It’s important to know when you are on tribal lands, and to be respectful while you’re there. Tribal communities welcome visitors, but keep in mind that this is not public land and there are sacred places we must not disturb. It’s also important to be mindful and respectful of a tribe’s unique culture, history and traditions. Make sure you “know before you go” in terms of permits and policies that may be different from Montana law. Here’s how to recreate responsibly while visiting an American Indian reservation in Western Montana.
The Blackfeet Reservation, home to the Blackfeet Nation, 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, as well as Chief Mountain.
The Flathead Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, encompasses 1.317 million acres in northwest Montana. Parts of Flathead Lake and the Bison Range are located within the reservation's boundaries, as are the communities of Arlee, Big Arm, Camas, Charlo, Dayton, Dixon, Elmo, Evaro, Hot Springs, Polson, Ravalli, Ronan and St. Ignatius.
Tribal Permits: If you plan to recreate (camp, fish, hunt, hike, boat) on tribal land, you will need a tribal permit. Visit Blackfeet Reservation and Flathead Reservation for more information. Please note, access to some areas on reservations may be prohibited to non-tribal members. Please respect and obey these areas, which should be marked with signage.
Pow wows: If you plan to attend a pow wow, please be aware of pow wow etiquette as not to disrespect the tribe. Taking photos is okay during most (but not all) events, though please try not to use flashes. Show respect by standing and removing your hat during songs or prayers conducted in honor of elders and veterans. If you are offered food and drink or even a small gift, it is considered polite to accept. Do not bring drugs or alcohol to a pow wow, and know that smoking tobacco at a pow wow may be considered disrespectful. Read more on page 19 of this guide.
Recreational Marijuana: Possessing and consuming marijuana on Indian Reservations in Montana is complicated and contingent on how federal marijuana laws may be enforced in Indian Country, as well as how each tribe approaches the question of marijuana legalization. Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under FEDERAL law, even though recreational marijuana has been legalized in Montana.
Covid-19 Policies: Tribes may have different COVID-19 policies than the state of Montana. Please know before you go.
Native American Made in Montana: When looking to buy products made by American Indians, purchase items marked with the Native American Made in Montana symbol so you know you are getting authentic American Indian goods and supporting the tribes.
Here’s a welcome message from Miss Blackfeet, Alia Heavy Runner.
About: 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 United States primarily descend from the South Piegan. The Blackfeet people honor the land and utilize it for cultural and spiritual purposes.
Tribal Permits: When camping, fishing, hunting, hiking and boating on tribal land, you will need a tribal permit. You can find more information here, and you can purchase permits online here.
Blackfeet Campgrounds: There are four campgrounds on the Blackfeet Reservation. Learn more and make reservations here. Be sure to secure a permit for camping on tribal land.
Follow the Blackfeet Nation: @visitblackfeet
About: 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.
Tribal Permits: When camping, fishing, hunting, hiking and boating on tribal land, you will need a tribal permit. You can find more information here; first-time permit buyers must purchase permits in person from a retail outlet listed on that page.
CSKT Campgrounds: There is one campground on the Flathead Reservation. Learn more here. Be sure to secure a permit for camping on tribal land.
For more information, go to csktribes.org.
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