73rd Annual MSCA O-Mok-See State Championships held at J. Neils

By Stacy Bender

Over 250 riders from ages 3 – 84 years old converged upon Lincoln County’s J. Neils Arena this past weekend for the 2020 State O-MOK-SEE, every rider focused on recording their best time in nine separate events testing their   Above: Katie McGilvary of Kalispell and Michelle Freese of Libby prepare to exchange the baton during the final event of the MSCA State O-MOK-SEE timed trials on Sunday, September 7. The team relay is multi-faceted challenge requiring four horse-and-rider teams to maneuver transitional positions at the start line and remain within the bounds of their lane for the duration of the race. Photos by Stacy Bender, The Montanian.

“Dear Lord –  We pause, mindful of the many blessings you have lain along our path. We don’t ask for special favors, nor do we ask that the blessings granted our opponents be diminished.  Instead, we thank you for allowing us to experience friendship in one of its truest forms. To be able to gather with friends and loved ones to pay tribute to the great sport of O-Mok-See.

We ask that you guide us up the greatest lane of all, and that you as our final judge will allow us to ride once more, where the sun never sets and where happiness rides beside us and never behind us. For this, dear Lord, we thank you.”  – The O-Mok-See Prayer, recited each morning of competition.
The 2020 Montana Saddle Club Association’s State O-Mok-See was held at  J. Neils Arena in Lincoln County this past weekend. Hosted by the Troy Saddle Tramps and supported by the Libby Saddle Club and Lincoln County Arena, nine separate time-trialed events came alive as over 250 horse-and-rider teams came to compete.
“O-Mok-See” is a Blackfoot Indian phrase meaning “riding big dance.”

The traditional display of relation between horse-and-rider originated in war ceremonies which were once held before Blackfoot Warriors set out on mounted expeditions against their enemies.  Dressed in their finest costumes, riding painted horses, the warriors would ride at full speed together and converge within a circle of men and women who would then sing and beat their drums in prayer and support.

For the past 73 years, the Montana Saddle Club Association has hosted O-Mok-See competition aimed at honoring many of those Blackfoot traditions.

Each spring, committees from nine saddle club divisions across the state gather to choose from a book of over forty clearly defined trial events for the O-Mok-See arenas.  After much discussion, a set number of events are ultimately chosen for that upcoming season.

Each O-Mok-See event represents a task once utilized on battlefields by the Blackfoot tribes. For example, the Devil’s Cow Hide, where horse-and-rider tow a teammate across the arena on a cow hide, around a target pole and back again. This derived from how the Blackfoot would use Buffalo hide to swiftly enter and exit a battlefield in an effort to recover a wounded warrior.

“The man on horseback, down through the ages, is set apart from the man on foot,” reads a passage on sportsmanship inside the cover of the MSCA O-Mak-See handbook which then goes on to note the nature by which today’s competitions are held – with equal passion and mutual respect at the helm.

This past weekend’s O-Mok-See State Championships – with trials which included barrel work, flag races, team relays and pole bending – were no exception to the legacy of storied tradition in both competition and display of partnership between horse-and-rider.

All competitors and spectators alike left the arena visibly infected with the energy of the “riding big dance” which had transpired.

Libby Job Service Center adapts, and offers helpful employment services

Libby Job Service Center is an office of the Montana Works group, under the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, and a proud partner of the American Job Center Network. And the community can be quite proud of the ladies of our local office here at 417 Mineral Avenue in Libby. Despite the current challenges of COVID-19, the gals, Kari Martel, Teresa Chandler, Janelle Lacefield, Shellie DeLeo, and Manager Johnette Watkins have come up with an inventive plan to assist job searchers, self employed folks, and independent contractors.

They can hook you up with the Montana Works program (montanaworks.gov) if you are self employed or an independent contractor. There are also Emergency Resources for Employers and Workers, that may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. And they can assist you if you are seeking a job, or if you are unemployed through no fault of your own, are qualified, and if you are looking for full-time work or pursuing approved training opportunities.


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Troy Community, reaching out for Economic Development review

By Brian Baxter


Troy has been selected as a recipient for the Montana Economic Developers Association Community Review. The process actually started this past spring with a survey that was community – wide and had positive results. A series of listening sessions and a virtual town hall with options for both virtual and personal participation will follow. For more information, go to http://www.cityoftroymontana.com/Troy-Community-Review.html or call Troy City Hall at 295-4151. On Sept. 8, the sessions and town hall meetings will continue on from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., the sequence of events will be at different times and address senior citizens, students and youth, educators, chamber, business, tourism, and recreation. On Sept. 9, sessions will address health care and first responders, non-profits, churches, parents, volunteers, government, city / county law enforcement, and the Yaak Community. On Sept. 10, sessions will cover Three Main Street Working Groups update, a virtual town meeting summary, prioritizing issues, working groups, Phase Two Action Plans, steering committee, and mini-grant.

The Troy Chamber of Commerce can be complimented for it’s part in this commendable effort to talk about Troy’s future addressing important issues. These issues include what folks would like to see happen in the next five years, and what they don’t want to see happen in the near future, how residents have come together during the pandemic, and what are the assets that can benefit Troy, now and in the future. The chamber is also looking for businesses who would like to host a Flu Vaccine Clinic. Those businesses can call Trista Gilmore, LPN at 283-2447. And folks are asked to consider a membership in the Troy Chamber of Commerce, and can call 295-1064, or email Smiller@lincolncountylibraries.com. This is an excellent opportunity provided by your community, city, and business chamber to show how you care about your community and it’s future.

Kootenai Kiwanis Student

Stand-Down alters distribution plan for 2020-21 Schoolyear

By Stacy Bender
With the new schoolyear came some necessary adjustments to the 5th Annual Lincoln County Student Stand-Down. In a public release from early August, Kootenai Kiwanis announced, “To assist in the safe reopening of our local schools, this year we have decided it is in the best interest of our volunteers and the entire community that our [in-person] event is cancelled.” The decision, however, did not hinder efforts to push forward and continue distributing supplies to those in need.

For the past four years, in partnership with contributions from generous foundations, local businesses, organizations and individuals, the annual event has provided free school supplies to both Libby and Troy students as they prepare for the coming schoolyear.

With school closures this past March, however, Stand Down volunteers found themselves stepping in much earlier than expected to disperse supplies and support the sudden influx of needs for at-home studies across the county – Libby, Troy, and for the first time Eureka schools were all reaching out in search of assistance.

“We actually had a great start going in to this year with grants received from both the Headwaters Foundation and the Lincoln County Community Foundation providing a sound boost,” shared Stand Down Founder, Trina Kerzman, in a recent interview. “If it was not for those two generous grants, we would not have been able to meet the unexpected need which arose.”

Kerzman went on to note that general donations since the recent pandemic began have since declined, albeit expectedly. Fundraising has also been difficult to execute with so many event cancellations and restrictions at play. This year’s distribution has been tricky at best and it is the hope of the Kiwanis organization that support for schooling will continue to be offered in future years.

In 2019, over 400 backpacks were distributed and filled with hundreds of items aimed at fulfilling school supply lists and a strong need for assistance remains.

“Currently, we are working with the schools directly to disperse supplies this year,” said Kerzman. “Families with students in both public and private schools may contact their teachers with a list supplies needed.  Kiwanis will in turn make every effort to support those requests.” (*Homeschooled students may also contact the stand down committee for support.)

As efforts continue to meet all incoming requests, back-packs and 1 ½” binders currently top the list of items needed to continue serving all area students. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated as addressing specific requests received can then be done in a more pointed fashion.
Those seeking further information on assistance offered through the 2020 Kootenai Kiwanis Student Stand-Down and/or wishing to arrange a donation may do so by calling Trina at 283-1197.  Financial contributions may be mailed to Kootenai Kiwanis, P.O. Box 1324, Libby, MT, 59923.