Big-screen huckleberries for the 15th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, which opened one week ago and continues through this weekend. The festival now counts more than 170 films, plus audio and virtual reality documentaries, that cover a wide range of topics through the lenses of filmmakers from around the world, in addition to special workshops and retrospective programs. This year, the Big Sky Film Institute expanded its offerings still further with a Native Filmmaker Initiative that includes a fellowship program for Native Americans in the film industry. All in all, the annual event offers an incomparable opportunity for Missoulians to view world-class documentaries and deepen our understanding of an array of important global issues.

Frozen chokecherries to the cold snap that broke water pipes and caused nearly 200 homes on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation to lose running water. Sadly, many reservation residents are now used to such water shortages. For years now, Chippewa Cree tribal leadership has worked to complete a major pipeline project long delayed by funding problems, not least of which included the conviction of a former chief executive officer for mishandling federal contracts. With the project still tens of millions of dollars short, and no indication the money to complete the pipeline will come through in the near future, hundreds of households have no choice but to buy bottled water, boil the water that does flow through their aging and inadequate water system – and brace for broken pipes with every winter freeze.

Fifty huckleberries to the 50th anniversary of the African-American Studies Department at the University of Montana this year. To celebrate the lasting endurance of the third-oldest Black Studies program in the United States, the department and the Black Student Union teamed up to organize a slate of events that included film screenings, presentations and scholarly lectures, capped by the inaugural Black Solidarity Summit on campus last weekend. The impressive lineup of presenters delved into history, civil rights, social justice and aspects of black life not commonly examined in a state where less than 1 percent of the population is African-American.

Fake chokecherries to the latest phone scam making the rounds in western Montana, this one using local telephone numbers to try to trick people into sending money to extend supposedly expiring car warranties. In fact, the Ravalli Republic learned from a reader that its number was among those recently used by scammers. Although new rip-offs seem to pop up just as fast as they are found out, law enforcement agencies remind everyone that the best way to handle any would-be swindler is to refuse to provide personal information – including financial information – over the phone, and report any suspected scam to local authorities.

Bales of huckleberries to the news that 569 acres of the historic Hayes Family Ranch will be conserved as open space, thanks to a heap of work by the nonprofit Five Valleys Land Trust and contributions from the current landowner. The conservation easement will use $295,000 from the local open space fund to seal the deal, which is expected to close by the end of this year, and help preserve an important chunk of local agricultural land in perpetuity.