Middle School Students to Volunteer and Experience Life on the Blackfeet Reservation

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. This summer VISIONS middle school participants will volunteer as ranch caretakers on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for the first time. The site of our high school program, this is a chance for our younger students to make meaningful connections with a landscape and culture unique to North America.

Our program’s homebase is located approximately six miles outside of Browning, Montana, within the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary. The ranch infrastructure and facilities consist of a home, bunkhouse (gender-divided, with cots and mattresses provided), showers, and porto-pots. Students will complete maintenance projects on the ranch, such as fencing and invasive plant removal, and enjoy meals together that are usually eaten at picnic tables with a Rocky Mountain backdrop. While many of the service projects, team-building exercises and activities will be hosted by community members elsewhere on the reservation, the ranch will be our sanctuary throughout the ten-day program.

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. As a well-respected tribal elder, Cobell wore many hats throughout her life and always made time to share her knowledge with young people both on and off the reservation. Perhaps most notably, we recall her dedication throughout the 1996-2009 Land Trust trials (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.

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

Success in this case means that some of the most pristine water in the world will continue to support a diverse community of plants, animals and people—VISIONS students are fortunate to help caretake this incredible place.

At VISIONS, we create dynamic itineraries that balance age-appropriate work and play. We believe it’s boots on the ground experiences like these that foster a strong foundation for a future fueled by diverse interests. Now is the time to get excited about learning new skills and broadening cultural horizons under the Big Sky!

Middle School Program

Join VISIONS at the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary this summer!

Recommended Posts

Keeping the Dream Alive

Keeping the Dream Alive

Keeping the dream alive by honoring MLK. Our Montana Teen Summer Programs foster a deeper understanding of cultural diversity and humanitarianism. Learn more about Dr. King and VISIONS Montana programs.
Spotlight: Arielle Ortega (Participant)

Spotlight: Arielle Ortega (Participant)

Interview with 2019 Montana Blackfeet participant, Arielle Ortega, on what she is up to now, what she took away from the teen service trip, and where she is headed.
Where We Live

Where We Live

While service work is at the root of each teen service program, it’s in equal measure with cultural immersion that transcends the experience of an average tourist. In all of our homes away from home, we live very much as local people do, and we are part of the fabric of daily life.

VISIONS in The New York Times