12 Day Middle School Service Program
Below is the VISIONS Montana Blackfeet Middle School summer program itinerary for our volunteers! The actual schedule may be a little different because of the flow of community service projects, weather or cultural events that we are invited to, but the primary activities are always woven into our Blackfeet reservation middle school service projects.
Day 1: Arrive at the Kalispell airport, where VISIONS leaders are waiting to meet each of our middle school students. All kids make a quick call home before the group heads out. (Additional calls home happen about once a week but as with all VISIONS locations, this is otherwise a tech free teen summer program.) Then we’re off on a gorgeous two-hour drive through glacier country to get to our cozy homebase at the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary conservation ranch, a few miles outside the main reservation town of Browning. Once there, we settle in and start to get oriented.
Day 2: On this first full day, leaders cook us a hearty breakfast. Continuing our orientation, we get to know the worksites and spend time with our carpenters who lead us through hand- and power-tool training for the construction projects ahead. In the afternoon, we hike and swim in the Two Medicine region. This area is a powerful and holy place for the Blackfeet, and in recent years has been a focal point for environmental and tribal groups coming together to fight oil drilling interests. (The case against drilling was won recently.) We end the day with a relaxed dinner and our first Circle meeting.
Days 3 – 5: Time to get to work on projects, which may include repair and renovation of elders’ homes or community structures. We also begin our “homebase crew” days, in which a rotating subgroup helps with grocery shopping and clean up of our living space. On one afternoon, we do a scavenger hunt in the reservation town of Browning to get to know our surroundings. On another, we visit the Museum of the Plains Indian.
We will also take a Reservation tour with one of our Blackfeet friends who talks with us about the history of the important sites. The reservation encompasses 1.5 million acres (making it the third largest in Montana) and the tour gives us a sense of the vast history embedded into the landscape. In the evening we head back to the ranch for a cookout and s’mores.
Days 6 – 8: While we continue to plug away at our work throughout the program, we will also take a day and a half off from worksites as part of a weekend break. We will go horseback riding and make s’mores around a campfire. Other afternoon and evening activities include attending the popular street dance in town, going to check out the tribe’s buffalo herd, and having a beading workshop at the ranch.
Day 9: On our last full day we wrap up our worksites, do a Big Clean at homebase, and head out for a thrilling day of rock climbing at Stillwater River with expert climbing guides. Afterwards, we’ll camp on the land & home of our former Blackfeet program director, with a closing cookout to round out the program.
Day 10: Our middle schoolers depart out of Kalispell, and leaders see each participant off on their flights.