Montana is home to seven Indian reservations and the state-recognized Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, all rich strongholds of American Indian heritage and places where tradition is revered, landscapes are sacred and annual gatherings offer glimpses into the way of life of the Indian people.
This cultural heritage is a rich, colorful tapestry of art, music, dance, storytelling, industry and leisure. Time-honored traditions like pow wows honor the spirit of the American Indian while telling a story that dates back generations. Within Glacier Country, you'll find the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation and the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation.
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For thousands of years, the Blackfeet have occupied the Rocky Mountain region. Originally nomads following the buffalo migration, the Blackfeet are made up of four bands—North Piegan, South Piegan, Blood and Siksika, though members of the Blackfeet Nation in the U.S. primarily descend from the South Piegan. The Blackfeet people honor the land and utilize it for cultural and spiritual purposes.
The Blackfeet Nation has two major events providing a look into native traditions and customs. North American Indian Days—held every year during the second week of July—is one of the largest gatherings of North American tribes from throughout the United States and Canada. Festivities include a parade, traditional and fancy dancing, drumming, customary games and a rodeo.
The Heart Butte Celebration—a time-honored festival and pow wow—occurs every year during the second week of August in the community of Heart Butte.
In northwest Montana, the Blackfeet Reservation sits along the eastern edge of Glacier National Park encompassing nearly 1.5 million acres of rolling plains and Rocky Mountain Front. Located within reservation boundaries are the communities of Babb, Browning, East Glacier Park, Heart Butte and St. Mary. Recreational activities include hiking, boating, trail rides and guided trips. When recreating on the Blackfeet Reservation, be sure to purchase a tribal permit from one of the local area stores.
Glacier National Park, called the “Backbone of the World” by the Blackfeet Tribe, plays an important role in the history of the Blackfeet Nation. To learn about the park from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe, book a guided tour with Sun Tours.
The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, comprised of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes. A rich oral history and a spiritual tradition of respect for the natural environment sustains the way of life for the tribes today.
The Flathead Indian Reservation hosts annual events that provide a look into the traditions of the Indian people. The Annual Arlee 4th of July Celebration has been held consecutively for more than 100 years and includes an encampment, competition dancing, drumming and traditional games. The Standing Arrow Pow Wow is held annually during the 3rd weekend in July and includes drumming, dancing and traditional dance and food.
The reservation encompasses 1.317 million acres in northwest Montana. Parts of Flathead Lake and the National Bison Range are located within the reservation's boundaries, as well as many hiking trails and fishing options. Tribal permits are required when recreating on the reservation and can be picked up at area stores.
While Western Montana is home to both the Blackfeet Nation and the Flathead Indian Reservation, the history of our First Nations extends beyond the borders of the reservations.
Prior to moving to the Flathead Indian Reservation, the Salish Tribe resided in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Today, the Historic St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville serves as a portal into the past. Visitors can take a guided tour of the mission and grounds, as well as Chief Victor’s cabin. The cabin houses an impressive photo gallery that helps tell the story of the convergence of two cultures.
Another notable location is Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo. While Travelers’ Rest is best known as the campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition through modern-day Montana, it was originally used as a campsite and trail junction by the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Nez Perce tribes.
While visiting our region’s Indian Nations, purchasing authentic American Indian arts and crafts helps preserve tradition, and gives you something special to remember your time spent in Montana’s Glacier Country. The following link offers important information about buying authentic Montana America Indian art and craftwork (rather than misrepresentations) from certified American Indian artisans.
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