Summer Caretakers for a Place of Ecological & Cultural Importance

Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary:
A Conservation Ranch Named for a Hero

A sanctuary is a place of refuge, somewhere worthy of our attention and protection. VISIONS teen volunteers on the Montana Blackfeet program are very fortunate to live and work at a conservation ranch as caretakers for what is known as the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary.

This homebase is located approximately six miles outside of Browning, Montana. The Sanctuary is a 1,100 acre conservation ranch where high school students are able to make meaningful connections with a landscape and culture unique to North America. Infrastructure and facilities consist of a home, bunkhouse (with cots and mattresses), showers, and porto-pots. (Since we are working to preserve an important glacial fen wetland, we cannot overload the systems and we keep our footprint as small as possible.)

Students complete maintenance projects at the ranch, such as fencing and invasive plant removal, and enjoy meals together at picnic tables with an epic Rocky Mountain backdrop. Teens also do construction projects in town, complete environmental initiatives on the reservation, and work with children during the Child Nutrition Program each day.

The legacy of Elouise Cobell, for whom the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary is named, remains a shining example of the great difference one person can make in this world. Her Blackfeet name was Yellow Bird Woman, and as a well-respected tribal elder, Cobell wore many hats throughout her life. Along the way, she always made time to share her knowledge with young people.   

Elouise is most renowned for the 1996-2009 Land Trust trial (Cobell v. Salazar), a class-action lawsuit brought against the federal government for the mismanagement of Indian funds. She fought for justice and worked vigorously to revive trust between different peoples and the land beneath their feet. 

In addition to her rigorous work on the Land Trust trial, Elouise helped to spearhead the formation of the Blackfeet Indian Land Trust (BILT). She was also a dear friend of VISIONS, and we were honored to work with her for many years before her death in 2011. Elouise collaborated with The Nature Conservancy in the purchase of the ranch property in 2001, which was named for her after her passing.

VISIONS students are fortunate to help caretake this incredible place, home of some of the most pristine water in the country, and a place that will hopefully continue to support a diverse community of plants, animals and people.

Middle School Program

Join VISIONS at the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary this summer!

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