By Duncan Adams, Montana Standard
Her Indian name was Stands by the Banks of Water.
Admirers remembered Michaelynn Hawk this week as a woman who resolutely stood by fellow Native Americans and others who suffered from injustice, discrimination and the specter of environmental degradation.
She garnered tributes this week for her work as a community organizer in Butte and as a fierce advocate for Native American rights throughout Montana and the West.
Hawk died Feb. 3 in Tulalip, Washington. She was 61 years old and had been in treatment for cancer.
She was an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe.
“Michaelynn really came from the heart,” said Marian Jensen of Butte. “She was a person who felt deeply the injustices that affected so many people. She had a broad understanding of what it meant to have a culture that was fair and just for everyone.”
Hawk was the longtime executive director of the organization Indian People’s Action. According to the Social Justice Fund Northwest, Indian People’s Action focused on empowering Native American families to tackle the racial, economic and environmental inequities in Montana’s reservations and border towns.
Hawk focused also on exposing inequities in the criminal justice system’s treatment of Native Americans.
Mijo Lee, former executive director for the Social Justice Fund Northwest, said Hawk was a consistent source of inspiration.
“I knew her as a fierce, unwavering fighter for her people,” Lee said. “Through her honest feedback about how we could better understand, build relationships with, and truly support Native organizers, she helped SJF become a better funder.”
Hawk ran the First Peoples’ Market in Butte as part of the Montana Folk Festival and helped establish Native Youth Art in Action.
Hawk received a number of awards.
In 2019, she was the recipient of the Montana Environmental Information Center’s MEIC Conservationist of the Year Award, the organization’s highest honor.