JULY 5 to JULY 29 | 25 DAYS
85 HRS SERVICE | TUITION $5,950
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 the annual powwow, try your hand at beading and horseback riding, learn about native plants and explore this incredible part of the Northern Rockies.
*Note that 2021 activities will be adjusted as needed for Covid-safety protocols; read the Covid page for more information.
“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.”
Montana reservations are our oldest program sites and truly special places. For 28 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, our longer program has 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.
“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.”
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. 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.
“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.”