Around the Region: Montana movie delves into life on the reservation

Nicolas Hudak films in 2009 during the production of 'Where God Likes to Be.' / Photo by Nicolas Hudak
Nicolas Hudak films in 2009 during the production of ‘Where God Likes to Be.’ / Photo by Nicolas Hudak


Feb. 24, 2014

Written by David Murray GreatFalls Tribune Staff Writer

“Where God Likes to Be” is a film that captures both the hope and the hardship of life on the reservation.

Filmed over the course of a single summer, “Where God Likes to Be” is a documentary filmed and produced by Nicolas and Anna Hudak. The movie premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula this past week, but its genesis stretches back 10 years ago to when the Hudaks found themselves stranded in Browning by a late winter snowstorm.

Growing up in Kalispell, Nicolas had heard all the stereotypes about Browning: The reservation was dangerous and the last place a white person would want to spend the night. But what he and his wife experienced was altogether different. They were greeted with generosity and hospitality.

“That changed my perspective on all those ideas that I had growing up,” Nicolas Hudak said of his stay in Browning. “Yes, there’s definitely a lot of hardships going on — as there has been for the last 100 years or more. It’s a pretty tough spot to make a living. But there are a lot of good people doing good stuff and just trying to get by.”

In 2009, the Hudaks returned to Browning to document the lives of three young people: Andi Running Wolf, graduating from Heart Butte High School and preparing to go to college at the University of Montana; Doug Fitzgerald, a Blackfeet cowboy from Babb working to support his young family; and Edward Tailfeathers, a young man from Browning debating whether to stay on the reservation or leave in search of greater opportunity elsewhere.

The stories of these three people could easily be transposed to nearly any community in the United States. Running Wolf struggles with homesickness and fitting in at college. Fitzgerald comments that becoming a husband and father came sooner than he was expecting. Tailfeathers worries about finding a job and passes the time singing in a band with his friends.

“Where God Likes to Be” emphasizes the similarities its three characters share with young people throughout the United States, viewed through the lens of life in a community where hope and opportunity are frequently in short supply.

WHERE GOD LIKES TO BE Teaser from counter production on Vimeo.

“What’s important here in our film is the deep connection that people have,” Hudak said. “We didn’t set out to make a film about ‘the Indians.’ We were going to make a film about these young people growing up here and what’s important to them.”

However, each of the three characters is deeply aware that the choices they make have the potential to lead them away from the reservation. Each voices concerns about the risks of leaving, and possibly weakening their sense of identity as Blackfeet.

“Everyone I know is here. Everything I have had is here,” Tailfeathers says as he contemplates moving away from Browning. “It’s part of the connection of who you are.”

“Here we are at this cusp of change, and there are two ways this could go,” Hudak said of the decisions his characters face. “One is that everybody just becomes culturally homogenized and there’s really no difference between Blackfeet and anybody else. Or, they can try to hold on to what’s left. This is basically the last generation that has any kind of chance of saving those things that make the culture unique.”

“Then again, they are just American kids growing up in America,” he adds.

Within the first few scenes of “Where God Likes to Be” the viewer is introduced to the film’s fourth main character: the landscape of Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Hudak’s cinematography intersperses sweeping vistas of the Rocky Mountain Front with intimate glimpses of life in Browning and Heart Butte.

“Andi, Doug and Eddie are the heroes of the story, but certainly the landscape is the overseer of everything,” he said. “Part of the reason we wanted to make this film about the Blackfeet in particular is because that area is just so spectacular. There is just something so dramatic and so poetic about the way Browning looks in contrast with Glacier Park. I feel that beauty lies not just in fabulous sunsets, but also in those heavier human elements.”

“If we didn’t teach or learn all these old ways — religion, culture, language — then what are we?” Fitzgerald asks toward the end of the film. “Just a name. This will be a story in a book someone will pick up here and there. I always want to be. Be here. I want to be here where it started and never die, so that my kids will have a good place and be proud of where they’re from.”

Fitzgerald’s words could have just as easily been spoken by any of the young people featured in the film.

As a small budget film, “Where God Likes to Be” is not likely to show at a local multiplex cinema any time soon. To keep track of where the movie is playing, log on to the movie’s website at

Chairwoman Cantwell Holds Hearing on Tribal Resources Legislation

Indian Affairs Committee Examines 2 Bills to Address Water and Lands Claims of the Blackfeet Nation and the Pueblo of Sandia

Source: United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) held a legislative hearing to address water and lands rights that are essential to the Blackfeet Nation of Browning, Montana, and the Sandia Pueblo of Bernalillo, New Mexico. The hearing examined the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2013 (S. 434) and the Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act (S. 611).
“At the core of the principals of tribal self-governance and self-determination is the ability of tribes to exercise jurisdiction over their lands and their resources,” said Cantwell. “Often legislation is necessary to ensure that tribes can exercise those rights.”
The Committee heard testimony from the Department of the Interior, the State of Montana, and the Blackfeet Nation on their views of the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2013 (S. 434). The bill, introduced by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT), would settle a longstanding water dispute between the Blackfeet Nation and the State of Montana, and would ratify an agreement that the two parties have reached.
The Committee heard from Shannon Augare, Councilman for the Blackfeet Nation, which has over 16,000 members, half of whom live on the reservation. “Safe and clean drinking water supplies are vital for the growing population on the Reservation, and water is critical to our economy which is heavily dependent on stock raising and agriculture,” Augare said. “The Blackfeet Reservation’s location along the eastern Rocky Mountain Front makes it the home of abundant fish and wildlife, which depend directly on the water resources of the Reservation to support them and allow them to thrive.”
The Committee also heard from Jay Weiner, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Montana. “The State of Montana and the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council agree that this is a fair and equitable settlement that will enhance the ability of the Tribe to develop a productive and sustainable homeland for the Blackfeet People,” said Weiner. “This settlement is the product of over two decades of negotiations among the parties, which included an intensive process of public involvement.” Weiner continued: “The compact promotes development for the benefit of the Blackfeet Nation while protecting other water uses.”
Witnesses from the Department of Agriculture and the Pueblo of Sandia testified on the Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act (S. 611) at Wednesday’s hearing. The bill, introduced by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), would make a technical amendment to the T’uf Shur Bien Preservation Trust Area Act to accomplish the transfer of 700 acres of land to the Pueblo of Sandia that was intended to happen when Congress passed the original Act in 2003. The bill would clarify the valuation of the lands and require the Department of Agriculture to complete this transaction within 90 days of the Act’s passage.
The Committee heard from Stuart Paisano, Councilman of the Pueblo of Sandia. “The Pueblo hopes that with the passage of this technical amendment, the land exchange that Congress authorized over 10 years ago in the T’uf Shur Bien Preservation Trust Act will finally happen,” Paisano said. The Sandia Mountains have special cultural and spiritual significance to the Pueblo. Completion of the land transfer would ensure their preservation for members and future generations.