Montana Blackfeet

28 & 17 Days

High School Service Program
Conservation and Tradition on an Indian Reservation

MONTANA BLACKFEET 1
JUNE 27 to JULY 24  |  28 DAYS
100 HRS SERVICE  |  TUITION $5950

MONTANA BLACKFEET 2
JULY 30 to AUGUST 15  |  17 DAYS
55 HRS SERVICE  |  TUITION $4150

MONTANA BLACKFEET 1
JUNE 27 to JULY 24
28 DAYS
100 HRS SERVICE
TUITION
$5950

MONTANA BLACKFEET 2
JULY 30 to AUGUST 15
17 DAYS
55 HRS SERVICE
TUITION
$4150

Program Overview

Live on a ranch amid the rolling grasslands of the Blackfeet Reservation in northwestern Montana. Work on conservation and building projects that serve the Blackfeet Indian tribe. Attend sacred ceremonies and a powwow, try your hand at beading, unlock the secrets of medicinal plants and explore the gorgeous Glacier National Park next door.

WE ARE MINDFUL

“I loved connecting with people and listening to their stories. This year I got to dance along with the dancers at the Sun Dance and it was a brand new experience for me. I absolutely loved it.”

Grace Lee

United Kingdom

Embracing Projects That Matter

Montana reservations are our oldest program sites and truly special places. For 27 years, VISIONS has collaborated with Blackfeet organizations, including the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary. This partnership between the Nature Conservancy and Blackfeet Nation is a model for other tribes seeking to preserve their lands. As the sanctuary ranch summer caretakers, VISIONS teens help renovate buildings, repair fences, remove invasive plant species and more.

With the highest percentage of Americans living below the poverty line, Indian tribes often lack adequate housing and social resources, so our service work aims to meet these needs. We repair and renovate homes, build wheelchair ramps, community garden structures and playgrounds. We assist elders with home-upkeep, like mowing lawns and house painting, and sometimes also serve meals at the community Soup Kitchen. For many seasons, we have also chopped firewood, secured lodge poles for the dance structure and served meals at the sacred Sun Dance. We are honored to be a part of this transformative experience.

WE ARE FAMILY

“There were no ‘friend groups’ and nobody ever felt left out. We were like one big family. I felt comfortable with everyone there. I tried new things, met new people, and learned about myself. I feel like I have grown a lot and I hope I have brought that home with me.”

Paden Dvoor

New York

Living, working and hanging out with Blackfeet tribal members in their ancestral lands offers unforgettable insights into the generosity, humor and 10,000-year-old culture of the Plains Indians.

Making Meaningful Connections

Our home is a large bunkhouse at the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary conservation ranch, a few miles outside the main reservation town of Browning. Accommodations are basic, but the breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountain Front is really all you need. We were originally invited to live here in the early 2000s by the late Elouise Cobell, a tribal member highly respected for her fight to preserve native lands. We continue to live and work here in her honor, spending quality time with her brother Dale Pepion along the way. (Read more about Dale, below.) While here, you’ll be invited to traditional activities open to very few who are not Blackfeet. You will meet tribal historians, spiritual leaders, storytellers, ranchers and naturalists. You will join in sweat ceremonies, maybe help build a sacred Sun Dance lodge, and attend a powwow. It may just be a few weeks in summer but a cultural immersion like this provides the deep understanding of many seasons.

Our
Home:
Browning,
Montana

WE ARE EXPLORERS

“The backpacking pushed me outside of my comfort zone into an uncomfortable situation at first. The leaders helped me conquer my fears of the wilderness. I loved getting out of my city lifestyle and living a simpler life that was more carefree.”

Julianna Ross

New York

Under a famously big sky, Northwest Montana’s prairies and rangelands, craggy mountains, fast-running streams, glacial lakes and wildlife-filled forests provide an awesome launching point for big fun and a chance to connect with the source of Blackfeet culture.

SETTING OUT TO GO BEYOND

Our proximity to Glacier National Park means that we will take excursions into one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the world, including a ride along the jaw-droppingly scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road. We will hike, camp overnight and ride horses. There will also be constant opportunities to explore Plains Indians culture. We learn crafts from local artisans, go to a Blackfeet rodeo, and explore Browning, the commercial and governmental center of the reservation. You will meet tribal members who are native speakers, historians, medicine people and healers. You will be introduced to medicinal plants and discover how teepees are constructed; visit the Museum of the Plains Indian; and try your hand at beading under the tutelage of a Blackfeet beader. Finally, you will attend the annual Indian Days powwow, where dancing and drumming competitions, traditional regalia and teepees set up across the vast grounds conjure the heyday of the nomadic buffalo hunters of the Northern Rockies.

ACTIVITIES AND EXCURSIONS

  • Backpack and camp overnight in the Montana wilderness
  • Attend the Indian Days annual powwow, a weekend of dancing, drumming, traditional games and food
  • Ride horses in Glacier National Park
  • Tour the reservation’s historic sites, hear stories, and visit the Museum of the Plains Indian
  • Experience the county fair, with 4H livestock auction and rodeo
  • Dive deep into Blackfeet culture during a sweat lodge, beading workshop, teepee village tour and the sacred Sun Dance
  • Swim in mountain rivers, hike among wildflowers and picnic along crystal-clear lakes

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

DALE PEPION

Community Elder

Dale Pepion is the year-round caretaker of the ranch where we live on the Blackfeet Reservation. Tough as nails but quick to smile and laugh, Pepion has been a close friend of VISIONS for many years.

Dale is in his 80s, but can never remember his exact age. He grew up on his parents’ cattle ranch, and like many reservation families, did not have electricity or running water. Now, he lives on his own ranch in a double-wide trailer with a cattle dog companion named Dog. He and his sister-in-law Eva Cobell join us regularly for meals at the ranch, and sometimes his sister Julene drops by. She lives in the senior center and deejays for the local radio station, where we’ve been known to join her.

Spending time with Dale connects us to a line of revered Blackfeet tribal members and reservation history. He is the great-grandson of Mountain Chief, one of the legendary leaders of the Blackfeet Nation. One of his brothers was the famous artist, Ernie Pepion. The late Elouise Cobell was one of Dale’s sisters and another dear friend of VISIONS. She was known by the Blackfeet name Yellow Bird Woman and the conservation ranch where we live is named for her. Until her untimely death in 2011, Elouise was a tribal elder, activist and lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against the U.S. government for mismanaged Indian funds. The case settled in 2010 for $3.4 billion dollars, which has been used for scholarship funds and to buy back native lands.

In addition to seeing him at our homebase, we usually visit Dale at his ranch, where he runs cattle with one of his sons. We’ll help him out with ranch chores for a day or two. He loves it when the VISIONS kids are around, and like any salty grandfather figure, he’ll be quick to straighten us out if he doesn’t approve of how something is being done.

Montana Blackfeet Blog Posts

Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation Projects

Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation Projects

Montana Indian Reservation Summer Volunteer Experience VISIONS participants have completed some fantastic service projects over the years on the Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation. See a few highlights below and read more about the program here. Community Garden...

Teen Community Service Programs in the United States

Teen Community Service Programs in the United States

For almost 30 years, VISIONS has offered service programs that have had an impact on communities around the world. We are proud of the work that has been done in all of our locations, and each year we are inspired by the ties that our participants have created and...

VISIONS REVIEWS

Read what others have said about their experience in this location. You also are welcome to contact the VISIONS office to request student and parent references.

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DALE PEPION

Community Elder

Dale Pepion is the year-round caretaker of the ranch where we live on the Blackfeet Reservation. Tough as nails but quick to smile and laugh, Pepion has been a close friend of VISIONS for many years.

Dale is in his 80s, but can never remember his exact age. He grew up on his parents’ cattle ranch, and like many reservation families, did not have electricity or running water. Now, he lives on his own ranch in a double-wide trailer with a cattle dog companion named Dog. He and his sister-in-law Eva Cobell join us regularly for meals at the ranch, and sometimes his sister Julene drops by. She lives in the senior center and deejays for the local radio station, where we’ve been known to join her.

Spending time with Dale connects us to a line of revered Blackfeet tribal members and reservation history. He is the great-grandson of Mountain Chief, one of the legendary leaders of the Blackfeet Nation. One of his brothers was the famous artist, Ernie Pepion. The late Elouise Cobell was one of Dale’s sisters and another dear friend of VISIONS. She was known by the Blackfeet name Yellow Bird Woman and the conservation ranch where we live is named for her. Until her untimely death in 2011, Elouise was a tribal elder, activist and lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against the U.S. government for mismanaged Indian funds. The case settled in 2010 for $3.4 billion dollars, which has been used for scholarship funds and to buy back native lands.

In addition to seeing him at our homebase, we usually visit Dale at his ranch, where he runs cattle with one of his sons. We’ll help him out with ranch chores for a day or two. He loves it when the VISIONS kids are around, and like any salty grandfather figure, he’ll be quick to straighten us out if he doesn’t approve of how something is being done.

Montana Blackfeet Blog Posts

Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation Projects

Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation Projects

Montana Indian Reservation Summer Volunteer Experience VISIONS participants have completed some fantastic service projects over the years on the Montana Blackfeet Indian Reservation. See a few highlights below and read more about the program here. Community Garden...

Teen Community Service Programs in the United States

Teen Community Service Programs in the United States

For almost 30 years, VISIONS has offered service programs that have had an impact on communities around the world. We are proud of the work that has been done in all of our locations, and each year we are inspired by the ties that our participants have created and...

(For those enrolled)

Celebrating 30 Years