thanks and praise for the life of Elouise Cobell and will always miss her as a friend.

Ed Des Rosier is CEO of Sun Tours in St. Mary.