Posted by Sue Bolton
     Courtney Michelle, VP of Longmont Sister Cities Association, gave us an update on that organization and its relationship with the Northern Arapaho tribe.  LSCA has been active since the 1990’s, conducting student exchanges with Chino, Japan and Ciudad Guzman, Mexico.  It is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, affiliated with Sister Cities International, and has also enjoyed the support of Longmont City Council over the years.  Since 2020, the usual student exchange has been on hold due to the pandemic but a relationship with the Northern Arapaho tribe has begun to take shape.
     LSCA is the first sister cities organization to be successful in establishing some sort of exchange with a tribal nation.  At first SCI discouraged this endeavor, but they are now fully supportive.  Former Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley encouraged LSCA from the start, having met some of the tribal leaders and being interested in their history and problems.  Longmont and the surrounding area were once home to these people.  Since the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, the Arapaho tribe has been split into two groups and put on reservations, the Southern group in Oklahoma and the Northern in Wyoming.  About 10,000 Northern Arapaho share the reservation with approximately 8,000 Shoshone, who were their traditional enemies.  Over the years, the two groups have intermingled.     
People on the reservations suffer disproportionally from poverty, isolation, drug and alcohol abuse, diabetes, and mental health problems.  Their leaders hope for their young people to gain educational opportunities and to travel and see their ancestral home land. These are the goals LSCA shares. 
     In September, 2021, an official signing ceremony took place in Longmont.  The celebration lasted three days, with dancing, music, food, prayer, a drum circle and youth activities.  Elders of the tribe, Longmont City Council members and the President of SCI were among the speakers.  It was a huge step forward.
     This summer the first student exchange with the tribe will take place.  Longmont students will have the honor of attending the annual Sundance, a rare opportunity for anyone outside the tribe.  Unlike our other exchanges, where students live in family homes, this time students will be housed and supervised in a group situation, both here and in Wyoming.  Obviously, it will take time to establish trust and understanding.  We will do some of the same activities we have done with kids from Japan and Mexico, such as painting at Crackpots, playing at the Rec Center, hiking, and performing for one another.
     Hopefully, we can resume our exchange program with Mexico and Japan by summer, 2023, and continue to expand the program with the Northern Arapaho students.  Travel and intercultural experiences enable understanding and open minds!