Bonnie Marie Clincher Red Elk (A Stupi Win) Good Star Woman
Longtime journalist and newspaper publisher Bonnie Marie Clincher, who was the font of knowledge in the Fort Peck Tribes Tribal Executive Board Meetings, went Home with Jesus on Sunday, June 28, 2015. She suffered a stroke on October 20, 2014 and never fully recovered from it. She was 62.
Wake services will be held Friday, July 3 at 7:00 pm, followed by funeral services at 9:00 am on Saturday, July 4; both at the Poplar Cultural Center. Interment will be held at Riverside Presbyterian Cemetery.
Bonnie was born on July 6, 1952 in Poplar, Mont., to Mercy (Walking Eagle) and Silas Clincher.
She attended Poplar schools and was active for four years in the Wambdi Ota Indian Club. She looked forward to fund raising for the annual trip to University of Montana in Missoula for the Kyi Yo Indian Club Pow Wow every spring. Bonnie graduated from Poplar High School in 1971.
Bonnie attended Haskell Indian Junior College and eventually earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the Native American Educational Services (NAES) College.
She enjoyed beading, sewing, photography, music, attending powwows and cultural gatherings, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. She also made it a point to fix Sunday dinner for her family.
A woman who was generous to all who came in contact with her, Bonnie often opened her home to family and friends from all over helped out many people and organizations in need.
Bonnie began working in journalism in 1975 as a reporter for the Fort Peck Tribal Newspaper, the Wotanin Wowapi. One year later, she was hired as the newspaper’s editor. Journalism runs in her family, as her great grand father Sioux Indian Chief John Lonedog, the last Sioux chief on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, kept a buffalo robe winter count, which was essentially the first Indian “newspaper” because he recorded all of the events on this robe using pictographs. This robe is now on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. She carried on this tradition of recording history through journalism, every edition she printed being it’s own “buffalo robe.” Bonnie was the watch dog of the tribal government, keeping the reservation fully informed of tribal government affairs.
For more than 30 years Bonnie covered all aspects of life on the reservation but her primary duty was covering the tribal government. As the newspaper continued to grow, so did the coverage of the everyday happenings on the reservation.
Bonnie was also a founding member of NAPA, the Native American Press Association, which organized in 1983 on the campus of Penn State University. The organization eventually changed its name to NAJA, or the Native American Journalists Association, a decade later.
The Wotanin eventually went from a bi-weekly tabloid to a full-size weekly newspaper and developed a readership that expanded off the reservation to include the offices of Montana’s Congressional delegation to the many tribal members living away from home.
With Bonnie as editor, the Wotanin received numerous awards including Best Native Weekly in 1994 from the Native American Journalists Association and three runner-up awards in the following years. In 2001 and 2002, Bonnie received first place in the Best Reporting of a Tribal Government category and numerous other writing awards throughout her career.
While at the Wotanin, Bonnie was eventually fired by the tribal chairman, at the time was
John Morales, for her coverage of his controversial administration.
After encouragement from fellow tribal members, family and friends, Bonnie started her own newspaper in 2006. The inaugural issue of The Fort Peck Journal was produced in a cut-and-paste format on her kitchen table and later moved into her father’s building in downtown Poplar.
Also in 2006, Bonnie received NAJA’s highest honor, the Wassaja Award, which recognizes Native Journalists and their dedication to a free and uncensored press. In 2008, she received the Montana Free Press Award, presented each year by the University of Montana Schools of Journalism and Law.
She is survived by her four children, all of Poplar. Her three sons include; Clifford Country, Vern Red Elk, and Randy Red Elk and a daughter, Char Red Elk; two grandsons – Adrian and Joseph Red Elk and two more grandchildren who are yet to be born. She is also survived by her ex-husband for 27 years to Herman Red Elk, Jr.; her brothers Stephen Clincher from Poplar; Barry Beach from Deer Lodge, Mont. & Brad Beach from Laurel, Mont.; four sisters – Annabelle Weston from Porcupine, SD, Carol Clincher and Marian (Bruce) Montclair, both of Poplar; Barb Beach Salinda from Cal.; step-mother Roberta “Bobbie” Clincher of Laurel, Mont.; Uncle Victor (Barb) Perry; nephews Jesse, Clayton, Gregg, Louis, Silas & John Montclair; Robin Youngman and Kristofer Boyd; Christian Clincher; and Verle Clincher; nieces Jo’e Youngman, Carly Sioux Stump, Karen Clincher, Marise Headdress, Ronetta Clincher, Fontella Clincher, Ashley Paine, Lee Ann, Lisa & Vicki Perry, Josephine Youngman, Shelly Burshia & Haven Burshia; many grandchildren from all the nephews & nieces to numerous to mention; adopted sisters: Catherine Spotted Bird of Brockton; Ilona Jo Matthews of Poplar; Crystal Albanese of Ohio; and Diane Richardson of Albuquerque, NM, extended family; The Perry Family; The Boyd Family; The Duboise Family; The Spotted Bull Family; The Longee Family; John & Stacey Summers & family; Candy & George Blount & family; Linda & Lowell “Buddy” Boyd & family; The Hollow Horn family; Donna & Don Gudgell & family; The MacDonald Family; cousin Iva Bear Dean, Dave Kelly & Family from Pine Ridge Reservation in SD and The Clincher families in SD & Colorado.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Abraham and Ronnie Clincher; a sister Nancy Eagle; nephew Thomas Montclair, Sr.; aunties Fannie Kao, Irene Hollow Horn, Marie Summers, Mabel Chapman, Evelyn Smith, all of Poplar; adopted sister Minnie Two Shoes,
Bonnie was a one-of-a-kind and will be deeply missed by all those who loved her.