Born: Dec 31, 1969
Died: Oct 25, 2016
Selena Ell Ditmar, (Hi Ha Zi Wiya) 88, passed into the spirit world on October 25, 2016 surrounded by family and relatives at the family home. Selena was born at Ft. Belknap Agency on December 2, 1927 to Louie Ell of the Blackfeet Tribe and Lucy Lizzard Ell, an Assiniboine and Cree allottee. Adhering to Assiniboine custom as the first born she was taken, adopted, and raised by her great Grandparents Frank Wheeler and Holy Pipe Woman. At an early age she was steeped in the Assiniboine language, customs, and traditions. Selena exemplified these beliefs and behaviors throughout her entire lifetime.
In 1947 she married William Shortman. They had three children and they later divorced. She never finished high school but completed a high school equivalency program and completed nursing school at Northern Montana College in 1962. She married Art Ditmar in 1963 and they remained married until his passing in 2009. She began her nursing career at the Deaconess Hospital in Havre, Montana and joined the Indian Health Service in Pine Ridge, South Dakota in 1968. She later became employed at the Indian Health Service at Ft. Belknap Agency and retired after 25 years.
Selena and Art operated a small successful cattle operation as a hobby for over 30 years. They never took out loans for their business and prided themselves on being independent, self supporting, and debt free. In her free time when she was not outdoors she loved to do art work including beadwork, painting, making star quilts and making willow back rests. She made all her grandchildren beaded cradle boards or papoose bags. Many of her grandchildren have beaded naval bags
An avid horsewoman she prided herself in skinning, butchering, and stretching hides. She loved to chase floppers, pick berries, turnips, and other wild foods with her peers and family members. Each fall of the year Selena and Art would travel to casinos such as Jackpot, Wendover, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Her home was a sanctuary to both family and guests. Many people throughout the world were welcomed into her home as visitors and lodgers. She kept current on world affairs and read every book on the best seller list. Her research collection and personal papers filled three rooms. Michael Jordan and Manny Pacquiao were her sports heroes.
In 1996 Selena began a second career as a part time Nakoda language teacher at Ft. Belknap College. She loved to teach the language and culture to students, many of whom were her younger relatives. Her love for the Nakoda language was perpetuated by her involvement with Indiana University where she spend the spring times translating stories, being involved in the development of the Assiniboine dictionary, the development of a verb book, and an othography of the Assiniboine language for classroom use. She also served two terms on the Ft. Belknap Indian Community Council.
Selena was preceded in death by her adopted parents Frank Wheeler and Holy Pipe Woman, her father, Louie Ell and her mother Lucy Lizzard Ell. Her sibling sisters in the spirit world include Katie, Louise, Dories and Edith Ell. Her younger brothers Sam and Howard Ell also preceded her in death.
She is survived by Lois Shortman, Phillip Shortman, Myrna Gardipee, and Patrick Ditmar all of Ft. Belknap. She raised both her niece Tina Ell and first born grandson Vernon (July) Gardipee. Selena had 26 grandchildren, 42 great grand children, and 13 great great grandchildren.