Middle school kids live on a conservation ranch amid the rolling grasslands of the Blackfeet Reservation in northwestern Montana. They get to know the tribe through modest building projects and social service, which are balanced by cultural immersion and exploration activities.
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.
Cost and Session Information
June 15 - June 24, 2020
35 Service Hours