Associated Press Old structure near construction zone

GREAT FALLS (AP) - Some American Indians are concerned about the future of an old sweat lodge, as bulldozers roar nearby.

"This is a cathedral for Native Americans," Brock Conway said as he gestured toward the sweat lodge, a small structure behind an abandoned shack and an old school bus on the northwestern edge of Great Falls.

"If someone came in and tried to tear down a church in downtown Great Falls, there'd be hell to pay. Why should our church be any different?"

In front of the shack, heavy equipment has been clearing a site for construction of a house. Dump trucks move dirt past the sweat lodge.

"They don't like it much, but I bought this property and put in a new road and I'm planning to put 'No Trespassing' signs on it," said Kevin McGillis, who intends to build the house.

The shack on what's known as Hill 57 was owned by Robert Gopher, who built the sweat lodge more than 30 years ago, said his daughter, Melinda Gopher. She said she will ask the government to award legal ownership of Hill 57 to the Indians who have lived there for years.

Robert Gopher, of the Ojibwa tribe, lost title to the land over failure to pay taxes, his daughter said. He died in 1998.

McGillis said he intends to remove the shack but not the sweat lodge, which is not on his land.

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