Renewing Robert Gopher's Legacy Of Courage & Sincerity

03/04/2011 01:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In his 68 years, Robert Gopher, or Listening Thunder, crammed a great deal of social activism, and civil rights into his busy and demanding life. He was a product of American segregation, having been kicked out of the first grade for wearing his traditional braids at Great Falls' now infamous Franklin School. His legacy, most notably, leading the effort of Native Americans in the environmental struggle to ban open-pit heap leach mines in Montana in 1998.

The ban passed on the day of his burial, November 3, 1998. He was proud of his accomplishments in an era when native people were at the back of the bus in terms of wide recognition and acclaim. He had up to then, encouraged Native Americans to assume leadership roles. Most notable was his support of 1996 Candidate for U.S. House, Bill Yellowtail. Like many traditional people, he was a humble person. It can be said many native and other regional environmentalists stood on the shoulders of a giant like him.

He worked as a young man to address poverty in Great Falls, helping found the area's most effective anti-poverty organization, Opportunities, Inc. He founded the Foundation for Indian Advancement to address the crisis of Hill 57, the International Powwow Society to return native culture as a norm, rather than embrace and accept destructive federal and church assimilation policies. He founded Loud Thunder International, Inc. his enduring legacy that continues to this day. He was a lifelong union member.

He was never afraid to dive in and do the hard work. It is his spirit of commitment that our organization continues to honor. Young people must embrace leadership, feel confident and capable of the challenges the future poses. For this reason, Loud Thunder International is asking for your help to launch the Listening Thunder Spirit Fellowships, this venture helps social entrepreneurs further develop their communities. The goal of the fellowships is to honor those individuals who work out of the mainstream, who may not receive wide recognition, and who will benefit from further leadership development opportunities.

The fellowships will be granted on the basis of the impact these community leaders make, and the size of their community is not a consideration in making that determination. No matter how small or great the challenge, one person can make a difference. Want to know how you can help? Read more here.