BILLINGS - Patrons entering the Billings Public Library are now greeted with sandstone, Ponderosa pine, and native plants.
But when they get a closer look, they’ll also learn the Crow word for the Montana common juniper is Buluxpaawaachuua, which means ‘rising from the ground with berries.’
That juniper and more than a dozen other plants were blessed on Monday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The newly landscaped area began with an opportunity for a local Billings family to get involved with the library.
“In our opinion, financial success comes with an obligation to give back to the communities that contributed to the success,” said Mark Gorder, one of the project’s donors.
Mark is married to Diane, whose family is the local, well-known Dimich family of Pepsi-Cola Bottling.
On Monday morning, Diane spoke about the Dimich’s strong entrepreneurial history, and how her brother Bill stumbled upon their first opportunity to partner with the library. They sponsored a study room, which is now known as the Jean Engle Dimich Group Study, named after their mother.
Since then, the Dimich family has partnered with the library on several other projects.
Now, Diane and her husband Mark, an entrepreneur himself, have partnered with the Billings Public Library Foundation to create the Heritage Garden.
“The entrance to any building provides an opportunity to create an inclusive and welcoming experience,” said Mark Gorder.
Among several options, the Gorders learned about the opportunity to enhance the entrance garden area from Billings Public Library Foundation Development Director Leslie Modrow. The idea to focus on native plants came from the Gorders, and they were put in touch with local landscaping architect Jim Foley of The Foley Group, LLC.
“When I met with Mark and Diane originally, we immediately keyed in on the Rimrocks,” Foley said.
The center of the garden features several large sandstone boulders. Some are etched with replicas of petroglyphs. The mulch surrounding the native plants consists of decomposed rock and stone, which is what you’ll find during a hike on the Billings Rimrocks.
Foley said the plants will require some extra TLC, but in three years, they will develop into the well-established native plants we see in Montana.
“I hope everyone watches it over the years because it’s in its infancy now and it will continue to grow,” Foley said.
Then came labeling the plants. Aside from each plant’s scientific name and common name, each placard lists the plant’s Crow name and its translation.
One example is silver sagebrush. Called Iisachchaxuuwe by the Crows, translates to ‘bunched stems.’
The Crow Language Club, which is in its ninth year and consists of 90 members, was a crucial component in labeling the plants accurately.
A heartfelt moment during Monday’s ceremony came when Janice Hudetz with the Crow Language Club announced the member who wrote the Crow name for each plant passed away three weeks ago.
Sandra Lynn Bird, 56, passed away on July 13, 2022, after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.
“She was very young and talented and beautiful. She was one of our best members and it’s a big loss to us. So in memory of her, we are pleased to do this with you,” Hudetz said of Bird.
On the club’s Facebook page, a post about Bird states “She possessed a wealth of historical information and was always generous in sharing this knowledge, most particularly in providing transcriptions to those who requested it.”
“The Crow people have allowed us to use their voice, to have their voice represented and incorporated here. That will forever be the case now, and I truly think that is something to be celebrated,” said Gavin Woltjer, director of the Billings Public Library.Dr. Lanny Real Bird says a prayer and blesses the Heritage Garden.
Woltjer noted the project shows collaboration, generosity, and inclusion.
“It shows all of those things we strive to maintain every single day here.”
Images, the common name, and Crow name for the Heritage Garden's 14 plants can be viewed here: /DocumentCenter/View/47780