Bridges are the sinew that holds Missoula together. They cross the Clark Fork River throughout town, but are so commonly used that they are almost invisible because they’re so important.
Kevin Kickingwoman is kind of like a bridge.
“Teaching Native studies at the University (of Montana) and Loyola helps build a bridge through humanity of different races and make an impact,” he said. “It builds a bridge of understanding.”
It’s a Missoula metaphor for the 50-year-old Blackfeet-Cree man born in Browning, who lived in seven different foster homes, joined the Navy, became a Hotshot, has taught at collegiate and high school levels, earned his master’s degree, worked corrections and now goes back to guide prisoners, wrote a play that could turn into a book, is raising six children, is deeply invested in Native American rights and still plays a mean post-heavy game of basketball at the YMCA.
Violence, displacement, destruction of culture and genocide were carried out against Native people for hundreds of years in the U.S., which left deep psychic wounds. And even though the wars against Natives might have stopped in a conventional sense, Natives still are suffering from the trauma of those experiences today.
That’s where Kickingwoman’s bridging presence comes in.