Memories of Mika Westwolf

Kevin A. Thompson
May 1, 2024

Photo: Mika in the Mountains

            “The mountains here put our mountains to shame,” is how Mika Westwolf described Nepal to her mother, Carissa Heavy Runner. Due to her leadership ability, Mika was selected to spend 21 days as part of an Indigenous cultural exchange between the Blackfeet Nation and the Sherpa people of Nepal in 2019.  

           She got to work with Sherpa’s, the tribal people made world-famous for helping mountain climbers and adventure tourists climb Sagamartha, named “Mount Everest” by the British.

           Mika and her three other Blackfeets (her tribal nation) also went on the trip. They helped the Sherpas build a rock-climbing wall at the Khumbu Climbing Center. Carissa said that in Blackfeet tradition, “We don’t let a guest leave our home without a gift.” So, in that same spirit, she sent earrings and bracelets for Mika to leave with her Sherpa hosts.

Mika and her Mom, Carissa

           Mika also carried a Blackfeet Nation flag to gift the Sherpas. Carissa’s father, Mika’s grandfather (and former Montana state legislator), wrote a short speech for Mika to explain the meaning of the colors and symbols of the Blackfeet flag.

           At the end of 21 days, Mika wanted to stay in Nepal. The Sherpas were hiring people and Mika was willing to train as a Himalayan guide.

           But unable to stay longer, Mika returned to Montana. Nepal fired up her desire to live off the land in some remote, mountainous region of the Reservation. Her father dissuaded her from camping alone in the mountains, and instead they planned a garden and a chicken coop.

            Unable to achieve that dream in this life, memories of Mika inspire Carissa to fight for a safer Montana (and beyond) for Indigenous people.

For more about Mika's life, see Mika



All photos courtesy of Mika Matters.