Meet the Team


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Donnie Wetzel

 Donnie Wetzel

Tribal Liaison &
Director of TRR

Donnie Wetzel Jr. is Blackfeet (Amskapi Pikuni) and connects efforts in Tribal consultation, collaboration and communication between OPI and Montana tribes through relationship building. He looks to for inclusion of opportunities in Indigenous perspectives within OPI interagency efforts, policies, and trainings, while promoting and sharing Montana’s unique strength and Tribal knowledge for the benefit of our districts and youth. He emphasizes inclusion of traditional educational teachings through self-identity and holistic values braided with modern educational methodologies and holistic supports. 


Crystal Hickman

 Crystal Hickman

School Mental Health
Support Services Coordinator

Crystal Rondeaux Hickman is an enrolled member of the Apsaalooke Tribe and of Northern Cheyenne descent. She is a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and daughter. She values spending time with her family above all else. Crystal has worked in the human services and community organizing fields for 20 years. She is passionate about working with the resilience of tribal people, youth empowerment, and giving voice to those who have none.


Matthew Bell

 Matthew Bell

Language and
Culture Specialist

Hą́ midáguyebi, Ową́hįkne Wamní emájibi Namákoda. Wadopaȟnatuwa žemaca My name is Matt Bell, and I am Nakoda and Aaniiih from Fort Belknap. I am currently serving as the Language and Culture Specialist at the Montana Office of Public Instruction. My recent background experience includes teaching Native American Studies and English in Missoula, as well as Graduate studies in Linguistics, Native American Studies, and English Teaching. I am an University of Montana graduate, Missoula resident, and proud father of one amazing four year old.


Alicia Doney

 Alicia Doney

Tribal Youth Coordinator

Alicia Doney is from the Aaniiih and Nakoda Nations, also known as the Fort Belknap Reservation. She attended Hays/Lodgepole Highschool and graduated as Valedictorian May of 2019. She is currently pursuing her degree in Human Services at MSU-Billings to become a counselor for our tribal youth within our schools. She has a passion for helping youth and communities succeed as evident in her work with the Fort Belknap Name Change, School Policies, Suicide Prevention, A.I.B.L (American Indian Business Leaders) and others. She believes that change comes from the youth and the youth have strong voices that must be included to help guide how schools are operating. “I am honored to take on the position of Tribal Youth Coordinator. My goal is to help facilitate the youth with any and every change they wish to seek. I hope to be an example to others as I grow and learn from this experience and work to help youth grow and break through the generational barriers that may hold them back. I want to help them in their educational journey and support their ambitions to live a good long healthy life. Pinamaya (Thank you).”



Resilience in Something Else (RISE)


RISE is a group created from the COVID-19 pandemic due to students' need for support and connection in our socially distanced time. This group has fostered relationships across the state of Montana and continues to thrive due to the invaluable opportunities for leadership development and relationship building. One of the main focuses of RISE is connection with personal culture as well as heritage, the students uphold these values each meeting.

Meetings are held every other week with schools across the state and they are Youth Designed and Youth Led!

For more information contact Anna Marsicano at

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2nd Annual RISE youth leadership virtual conference: May 3rd, 2022!

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RISE logo by Sara Still Smoking & Myklynn Lewis


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Guidance on Facilitating Local Education Agency (LEA) Requests for Effective Tribal Communication 


The Tribal Relations and Resiliency Unit (TRRU) was developed to build relationships and understandings within the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) and Montana school districts to incorporate Tribal voice, share resources and build connections through consultation on matters affecting American Indian students. Within ESSA requirements, we will work to support school districts and tribal leaders to work collaboratively for the benefit of our youth. ESSA gives us an excellent opportunity to re-envision our educational systems in Indian country.

In conjunction with the ESSA approach, we will also follow the traditional tribal protocol of consultation through the guidance of Elders. We have convened an Elder and Culture Wisdom Council for guidance in our efforts. Taking their direction as we work to solidify self-identity, holistic wellness and knowledge sharing from these corresponding doctoral level indigenous educators. Within our team, we have added the School Mental Health Support Services Coordinator tasked to provide wellness and holistic support pertinent in a student's educational journey. It is important for all children today to be supported in the mental health and wellness. Through these relationships and partnership, we work to lift the resiliency, wisdom and beauty of our indigenous people at every level within OPI and local educational agencies (LEA's).

Every Student Succeeds Act Tribal Consultation Pre-Planning Tool for Tribes

Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA - Handbook for LEA and School Leaders

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Which Covered Programs Require Consultation:

The following is a list of current programs which require an affected LEA to consult with Indian tribes or tribal organizations prior to submitting either a plan or application for covered programs:

  • Title I, Part A (Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies)
  • Title I, Part C (Education and Migratory Children)
  • Title I, Part D (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk)
  • Title II, Part A (Supporting Effective Instruction)
  • Title III, Part A (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act)
  • Title IV, Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants)
  • Title IV, Part B (21st Century Community Learning Centers)
  • Title V, Part B, subpart 2 (Rural and Low-Income School Program)
  • Title VI, Part A, subpart 1 (Indian Education Formula Grants to Local Educational Agencies)

Consultation will create opportunities for LEA's and tribal leaders to work together on behalf of American Indian and Alaska Native students, ensuring that this process drives positive outcomes for administrators, Indian tribes and tribal representatives, and most importantly, Native students. 


The Shared Strategies to Support American Indian Students document is a direct result of Tribal Consultation and community participation.  Through a series of conversations with OPI staff, Tribal Leaders and their departments, community members, language instructors, school staff and youth, we collaborated to identity effective strategies schools may consider implementing to support youth, and strengthen school and community supports for years to come. 

These efforts have place-based traditional strategies of success while being informed by federal guidance on the use of ESSER III funds.  We wanted to gather skilled and knowledgeable stakeholders to share the good things happening in their schools and communities and share it across the state as it pertains to ENRICHMENT. 

Academic enrichment provides an opportunity for inclusion and educational evolution as schools adapt and braid philosophies, methodologies and practices that can work for our American Indian students to help center and balance the educational life journey they are on. 

Tribal Consultation 


Our Collaborative Efforts 

In October of 2021, we developed the Elder and Cultural Wisdom Council (ECWC). The term elder is one of knowledge more so than age. When we embark on a new journey, we often consult our Elders and Cultural Wisdom holders. It is said the youth want to run, but the Elders know the path.  This Council has been created to guide these efforts. 

Through the guidelines in ESSA and Tribal consultation and inclusion, we seek a new direction for Youth by emphasizing cultural self identity, language, mental health and traditional wellness supports as an option. 

We have seen the greatest impact when we create an opportunity of a relational way of connecting face to face. We have eight sovereign Tribal nations in our state and that allows for direct connection and land based knowledge sharing. We want to design an approach for our school districts for direct instruction from our indigenous educational teachings and relational methods.