CIRI shareholder Lita Pepion grew up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northern Montana, where she is an enrolled tribal member. A mother, grandmother and wife, she owns and operates CRL Health & Fitness LLC, a business that provides health and fitness education, training and certifications, wellness coaching and program development services to individuals, tribal entities and organizations serving Native Americans. She has been featured in Yellowstone Valley Woman and Native Montana Magazine and has been a guest speaker on Native America Calling, a national call-in talk show. Pepion also teaches a variety of health and fitness classes in Billings, Mont.
She earned a bachelor of science from the University of Nevada, Reno, where she was recognized as one of the Top Ten Senior Women, an academic honor. She studied medicine at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis, completed clinical internships at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, Nev., and Indian Health Service Clinics in Nevada, South Dakota and Montana. She started to reconsider medical school when she realized that she wanted to focus on improving health care and wellness in Native communities “from the roots, rather than just treating patients with pills.” More recently, she completed graduate coursework toward a master’s degree in education at Montana State University, Bozeman, with an emphasis on curriculum development.
She is a master fitness trainer, faculty member of the American Council on Exercise and an IDEA Health & Fitness Association member, former president and current member of the Montana American Indian Women’s Health Coalition and is a board member for Billings Public Schools Indian Parent Advisory Committee and Indian People’s Action. She previously served as a board member for the Yellowstone City/County Health Department and an advisor for Montana Women Vote.
Pepion was born in Denver, Colo. She got her start in health, fitness and wellness after the birth of her second son. She started going to aerobics classes to lose weight, and after taking notice of obesity on Indian reservations, she decided to start teaching aerobics and training other instructors with a goal of having a positive impact on Native health.
Her father is the late CIRI shareholder Wilbur Pepion. Growing up, distance and circumstance kept her from knowing her father very well, although he wanted to enroll her in CIRI when she was a child. At age 18, she began to get to know her father; however, he passed away from cancer soon thereafter and she and her two sisters inherited his shares. She has family in Alaska, but does not know who they are and would like to meet them.
Pepion is currently a candidate for Montana State Legislature, House District 51, a neighborhood in Billings with a high concentration of Native Americans and low-income and minority people. After speaking at a rally in April 2011 in Helena, Montana’s state capital, she was asked to run by several attendees.
“My community involvement has helped me realize the importance of really knowing the issues that affect our lives and how working together can create the changes needed in our communities to ultimately help people live better lives – my goal with everything I do.”
Pepion has three sons and two grandchildren. In her spare time, she dotes on her grandchildren, teaches classes to Elders and spends time with her elderly friends.