- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

PARSHALL, N.D. (AP) - Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox has a dream: children on the reservation today will have happy, healthy lives and break through a cycle of poverty and dysfunction.

On Thursday, Fox stepped into a new warming hut in the reservation town of Parshall, where children laced up skates for a late-afternoon spin on the ice as the sun cast long blue shadows and the winter air pinked their cheeks.

The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2mCwGmx ) reports the rink is in the heart of the town, and Fox said he hopes someday every community on the reservation will have one like it, along with water splash pads for fun and exercise on summer days.

“That’s the key to change. There’s a lot of poverty and dysfunction, and it’s our responsibility to build out of that,” he said. “We don’t want multipliers, where families have five children and they have children and now we have 40 people in the same cycle. We want to reach out with opportunities that are good for our youth.”

With less than two years left in his four-year term, he hopes to put youth facilities on a fast track by using special funds in the chairman’s budget.

“We can only build so much so fast,” he said.

Parents, children and community members crowded into the warming hut to share the grand opening occasion, drinking hot chocolate and eating hot dogs. Fox told them how he loved skating on the creek near Parshall as a kid and was darned good at it back in the day.

“Some of us were lucky as kids to have a pair of skates,” he said.

Isabella Polanco, a fifth-grader, laced up a pair of black hockey skates that belonged to her brother last year, when the Lucky Mound segment bought a pair for every kid in town who wanted one, if they could chip in $5. This year the new concrete, curbed rink is the place to go after school and weekends.

“I’ve been here for like a party. It’s really fun, we played a game called ‘crash.’ I like how, if you fall, you go sliding and it doesn’t hurt as much,” she said.

Fox is the dreamer, but Byron Young Bird of Parshall is the guy who built the dream. He’s been working for months on the project, finding solace in the companionship of the children after his son Rudy died in 2009.

“It’s my therapy to be around the kids,” he said. “They call me ‘grandpa.’”

He said the kids come to the rink to skate, be with friends or pull up to a table in the warming hut to do their school work. The rink is lit until 10 p.m., and a group of guys in their 20s like to set up a hockey net and smash around, he said.

Sandy Folden, director of the Parshall Resource Center for alcohol and addiction treatment, stopped in with a bag of Girl Scout cookies for the grand opening. The center has helped where it could, and Folden said the rink is a great addition to the community.

“It gives everyone something positive to do. There’s no place else like this to get together and have a good time,” she said.

Ruth Zacher, a former Parshall teacher, stops by a couple times a week to skate for pleasure with iTunes in her earbuds, or to visit with the kids who come by.

“If the kids show up, I’m happy, too. I try to teach them about skating or help them tie their skates,” she said.

Zacher is good friends with Young Bird; they had sons in the same grade in school. Rudy, she said, was one of the special ones, widely loved in town.

Young Bird clearly enjoyed the open house and the chance to visit with the families who stopped in, greeting him by name as the guy who’s always around, running a shovel over the ice and working long days to finish the warming hut’s interior.

Young Bird says credit goes to Fox, though.

“He’s all about kids, and so am I,” he said.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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