Mary Jane Half Birdinground passed to the ‘other side camp’ on the evening of June 1st, 2019 at the Billings Clinic with her family at her side. Mary Jane Half Birdinground was born to Lorena Mae Morning and Robert Half Sr., on June 20th, 1951 in Forsyth, Montana while her parents were enroute to Newtown, North Dakota to visit family. She was raised by her namesake and paternal great-grandmother, Mary Ground Comer, in St. Xavier. Mary Jane was a member of the Piegan Clan and a child of the Bad War Deeds Clan. Mary Jane was given three Indian names during her lifetime, Awákooxe Bia Bannappaxísh (Spider Woman That Chops Wood), given to her by the late Tommy Long Tail, Iilaa BItcheesh (One Who Has Natural Beauty) given to her by the late Archie Big Lake, and Istannée Itcheesh (Travels A Good Road) which was given to her when she received her college degree. Mary Jane gave her Indian name Awákooxe Bia Bannappaxísh (Spider Woman That Chops Wood) to her granddaughter namesake, Mary Jane Birdinground, Jr.
She received her early education in St. Xavier Mission, St. Xavier, MT., Pierre Indian School, Pierre, South Dakota, Ft. Sill Indian School, Lawton, OK, Busby Tribal School, Busby, Mt and eventually receiving her high school equivalency degree from Little BigHorn College with her sister Carlotta. Mary Jane decided to pursue a college degree, and enrolled as a non-traditional student, and received her Bachelors of Arts degree from Eastern Montana College, in Human Services, with a concentration in applied psychology in 1994. Mary Jane was a first generation college graduate and was very proud of her accomplishment. Mary Jane wanted to set an example for her kids, nephews, nieces, and grandchildren – her motto was “if I can do it, anyone can.”
Mary Jane was married to Isaac Birdinground, Sr. on August 17th, 1971 in Sheridan, Wyoming. She and Isaac were married for thirty-five years up to his death on June 7, 2006; from this union, they were blessed with Eric, Gina, Spike, Hayden and Uttekaat. Mary Jane lived in Garryowen at the family home for forty-eight years. She was a kind and devoted mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and daughter-in-law; she was loving, compassionate and respectful to Isaac’s parents, the late Sam and Thelma Birdinground. She shared many joyful times of visiting, laughing and cooking for them. She was adopted in the Crow traditional way by Issac’s sisters Janet, Jennifer and Shonna Birdinground, Clarice (Spencer) Denny, and Loretta Three Irons. Mary Jane continued to honor her husbands family, his Native American Church and Sweat Lodge Families and friends – always showing respect and humbleness to them.
In her youth she was a fearless horse woman and a barrel racer. Mary Jane was also swift of foot and and took first place in the 100 meter race while in high school at Ft. Sill. She loved to parade and placed numerous times during the annual Crow Fair Celebration. She was a women of great style and was always meticulous about her appearance. Mary Jane lived up to her Indian name Iilaa BItcheesh (One Who Has Natural Beauty) as she naturally drew admiration and compliments on her beauty. Mary Jane loved to meet new people and made friends easily. She loved gambling at the casino and eating out at nice restaurants. She owned quarter horses and thoroughbred; she trained her horses to run in horse races within the racing circuit of Montana, Wyoming and in Phoenix, Arizona. Mary Jane loved to travel, played handgames and was a collector of jewelry and loved shoes.
Mary Jane held a variety of occupations during her lifetime. She was a flagger with the roads department for 15 years, worked for NYC, and for Trio at MSU-Billings, Social Service for the Crow Tribe, Alumnus for Eastern Montana College, and an Advocate at the Crow Tribal Court, and was the Director for the Crow Tribal Elders Program. She excelled as a supervisor and she had the best interest of her employees at heart.
Mary Jane was a member of the St. Dennis Church and practiced Crow/Native American religion. She was a traditional Crow woman and participated in the Sundance
having completed numerous Sundances in Pryor, the Wolf Mountains, Spearsighting, and Garryowen, Native American Church, the Parade Dance and the Sweat Lodge.
Mary Jane’s pride and joy was her children and grandchildren. She was their number one supporter and could be counted on to be there cheering them on at sporting events, offering encouragement, beading and making dance outfits, attending school programs and events. There was nothing that she wouldn’t do for her family and she loved all her nieces and nephews unconditionally.
Predeceased by her loving husband Isaac Birdinground, Sr in 2006. Survived by son Eric (Casey) Birdinground Sr. of Garryowen, daughter Gina (Alex) Reed of Garryowen, daughter Lawren Flat Lip, son Isaac (Amanda) Birdinground Jr., son Hayden (Skye) Yellowtail, and son Utteekaat Birdinground; grandchildren: Baylee (Aaron), Jerika, Erika, Eric “Cupcakes” Jr., Zeeka, Mary Jane, Laci, Lily, Cassius, Lainy, Carter, Raylee, Kaydee, Paisley, and Isiah. Her adopted children – Lydia Falls Down, Delon Rockabove, Norman Curtis Dawes, John & Corey Ladson, and Shawn Fisher. Her parents: sisters Baby Marie, Brenda, and Ruby Half; brothers Danny, Jasper, Robert, Frank, Ettings Half and Arnold Coyote Runs Sr., adopted daughter Sherri Little Light, and her sister in law Glady’s Jefferson preceded Mary Jane in death.
Survivors include her children and grandchildren. Her sisters Iva (Rudolph) Shane, Carlotta Half, Janet Costa, Jennifer (Lawrence) Flatlip, Shonna (Verdall) Collins, Dr. Nicole Lang, Ceclia (Morris) BigLake, Tina, Theresa (Robin) Valley, Jane (Ernie) Holds, Ruby (Dave) Peterson, Tina Prettyontop, Katina Mendez, Corliss (Clinton) Iron, Donna Jefferson, Geraldine BigDay, Sandy Medicine Horse, Mary Big Day, Clarice Denny, Loretta Three Irons, Michelle (Johnny) Wilson, Nicole Cadena, Andrea, Ann, Jocelyn, and Jessica Costa, Roberta Spotted Horse, Alfredine Takes Enemy, Annie Snell, Mary (Tom Wartenslaben), Janice Snell, Beverly (Ron) Grambling, Teresa (Dan) Brien, Kay Tobacco, Victoria (Myron) Falls Down, Kathleen White Clay, Minerva (Mike) Tucker, Iris Jackson, Bonnie (Hollace) BigLake, Beatrice (Gabriel) Fettiec, Clarene (John) Degroot, Jackie (Alfred) Morsette Jr.,Teresa (Danny) Brien, Fanny (Kenneth) Plenty, Mary (Edward) Iron, Vianna (Dennis) Stewart, Sandra (Myron) Shields, Sharon (Roger) Reohl and Aretha Hoops; her brothers Greg (Dorcella) Half, Kenny Ward, Oliver (Tori) Half, Paul and Curtis Morning, Willie Plainfeather and Tim (Ella) Plainfeather, Melvin Pretty Paint, John Bullinsight, III., Donovan Bullinsight, Jerome (Kathy) Dancing Bull, Henry (Alfreda) Reed, Royce Jackson and Zig Jackson; her aunts Edith (George) Reed, Carol (John) Bullinsight, Ethelene Hoops, Tana Olete and Leda Falls Down; her uncles Bruce (Agatha) and Raymond House, Kennard, Richard, Jimmy and Henry Real Bird, Jackson Red Horn, Tim Bahee, Joe Bear Crane, Jerry Hoops, William (Donna) Falls Down, Art Alden, Dexter (Roxanne) Falls Down, Clifford (Ardith) Birdinground and Adlie (Norma) Fallsdown. Niece Mary (Gayle) Three Irons. Extended family includes the Half, Takes Gun, Long Tail, Fog In the Morning, Snells, Good Luck, Black Hawk, Bull Tail, Dancing Bull, Jackson, Meyers, Stevenson, Sylvester, Hawks, Hoops on the Forehead, Whitemanrunshim, Hunts Arrow, House, Bear Crane, Round Face, Smart Enemy, Rides Horse, Not Afraid, Bull Chief, Denny, Stump, Old Coyote, Old Crow, Old Horn, Standing Rock, Pretty Paint, Moccasin, Fallsdown, Bigman, Wallace, Walks, Blackeagle and Real Bird families. Our family is large, if we have missed you, please accept our apology in our time of grief.
Funeral Mass is Wednesday, June 5th at 10:00 AM at the St. Dennis Catholic Church in Crow Agency, Montana. Burial to follow at the Garryowen Cemetery. Bullis Mortuary has been entrusted with the arrangements.