February 28, 1931 – January 19, 2024
Ronald T. Halfmoon was born on 02/28/1931 to his father Otis Alphonses (Nez Perce) and mother Mary Joshua (Cayuse) Halfmoon, in Umatilla, OR., and raised in Pendleton, OR., an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indians (CTUIR) he was a Nez Perce/Cayuse Umatilla.
Ron’s early education began at the St. Josephs the Slickpoo Mission in Slickpoo, Idaho and attended the St. Andrew’s mission school from 1931-1945. He graduated high school from St. Joseph parochial school in 1949 and took summer work in local pea fields and Pendleton Experiment Station and the Umatilla Ordinance Depot as a trackman before joining the military right before his 20th birthday.
Upon joining the U.S. Army, he served in the Korean War from 1951-53 and earned a Purple Heart for his acts of valor and wounded in action. Ron lamented on his military experience where he spent a significant time in his life traversing the world. He was assigned to the George Company of the 47th Infantry Division aka (The Viking Division) with a weapons company equipped with heavy and light machine guns, 4.2 mortar and recoilless rifles. As a gunner for a light machine gun, he was recommended by his First Sergeant to leadership training and assigned orders that were “rigorous and challenging.” As he recalled his company missions and orders were to travel in the dark through jungle, maintain a certain direction to a predetermined check point, cross enemy fire, and training in chemical, biological, and radiological defense instruction to recognize poisonous gasses like phosgene and tear mustard. He believed this was where he learned some of the most challenging trainings and life off the reservation began. During his service he was Squad Leader and was elevated to Corporal, then Sergeant, then a Sergeant Frist Class by the time he was discharged. Some of his fondest memories were Panama City, the Aleutian Islands, Mount Fujiyama, Yokohama, and Tokyo, Japan, Seoul, Korea, and Biloxi, Mississippi to name a few.
After his military service, Ron attended Washington State University (WSU) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in General Studies and Biological Science in 1971. Ron believed it was after attending a six-week summer program in Boulder, CO., where he was placed at the University of Colorado campus and had a life changing experience that motivated him to dedicate his professional life to be of service to Indigenous people. During this time, he also served as a staff member of the American Indian Development, Inc. from 1969-1971 and attributes that time to his significant professional work experience which included thirty plus years of serving Indian Country and six years on the Board of Trustees for the CTUIR Governing Body. As a Board of Trustee Chairman, he assisted in the formulation of land use codes and resource management plans. He witnessed the release of the first Chinook salmon in Upper Umatilla River to begin the re-establishment of salmon runs for the tribal member harvests. As a tribal member he served on the Education Committee and on the Tribal Housing Authority. His experiences include managerial and administrative functions at CTUIR, Director of the Nez Perce Tribe Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO), Burns Paiute Tribe, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Advocates for Indian Education, Blue Mountain Community College, Gonzaga School of Education, and the Oregon State Department of Education.
It was during his tenure at WSU where he met his beloved wife, Loretta “Chet” Halfmoon, and they married April 2, 1977, at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Pendleton, OR. They were approaching 44 years together when she passed.
His fondest memories were meeting her after traveling the world. He adored her spirit and believed she recruited the most Native American students to the WSU campus at a time when education was still considered a relatively new pathway for Native Americans and attributed their love for the WSU Native American Student Association Kuyama as a part of their education advocacy. Both he and Chet shared their faith of the Catholic Church and enjoyed traveling to national Kateri conferences where they enjoyed sight-seeing around the world together. They made their final home on the Nez Perce reservation in Lapwai, ID, but not after living in places like Pendleton, OR., Spokane, WA., Rufus, OR., and Pullman, WA.
He is survived by his brother Harold (& Ethel) Halfmoon of Tuba City, AZ., and Lee Clure of Mission, OR., children Ethel Greene, Scherri Greene of Lapwai, Kerma (& Charles Petras) Greene of Garfield, WA.; numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Otis and Mary Joseph; beloved wife Loretta “Chet” Halfmoon, siblings; Richard, David, Alphonse, Robert, Donald, Francis, Elizabeth, Marilyn & Carolyn, Barbara and sons; Jeffery Brian Greene and Michael Dana Greene; daughters, Barbara Deane Greene and Mary Lee Greene.