Montana Blackfeet FAQ
Program Preparation Information
When we refer to the community of participants and leaders in VISIONS, we mean it as best defined by M. Scott Peck in “The Different Drum”:
[A] group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to . . . delight in each other, make others' conditions (their) own.
On a VISIONS program, we place a premium on building a sense of community and getting to know everyone in the group. Sometimes, community can mean “neighborhood” in the sense of sharing resources like power tools and physical labor, as we do in the communities where we work. On a deeper level, it can mean creating a kind of family out of strangers and it is this sense of community that we strive to create among our groups and leaders.
Community means embracing your responsibilities within the group rather than hiding in anonymity, respecting others, communicating clearly, and living together cooperatively. To encourage growth in each of those areas, your leaders will facilitate evening meetings that include every participant on the program. Your group will meet three or four nights a week for about an hour to speak and listen to each other. We almost always start by reflecting on the day, including the overall volunteer and cultural experiences. Sometimes an incident or event raises questions that deserve everyone’s perspective and input. When it’s called for, we also use the time to hash out issues and iron out differences. This is a time to communicate openly and to listen to others’ perspectives. It can also be an occasion for us to see how others perceive us, which is a valuable gift.
Through this forum, we stand to gain insight as well as more confident and effective communication skills, which are as useful as the physical skills we learn and apply during the day. Our focus is the here and now, and the integrity of the community, of both leaders and participants, living and learning together.
It is your time, our time, to build a foundation of trust and cohesiveness in the process of becoming a strong community.
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability;
there can be no peace — and ultimately no life — without community.
- Scott Peck
Code of Ethics
- Travel with a spirit of humility and a genuine desire to meet and talk with local people.
- Be aware of the feelings of others. Act respectfully and avoid offensive behavior, including when taking photographs.
- Cultivate the habit of actively listening and observing rather than merely hearing and seeing. Avoid the temptation to “know all the answers.”
- Realize that others may have concepts of time and attitudes that are different—not inferior—to those you inherited from your own culture.
- Instead of looking only for the exotic, discover the richness of another culture and way of life. Learn local customs and respect them.
- Spend time each day reflecting on your experiences in order to deepen your understanding. Is your enrichment beneficial for all involved?
- Be aware of why you are traveling in the first place. If you truly want a “home away from home,” why travel?
Compiled by The North American Center for Responsible Tourism, San Anselmo, CA
Program Expectations & Zero Tolerance Rules
Zero Tolerance Rules
VISIONS is a Zero Tolerance program regarding (1) consumption, possession, or attempted possession of alcohol or drugs/illegal substances; (2) sexual activity. Consuming, possessing, or attempting to possess alcohol or drugs/illegal substances will result in immediate dismissal from the program. Participants may not abuse over-the-counter drugs or use medications not prescribed to them. Sexual contact—meaning conduct deemed unacceptable in public places—also will result in dismissal. Remember that VISIONS focuses on an inclusive group dynamic, making cliques and romances out of sync with the goal of a powerful and life-changing experience. Please review the Enrollment Contract for the complete Terms of Participation.
The “Airplane Rules” (zero tolerance rules) are in place for everyone’s safety, health and welfare, common sense, group dynamic, and with local laws in mind. It is important to remember that local laws may be different than what you are used to, and in some locations, repercussions and penalties are severe and may have a long-lasting impact on your future. If a participant is sent home early from a program, the participant's parent/guardian will be responsible for booking the next available flight directly with the airline. VISIONS travel agent is not always available for these types of flight changes, and purchasing a new ticket is sometimes necessary.
Sending a participant home is difficult for everyone, but it will happen if an Airplane Rule is broken. Being sent home, even in final days of a program, results in forfeiture of the Certificate of Service and recognition of service hours. Again, the safety, health, and wellbeing of participants is at the core of our policies.
Buddy System and Boundaries
If you want to leave your homebase area during the occasional free time - for example, to stop at a store or to go for a run - you need to find someone in your group who is willing to go with you, and you must remain inside the pre-determined boundaries. You and your buddy check out with a leader, establishing where you will be and how long you will be gone. When you return, you check in with the same leader.
The boundaries are explained by leaders on the first day of the program, and usually encompass our immediate neighborhood and the nearby places we know well. Our leaders need to know where everyone is at all times for your safety and for maintaining the general flow of the program. Participants will be with leaders at all times during non-daylight hours, unless there is a special case such as a dinner with a local family.
Getting Enough Sleep
VISIONS programs are demanding. We start early, work hard, and explore with passion. Free time can be used to catch a short nap, but to keep everyone healthy and energized throughout the program, we establish a set “lights out" time. Leaders consider the daily routines of our host communities and our personal program needs when setting those times. There are occasional exceptions including staying up for a social event, or sleeping in on a morning when leaders determine some extra rest will be beneficial for the group. Participants are welcome to use a headlamp to read after lights out, but we suspect that you will welcome sleep.
To learn more about health and risk management on VISIONS programs, please refer to this FAQ link.
100 Years, directed by Melinda Janko. “Over 100 years ago, the U.S. Government broke up Indian Reservations and allotted millions of acres of land to 300,000 Native Americans. The government promised to manage their land, establishing the Indian Trust Fund to disburse revenues generated by mining, oil, gas, and timber leases. The federal government was supposed to manage the Indian Trust…what it really managed was to cheat Indian families out of billions of dollars. In 1996, Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Warrior, filed the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against the Federal Government. This is the story of how she prevailed and made history.”
- Elouise Cobell is one of the most well-known Native Americans of modern times. She is revered, and VISIONS was proud to call her a close friend. Many years ago, it was Elouise who invited VISIONS to live at the conservation ranch where we still reside today (now named after Elouise, the ranch is called the Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary).
Elouise Cobell’s Accounting Coup by Julia Whitty. Mother Jones article about Elouise Cobell and the case against the U.S. government.
Sixty-Four Flood, by PBS Indies. “On June 7-8, 1964, a driving rain buckled dams and flooded vehicles on the Blackfeet Reservation, sweeping crying children from mothers’ arms, and ferrying homes and bodies across the prairie. This mobile documentary narrative tells the story of the worst natural disaster in Montana history: the 1964 flood on the Blackfeet Reservation. This project provides the opportunity to archive interviews with survivors and tribal leaders, as well as present a mobile narrative of the tragedy that viewers can experience online as well as ‘in the field’ at the site of historic events.”
An article about the flood: Montana’s Worst Natural Disaster, by Aaron Parrett
Why Save a Language, directed by Sally Thompson. “More than half of the 300 indigenous languages of North America are now extinct. But a movement by Native peoples to resurrect and preserve these languages is thriving in many places around the continent. In this film, Native people from various tribes and languages discuss the heart wrenching loss of indigenous languages, and the importance of keeping what remains alive. An important film for any interested in linguistics, saving Native American Indian languages, and saving global languages.” —This film includes some focus on Darrell Kipp, a renowned Blackfeet Indian who was a long-time friend of VISIONS and influential force in bringing back the Blackfeet language. Darrell died in 2013.
Badger-two Medicine: Too Sacred To Drill by Rebecca Drobis. “The Badger-Two Medicine region is an almost entirely un-roaded expanse of mountains, ridges, river valleys and wetlands along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front that is sacred to our people. Over thirty years ago, this area was leased illegally without tribal consultation and approval.” —A current affairs issue of natural resources, drilling and environmental concerns on the Blackfeet reservation.
Winter in the Blood – James Welch. Novel about a young Native American man living on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana, and written by James Welch, who is part Blackfeet Indian.
Blackfeet Nation online
Shadow of a Nation by Gary Smith and Kenneth Jarecke. This is a Sports Illustrated article that is a classic and award-winning. It remains relevant to this day. Highly recommended even if you’re not a sports fan.
Blackfeet Papers, Volumes 1 – 4 (includes excerpt re. Flat Iron ranch, VISIONS homebase and now called Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary)
Glenbow Museum website
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (a classic) by Dee Brown
BEING IN TOUCH
While VISIONS leaders do not post constant updates from the field (their primary job being to be fully present with the program and kids), we do post a few photos and short updates every week to the VISIONS Facebook and Instagram pages, which we invite you to follow.
Calling the Program
For urgent matters (only), call the program phone directly. Leave a message if there’s no answer, and messages are checked at least once a day. If you’re unable to get through, you may also call (not text) the VISIONS office. During off-hours, a 24-hour number is provided on the office message system.
- Program Phone: To be published later
- VISIONS Office: (406) 551-4423
Weekly Calls Home
Remember that we make time for kids to connect with home once a week. Not all choose to do so, but the opportunity is provided. Leaders do not monitor how kids are using their phones, so parents should talk with kids before the program begins if you want to be sure that your child uses phone time to call home.
Participants receive their phones for approximately thirty minutes in order to make the calls, which will be made sometime during the following timeframes. All times MST.
Call schedule will be published later.
VISIONS – Participant’s Name
Browning, MT 59417-1509
Packing Guidelines / Tech Policy
In addition to the cultural considerations, conservative dress protects you from the sun, heat, mosquito bites and minor cuts. Long-sleeved gauzy fabric is breathable and cool, and the body adjusts to protective clothing. You’ll be more comfortable if less of your skin is exposed. We understand that you may need to purchase some new or new-thrift items in order to adhere to the dress code, and we appreciate your understanding with this.
- Articles of clothing NOT permitted on VISIONS programs:
- Short-shorts or short skirts. All shorts—for boys and girls—must be at least mid thigh and less will not be permitted. Students who arrive with shorts or skirts shorter will not be allowed to wear them, and will need to wear pants or go shopping on-site (at your own cost) when time allows.
- Crop tops (shirts need to be long enough to cover midriff)
- Spaghetti strap shirts or dresses
- Low cut shirts (no deep v-necks, loose-hanging, wide cut necklines, or any shirt that revelas undergarmets )
- Clothing that reveals undergarments
- See-through clothing
- Spandex or yoga pants (under clothing such as shorts is permitted)
- Low riding pants that show boxers
Note: If you bring clothing items that don't follow the dress code above, you won't be able to wear those items during the program. If you don't have sufficient appropriate clothing, you may need to purchase clothes on site at your own cost. Thank you for your understanding.
Please download and print the packing list for your program:
Passport / ID
- The VISIONS designated travel agent is Aileen Setiawan at Discover Travel, 215.925.6174 or email@example.com
- VISIONS strongly recommends that flights are booked with Aileen since she has the arrival and departure parameters as well as an overview of all participants’ itineraries in order to facilitate travel days. It is not guaranteed that there will be more than one participant on every flight, but participants booking flights through Aileen will be placed on the same travel itineraries whenever possible.
- If families choose not to book with Aileen, the itinerary must be submitted to VISIONS for approval prior to booking. Neither VISIONS nor our travel agent will be able to assist with travel issues associated with flights booked through an alternative option.
- In cases of flight delays or changed flight dates, Aileen is a resource, but there will also be instances when parents may need to call an airline to assist.
- Unaccompanied Minor (UM) Service is required by some airlines for minors who are not traveling with an adult. Aileen will inform you of the requirements, and please also check the regulations of your carrier. UM assistance is arranged directly with the airline, but you will need to share the details with VISIONS so we can pass it along to program leaders. If you are not booking with Aileen and are booking directly with the airline using miles, the airline might not advise you of the UM requirement, which can cause last minute issues at the airport. It is each family’s responsibility to take care of UM requirements well in advance of travel day.
Pre-Departure Covid Details
- VISIONS COVID POLICY
- VISIONS policy is that all students must present proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, in addition to a booster if the final vaccine does in the primary series is outside 5 months prior to the program start date.
TESTS / VACCINES
- Participants do not need to take a COVID-19 test to enter Montana.
- VISIONS policy is that each participant take an home antigen rapid test the day before flying to Montana. Submitting the results to VISIONS is not required, however we would like each participant to take the test in good faith.
- PRINT THIS INFORMATION
- REVIEW IT BEFORE THE TRIP
- PARTICIPANT CARRIES A PHYSICAL COPY WHILE TRAVELING (& CAN SAVE TO PHONE)
- Make sure you reviewed the Montana Blackfeet FAQ’s Pre-Departure Covid Details
- Carry your covid vaccination certificatewith you.
- Check your airline for schedule changes the day before and the day of departure
- Keep your passport or other ID safe and accessible
- Have your money / Debit card safe and accessible
- Carry your cell phone and charger in your carry-on (rather than packing in checked bags)
- Optionally, download WhatsApp for Calls Home (participants & parents)
- Put your home address (not program address) on your luggage tags
- Wear your VISIONS t-shirt on flight day
AIRPORT ARRIVAL INSTRUCTIONS
- If you have a connection, go directly to the gate of the next flight, even if it’s a long connection. Check the flight screens for the gate number; ask for help from airport personnel as needed.
- Once in Kalispell, the airport is small and easy to navigate. Your VISIONS leaders will be waiting for you in the baggage claim area.
- Leaders will be holding obvious orange umbrellas and wearing VISIONS t-shirts.
- Once with leaders, participants make a quick “arrival call home.”
- Note: this call may occur upwards of 1.5 hrs after the flight lands, due to the logistics of gathering the entire group.
- The primary purpose of the trip is “tourism,” since this is not for a job
- The address you’ll be staying at is:
Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary Ranch
Browning, MT 59417
AIRPORT ISSUES HELP
The VISIONS office is available 24/7 while participants are traveling at (406) 551-4423.
- If there are any flight delays that will affect a participant’s arrival time (to the program), participants should contact the VISIONS office immediately.
- If bags are lost, leaders will do their best to handle it on the spot and will be in touch with parents if assistance is needed.
- If you cannot find leaders in the airport:
- Remain inside the airport
- Do not leave the secure pickup area
- Actively look for leaders holding an orange umbrella and/or wearing VISIONS shirts
- If after 10 minutes you have not found a leader, call the VISIONS office from a Customer Service desk or your own cell phone