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Montana Northern Cheyenne

 

High School Group Service Programs
Elder Wisdom and Carpentry on the Reservation

CUSTOM GROUP PROGRAMS
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CUSTOM GROUP PROGRAMS
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Program Overview

Learn the storied history of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, who live amid the big skies and vast prairies of southeastern Montana. Help tackle the challenges of contemporary reservation life by making hands-on renovations to homes and schools, leading a daycamp for children and serving meals to elders. Experience a traditional powwow, tour the Little Bighorn Battlefield and witness the through line connecting distant past to present.

WE ARE MINDFUL

“I have never done anything like this before but it was the best experience of my life so far. I stepped far out of my comfort zone, established relationships I hope will last for a long time and learned so much about myself and the meaning of what it is to be human and how to make an impact on the world.”

Claire Brobson

Pennsylvania

Embracing Projects That Matter

The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation was established in 1884, just eight years after the tribe joined the Lakota to fight the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army in the Battle of Little Bighorn (aka Custer’s Last Stand). Now a small, close-knit community based in Lame Deer, the residents struggle with issues that plague many reservations: a lack of adequate housing, sparse social resources and high poverty rates. VISIONS volunteers have worked with Cheyenne tribal members for nearly 30 years, learning the ways of the elders while making meaningful contributions. Your impact will be felt across the generations, from helping to educate children in the Kids Kollege summer program to serving meals to elders at the Shoulder Blade senior center. You’ll also do hands-on construction and renovation work, building wheelchair ramps, picnic tables and garden beds, improving insulation and making repairs. In the process, the people you meet will change the way you see the world.

WE ARE FAMILY

“I loved this program! I love our little community that we formed, the friendships I made, circle meetings, and Lame Deer itself. For the first time in my life I got out of my comfort zone. Everything about this program was perfect. It changed me into a better version of myself.”

Isabelle Jeppsen

Washington, D.C.

In 1914, Northern Cheyenne Chief Two Moons met with President Roosevelt to discuss ways to improve conditions on the reservation. Your service continues such efforts. The Cheyenne people have lived in this region for centuries, but their stories aren’t just the stuff of legend—they live, work, struggle and play in the present.

Making Meaningful Connections

When VISIONS began working with the Northern Cheyenne people in 1991, we received a welcoming blessing from Florence Running Wolf (see Spotlight) and the Tribal Council. Since then, we’ve grown deep roots in this community. While Native Americans living on reservations can be understandably slow to embrace outsiders, the trust we’ve built helps volunteers connect closely with locals. Based in the small town of Lame Deer (two hours east of Billings), teens will get to know the Cheyenne in ways they never could from history books. You’ll be invited to activities that few non-tribal members are privy to, such as a powwow, sweat lodge, drum circles, family meals and a visit to the tribal buffalo herd. You’ll play games with local kids, learn traditional beading and fry bread-making, hear ages-old stories in the native tongue and tales of contemporary life. Our service here is a way of thanking the Cheyenne for opening their lives and homeland to us.

Our
Home:
Lame Deer,
Montana

WE ARE EXPLORERS

“I loved rock climbing, white water rafting and backpacking. Along with these trips it was also nice to do smaller activities such as bowling, swimming or going to the Coalstrip Recreation Center, where we got to interact with local people.”

Victoria Hynes

Maine

Southeastern Montana is known for the big skies stretching above the plains and the complicated backstory embedded in the land. The spellbinding beauty of the Tongue River Valley, with open ranges, distant mountains and rolling hills, is also an archive of Native American history, from Little Bighorn to the Medicine Wheel.

Setting Out To Go Beyond

Spending time in this part of the U.S. feels like an adventure in itself—the valleys, bluffs, sage bushes, cottonwood and pine trees create a cinematic, wild-west setting. You’ll get to know this part of the Rocky Mountain range by camping in the Bighorn National Forest, swimming at Crazy Head Springs, day hiking with a medicine man who’ll teach you to identify medicinal plants and going horseback riding with an outfitter. You’ll also visit historical sites, including the St. Labre Indian School, a Catholic mission established in 1884; the Little Bighorn Battlefield, where the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho tribes beat back General Custer; Deer Medicine Rocks, where Sitting Bull is said to have predicted the Native American triumph against Custer during a massive Sun Dance; and the sacred Medicine Wheel, a massive, mysterious monument built into the earth by ancient people. A Fourth of July powwow with fireworks brings this vast history into the here and now.

Activities and Excursions

  • Take an overnight camping trip in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming
  • See the Medicine Wheel, a sacred site constructed of large limestone rocks by ancient peoples
  • Experience an annual multi-tribe powwow celebration, with teepees, dancing, drumming, community meals and long-standing traditions
  • Tour the Little Bighorn Battlefield, site of Custer’s Last Stand, and Deer Medicine Rocks, an essential place in Native American history
  • Attend a youth rodeo
  • Visit historic reservation sites, such as the Buffalo Jump and St. Labre mission school
  • Go horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

FLORENCE AND MIKE RUNNING WOLF

Tribal Elders

One of 11 children in the highly respected Strange Owl family, Florence Running Wolf was born in Birney Village, a small town on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. All those siblings grew up together in a cabin (which still stands) near the Tongue River, and Florence remembers the thrill of getting electricity there in 1969. She moved off the reservation to California for high school, and then moved to Colorado for college, where she earned her degree in electrical engineering (an interest perhaps sparked in 1969?). It was in Colorado that Florence met Mike Running Wolf, a Lakota Sioux who was born and raised on the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Mike speaks several native languages, including Sioux and Cheyenne, and is an amateur botanist who knows native plants and their properties.

Florence and Mike married and moved back to Birney Village to raise their two sons, Michael Jr. and Anthony. In 1987, Florence founded Cheyenne Children Services (CCS), a nonprofit that provides assistance to needy children and their families on the reservation (for which VISIONS teens have completed several construction and renovation projects over the years). When VISIONS was first developing relationships on the reservation, Florence was brought to our attention for her work with CCS and her position as a tribal councilwoman. When we started working with the Northern Cheyenne people in 1991, Florence welcomed us into the community.

Both Florence and Mike are artistic—she is an expert beader and he is a painter and silversmith, skills they have shared some knowledge of with VISIONS teens during past programs. These wonderful folks are highly respected in the community for their deep understanding of the old ways. We know just how lucky we are when Florence and Mike invite us to join them at the powwow, or even just to sit and chat over a simple meal.

Northern Cheyenne Blog Posts

Projects | Montana N. Cheyenne 2018

Projects | Montana N. Cheyenne 2018

Our Northern Cheyenne summer program focuses on aiding community members on the Native American reservation. See photos of projects completed by this year’s group of high school volunteers.

Helping Young People Soar

Helping Young People Soar

This summer, we were honored to be one of two organizations selected to host a Custom Program. Fourteen Summer Search students from Seattle (and three VISIONS leaders) spent 15 days in southeastern Montana with the Northern Cheyenne people.

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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FLORENCE AND MIKE RUNNING WOLF

Tribal Elders

One of 11 children in the highly respected Strange Owl family, Florence Running Wolf was born in Birney Village, a small town on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. All those siblings grew up together in a cabin (which still stands) near the Tongue River, and Florence remembers the thrill of getting electricity there in 1969. She moved off the reservation to California for high school, and then moved to Colorado for college, where she earned her degree in electrical engineering (an interest perhaps sparked in 1969?). It was in Colorado that Florence met Mike Running Wolf, a Lakota Sioux who was born and raised on the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Mike speaks several native languages, including Sioux and Cheyenne, and is an amateur botanist who knows native plants and their properties.

Florence and Mike married and moved back to Birney Village to raise their two sons, Michael Jr. and Anthony. In 1987, Florence founded Cheyenne Children Services (CCS), a nonprofit that provides assistance to needy children and their families on the reservation (for which VISIONS teens have completed several construction and renovation projects over the years). When VISIONS was first developing relationships on the reservation, Florence was brought to our attention for her work with CCS and her position as a tribal councilwoman. When we started working with the Northern Cheyenne people in 1991, Florence welcomed us into the community.

Both Florence and Mike are artistic—she is an expert beader and he is a painter and silversmith, skills they have shared some knowledge of with VISIONS teens during past programs. These wonderful folks are highly respected in the community for their deep understanding of the old ways. We know just how lucky we are when Florence and Mike invite us to join them at the powwow, or even just to sit and chat over a simple meal.

Northern Cheyenne Blog Posts

Projects | Montana N. Cheyenne 2018

Projects | Montana N. Cheyenne 2018

Our Northern Cheyenne summer program focuses on aiding community members on the Native American reservation. See photos of projects completed by this year’s group of high school volunteers.

Helping Young People Soar

Helping Young People Soar

This summer, we were honored to be one of two organizations selected to host a Custom Program. Fourteen Summer Search students from Seattle (and three VISIONS leaders) spent 15 days in southeastern Montana with the Northern Cheyenne people.

(For those enrolled)

Celebrating 30 Years