Live on a ranch on 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.
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.
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.
6 Participant ReviewsWrite a Review
From the onset, we felt well-informed with expectations and tips were well documented. Leading up to the adventure, both my daughter and I received emails and more details than we could have hoped for. My daughter felt like she was able to really experience the culture, work hard, exert herself physically, and participate well with a group of kids and counselors. She keeps pointing out new discoveries she made - everything from identifying the beets in the fridge as something she picked to the water pump in a museum as something she used for 30-40 minutes to get clean water. She connected with those she served with as well as those she met in the retirement home and on the "rez". She was already a child mature beyond her years but she came home wiser, more aware of others, and ready to back next summer. If you are looking for a great program for great kids that connect them to great people and great adventure - you've found what you're looking for.
There are many options when it comes to VISIONS, but the Montana camp is like nothing you can experience. Working on an Native American reservation, meeting them and spending time with them...that's not anything you can get anywhere else. And it's not all work, this camp is filled with so much fun activities got for all.
The summer I spent in Montana with Visions was the best summer of my life. I learned many important life lessons during my time both from other members of the trip and the residents of Browning. Living with 25 other people shows you the importance of cooperation and flexibility. Whenever a conflict arose, we could talk about it during "Kanatapi," a special sharing time that took place every other night. Kanatapi was a great way to express my feelings throughout the trip and taught me how to more effectively deal with conflicts when I returned to school. As a result of this time, all of the members of the trip, both campers and staff, grew incredibly close to each other. Further, through different events with the Blackfeet people, I learned about the importance of preserving culture in a modern society. Other awesome parts of Montana were the community service and hiking. I loved going to Pete's house to help him rebuild after a fire and I also enjoyed learning basic carpentry skills from Steve. Pete's appreciation each day made it that much more worth it. The mountains were absolutely beautiful and I loved all the times we were able to hike in them. I only wish that we could have spent more time in the mountains and that we didn't have to leave so soon!
My experience with Visions in August 2013 was unforgettable. The memories, the friendship, the sights, the projects, and the experience as a whole was life-changing. I will never forget my time in Montana, it is definitely one of the best moments I've had in my life. The Pros: - The ranch where we lived at was very rustic. I loved the views from the nearby hill! The bunker and bathroom situation could have been better, but hey, it adds to the whole frontier/western experience! - We usually ate outside most of the time and it was such a great experience dining under the Great Big Montana sky! - We had a fully-stocked kitchen (Nolan, the person in-charge of food was very nice! She let us get whatever we want from there, and we were never starved) - The food was actually pretty decent! We had a lot of opportunities to buy snacks from gas stations, but that was later banned unfortunately. - We had a great time rebuilding Pete's house, which was damaged due to a fire. We learned how to use hand tools and do basic construction stuff. It was quite the challenge and frustration was common sometimes but we had a great time. - On the weekends, we had the opportunity to do some fun stuff like day hikes at Glacier National Park, we also did some Native American cultural immersion like museums, meetings with interesting locals and of course - the unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime experience SWEAT LODGE! - About 3-4 times a week, we meet as a group in a meeting called "Kanatapi." We usually do some fun activities that really challenge us to talk about our feelings and emotions, and discuss about our challenges, strengths, weaknesses and a million other things. This was a very powerful aspect of the trip and it really made me gain confidence in myself by reaching out to people. I love it, I wish I can do Kanatapis here at home with my friends at school. - Montana was simply amazing. The scenic drives, the amazing views at Glacier National Park and the sunsets and sunrises at the ranch: A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Cons: (Somewhat) - Community Service is heavily emphasized, so this leads to a somewhat rigorous scheduling and intense work routines. Well this is an obvious factor, it is a community service trip and not vacation. - The group is usually between 20-25 people, in my case, there were 25 people. We usually got broken up a lot of times, and the only times we were there as a whole group was the first and the last few days and usually at night. It's unfortunate, we tend to miss each other a lot. - The issue with home base crew. Some people/crew were home base more than three times, some, like myself, only had an actual home base day only once (Where we get to do laundry, go to the grocery store, etc) - As much as I admire the staff and most of them being very approachable, I can't help but notice that there is a detachment between the teens and some of the staff. Complete leniency is not needed, but a little sense of connection and warmth from some of the staff would have made the trip a lot better. This was my major issue. I understand that they need to adhere to rules and regulations, but I feel like at certain times, some of the staff came out too authoritative and a little cold. I did see a sense of connection with the staff in smaller groups, my issue is their attitude among the group as a whole.
This summer in Montana has definitely been life changing. Not only did I bring home a variety of life long friendships, but I brought back a better understanding and knowledge of other cultures and of course, construction work. Living in the Flat Iron Ranch for 3 weeks has made me open my eyes to the reality of the Native Americans, due to the grand immersion in this culture that occurred during our stay there. Along with a wide range of outdoor activities and cultural experiences, VISIONS made this summer an unforgettable one. Thank you VISIONS!
This summer was my favorite summer by far. At first, you think: "isolated from the world for a whole month... how can I pull this off";however, by the end you never want to leave the place you call paradise. You wouldn't expect a bunch of random strangers to get along, but we instantaneously liked each other as if we were friends for life. From playing mindless games, hiking miles, building houses and singing to meeting the community, adopting dogs and most importantly, enjoying ourselves. Thank you Visions for the most unforgettable summer.