Nicole Ann Gray, 49, passed away from a cardiac arrest July 25, 2012, in Helena. Nicole was born Jan. 8, 1963, the first daughter of Susan and Harold Gray.
Nicole is survived by her 13 year-old twins, Nicholas and Clara, who will miss her dearly. She is preceded in death by her father, Harold Gray (Long Standing Bear Chief, Browning), deceased Sept. 25, 2010. She is survived by her mother, Susan Gray (nee Brown), of Helena; and her siblings, Joe Gray (Denise), Elizabeth Pepion (Mike), Margaret Boyer (Bob), Alex Gray and Celina Gray. Nieces and nephews, Jordan, Andrew, Jackson, Alice, Isidor, William, Sam and Michael will all greatly miss their auntie’s kisses and pinches. She is also survived by paternal uncle, Gerald Gray Sr. (Joanne), and Auntie Marilyn Gray and families and maternal uncles Bill (Jan) and Doug (Lily) and families, as well as many other cousins. She is preceded in death by paternal aunt, Doreen Gray Huffer (Tom), and Darryl Gray (JoAnn). Her grandparents were Al and Margaret (Reynolds) Brown of Helena and Ernest and Josie (McKay) Gray of Browning.
Nicole had both Irish and Native American heritage. She was an enrolled member of the Montana Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a direct descendant of the Blackfeet and Cree tribes. She was descended from Blackfeet Chief Lone Walker, Sinopah and Rising Wolf (Hugh Monroe) and the Métis of Canada.
On her maternal grandparents’ side, she was descended from some of the first settlers in the territory of Montana who came up the Missouri River on a paddlewheel steamer from St. Louis to Fort Benton. Nicole’s great-great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland via Ontario, Canada, to Great Falls and started one of the first meatpacking plants. Her great-great-grandmother, Winifred Downing, was one of the first white babies documented to be born in Fort Benton.
Nicole was born and educated in Missoula. Nicole’s parents raised her and her brothers and sisters with a firm grounding in traditional beliefs. She was raised attending traditional Native ceremonies. In high school, she joined the Indian Student Club. Nicole gave presentations on Native issues since she was in grade school. She started speaking in public when she was 12 years old. She had spoken on panels regarding racism as experienced by Native people as well as other issues. She was a storyteller of traditional Blackfeet and Cree stories. Her children have helped her demonstrate traditional social dances for both Plains Indians and Inupiat Eskimos.
She worked for 10 years in the Arctic Inupiat Eskimo village of Barrow, Alaska, at the Arctic Women-In-Crisis shelter program. She returned to Montana to work as the public outreach coordinator for the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in Helena. Nicole had recently started working for the Little Shell Tribe as their tobacco prevention specialist. Nicole completed projects for and maintained memberships in groups such as Women of Color, Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Abuse and the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She was a member on Montana’s Cherish Our Indian Children Task Force, a board member of the Missoula Indian Center and part of the Speaker’s Bureau for the Missoula School District. Nicole participated in panel discussions on racism and was a classroom speaker on Native American cultures.
Nicole was an avid reader and enjoyed genealogy, cross-stitch and travel. She was a huge sports fan and loved basketball, football (Green Bay Packers) and tennis.
A wake will be held at 320 Power St. in Helena starting Sunday afternoon. Funeral services are scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 31, at Retz Funeral Home Chapel, 315 E. Sixth Ave. in Helena. Burial will follow at Forestvale Cemetery, 490 Forestvale Road. Tuesday afternoon reception will follow at 320 Power St. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Helena Indian Alliance, 435 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601. To offer condolences or share a memory of Nicole, please visit: www.retzfuneralhome.com.