Friday, May 24, 2024

Head Start Powwow honors Jeanne Christopher

Reporter | May 9, 2024 12:00 AM

Children who attend Head Start in the 10 classrooms around Lake County waited as patiently as they could for the Head Start Powwow to begin at the Ronan Event Center gym last Friday night. 

The children, their teachers, parents, grandparents and other family members followed the Mission Valley Honor Guard, tribal elders and Eagle Staff Carrier Allen Pierre and Head Woman Mary Jane Charlo. Chief Cliff drummed everyone into the gym. The annual gathering is a much-anticipated and much-loved event for children and their families. 

This year the powwow honored a much-loved person, retiring Head Start director Jeanne Christopher. She’s been with Head Start in different positions for 49 years. 

Lolita Hendricksen spoke to the crowd about her “49 years of powwows with Jeanne.” She remembered their first Head Start Powwow, when there was just one classroom.

Sherry Cody, Patsy Olson and Patricia Hibler, all of whom worked with Christopher through the years, were also present and spoke about Christopher’s steadfast support of families and children and estimated that the number of people impacted by Christopher is around 10,000.

Christopher’s gift of appreciation from Head Start administration was a fully beaded buckskin bag made by Nicole Perry.

Then Emcee Pat Matt announced an honor dance for  Christopher. Jeanne, her daughter, Melissa, and son Jim led friends and well-wishers around the gym. 

“She’s a lifer for Head Start,” Rechanda Almaguer said. 

Almaguer herself is a lifer, moving here from Long Beach, Calif., where she was a family advocate, and continuing her career at Head Start on the Flathead Reservation.

 “I have a lot of respect for her,” Almaguer said, adding that Christopher is very approachable. 

“Jeanne has a heart for Head Start,” she said.

After the honor song, the powwow began with Emcee Pat Matt leading an intertribal dance. Lots of little moccasins hit the beat to start an afternoon of dancing. 

Ondi Adams, a Head Start administrator, coordinated the event and “all of the administrative team helped.” Christopher, she said, “has the guiding principle that is child and family focused.”

For hungry dancers, Head Start served a dinner of fry bread, chili, fruit and cake, with younger folks serving elders. Adams said she thinks about 900 people attended the powwow since they had 800 pieces of fry bread and it was all gone, plus the extra packed lunches the cooks had prepared just in case they ran out of food.  

Drums contributing so much to the event were: Head Drum Chief Cliff, Bad Canyon, DB Express, Defenders, Nkusm, and Post Creek.


    JJeanne Christopher, Head start director, is retiring. She is holding Her gift from the administrative staff -- a fully beaded buckskin bag made by Nicole Perry. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
    Arlee Head start children march in during the grand entry at the Head Start Powwow, looking for parents or relatives in the audience. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
    Head Man Dancer at the Head Start Powwow was Allen Pierre. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)

    Kenna Baylor-Corum, 3, dances with her mom, Catherine Baylor, at the Head Start Powwow. The pair and sister Melina Baylor had matching sparkly powwow regalia. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)