By Naomi MacMurdie
April 9, 2021, UNITED STATES—In an annual forum delayed by the COVID-19 virus, Global Peace Foundation (GPF) highlighted a transformative project that bridged a racially diverse community in Billings, Montana. The ongoing program, called the Cross Community Reconciliation (CCR) project, was first introduced in October 2019 at Montana’s last Global Peace Forum.
Funded by stakeholders in Billings and the surrounding region, the CCR project is a collaborative effort of GPF, Riverstone Health, and the Native American Development Corporation among others in an effort to reduce racial discrimination and increase empathy and understanding in Montana’s diverse community that is home to twelve tribal nations.
When the project first launched, it was expected to last six months. Working with COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns, the project extended to nearly a whole year. However, participants, facilitators, and stakeholders at the Global Peace Forum expressed their gratitude for the extended timeline and interest in continuing the project indefinitely because of their transformative experience.
"The more we're able to on both sides native and non-native to be able to sit down and just kind of educate each other, then from there, those two can go educate their family," said Josiah Hugs, a CCR facilitator and member of the Apsaalooke tribal nation. "And then that family can educate their neighborhood. And that neighborhood can educate their community."
"It's really good to learn, you know, educate yourself behind the scenes about our history and culture," said Morgan Miller, another facilitator. "But it's so much more powerful when you're with people because you see them face to face. And you get to know them and their quirks and what they care about. And it brings a lot more energy together and you can really get to know someone."
Since their participation in the CCR project, members have continued to live out the mission of the project, including forming a podcast called “Unspoken Words: A Native Podcast” to address issues in the indigenous community. The project has also led to plans for the creation of a Peace and Reconciliation Committee for the city of Billings. With many expressing their interest in participating in another CCR program, GPF Montana plans to continue the project from 2021 to 2022.