Montana Blackfeet

Montana Blackfeet
PROGRAM DATES 
Jun 29 to Jul 26
$5950
Jul 31 to Aug 16
$4150
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 

Teen volunteers will join a VISIONS tradition that goes back 25 years on the reservation that sits on the boundaries of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Participants will experience the culture and rich history of the Blackfeet tribe, through community ceremonies and the annual powwow. Service projects are carpentry-heavy, and include home renovations and community building improvements, and free time will be spent backpacking through the Montana wilderness.

  • Working on a volunteer construction project in Montana
  • Blackfeet dancers at a powwow near Browning Montana
  • A VISIONS service group celebrates a job well done at a construction project in Montana
  • A group of teens poses above a high mountain lake in Montana
  • Volunteers are trained to work safely with hand and power tools.

Welcomed Service

Indian tribes have the highest percentage of Americans living below the poverty line, and most reservations lack the adequate housing and social resources that other U.S. communities take for granted. For more than two decades VISIONS has collaborated with the Blackfeet Head Start, Community Development Corporation, and Blackfeet Land Trust, a partnership between the Nature Conservancy and Blackfeet Nation that is a model conservation program for other tribes seeking to preserve their lands. Most of our work is carpentry-focused, including rebuilds of homes and education centers, and construction of playgrounds and wheelchair ramps, just to name a few. We also do environmental projects at the Land Trust and some social service with elders and children.

Full Immersion

VISIONS Montana is a window to the generosity, humor, and traditions of Plains Indian life. Our twenty-plus years on the reservation create opportunities to learn about the culture from the inside. You will meet tribal historians, spiritual leaders, storytellers, ranchers and naturalists. From our home at Flat Iron Ranch with a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountain Front, you will explore the town of Browning, join in sweat ceremonies, go to a rodeo, learn beading with craftspeople, and maybe help build a sacred Sundance lodge. We attend the annual pow wow with dancing and drumming competitions, traditional regalia, storytelling, and teepees set up across the vast pow wow grounds.

"We went to a sweat, a pow wow, a sun dance...we built teepees! This was amazing."

Ella Chochrek – White Plains, New York
Our Home Base 
Blackfeet Reservation
Our home base on the Blackfeet Reservation borders Glacier National Park and Canada. It is a place of power and beauty. We live at the Flat Iron conservation ranch just outside Browning, the reservation’s governmental center with a population of about fifteen thousand people.
VISIONS work on Montana reservations began in 1990 through a Vista Volunteer who was involved in education initiatives with the tribes. Projects in the early years mostly assisted the Head Start schools, which are now well established on the reservation. In recent years, we have worked with a diverse group of economic development, environmental, and social service organizations. Along the way, our teen volunteers have come to know tribal leaders who are powerful figures among their own people, as well as heroes on national native issues.
Explore Montana

Summer adventures in Montana are a blend of cultural activities on the reservation and taking advantage of the great outdoors. You will take an overnight backpacking trip, challenge yourself in an introductory rock climb, explore Glacier National Park, and travel on the Going to the Sun Highway to Lake Koocanusa. You will go horseback riding, swim in cool rivers, visit the historic Glacier Lodge, and more.

Daily Life

Our home on the reservation is a beautiful ranch located a few miles outside the main rez town of Browning. Accommodations are basic, but the space is ample and the backdrop is breathtaking. There is a large bunkhouse with cots and mattresses for everyone, small home with kitchen and communal area, and showers. Since there only is one true bathroom at the ranch, we also rent several porta-potties (the more rustic part of the experience!).

We work five days a week, usually ending in the late afternoon. You typically get to choose from three different worksites each day, and most focus on carpentry and building. Once a week you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew makes breakfast for the group, runs errands in town and buys food for the next meals, does laundry, cleans our space, and enjoys a “day in the life” on the reservation.

Some afternoons we end work early to participate in community events or nearby outings. There is time to explore Browning, take short hikes, go on a rez tour with a local historian, participate in sweat lodges, and sometimes just have a bit of downtime at the ranch before dinner. In addition to afternoon and evening activities, there are full-day excursions and time with community members.

Meals offer a variety of options, including meat and vegetarian dishes. A few times a week, we have meetings in the evening to talk through the volunteer and exchange experience.

VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our homebase and are part of daily life and local happenings. The itineraries provide highlights of our time in Montana.

Itinerary

First Day
Last Day
First Day
Last Day
Arrivals to Airport & Drive to Browning
Orientation & Worksite Training
Fourth of July Celebrations
Horseback Riding
Indian Days
Browning Annual Powwow
Backpacking Trips
Host Family Visits
Rock Climbing
Goodbye Dinner
Departures
SESSION TWO
Arrivals to Great Falls & Drive to Browning
Orientation & Worksite Training
Horseback Riding
Heart Butte Powwow
Backpacking Trip
Goodbye Dinner
Departures
  • A high school student posing above a high mountain lake in Glacier Park
  • Learning to ride a horse on the Rocky Mountain front in Montana
  • A student taking time to reflect under Montana's big sky
  • A high school volunteer practices rock climbing in Montana
  • Participants in VISIONS Montana Blackfeet program take a break to make new friends

More Details

Summer leaders meet each high school students upon arrival at the program airport. We then travel two hours in passenger vans to home base. Leaders also see each participant off from the airport at the end of the program.
Parents receive a phone call or email once their child is met by VISIONS leaders at the airport. After that, phone calls home are generally limited to once a week.
High school volunteers and leaders live together at the Flat Iron Ranch. It is basic, but not camping. There are showers, cleaned porta-pots, an indoor bathroom, kitchen, and bunkhouse with boys and girls in separate areas.
VISIONS provides cots and mattresses and participants bring their own sheets, pillow, and sleeping bag. Laundry is done once a week.
VISIONS has a 1 to 4 or 5 leader to student ratio, one of the best ratios among summer programs. The maximum group size is 25, and programs are gender-balanced. Most participants attend alone, and no more than two friends may attend a program together.
We emphasize an inclusive group dynamic. Things like age and grade become less important on a VISIONS program. We eat most meals and do most activities as a large group, and we break into small rotating groups for workdays.
Details such as a packing list, travel notes, and health forms are provided upon enrollment through login web pages. The process is straightforward and we are here to help. VISIONS travel agent books flights, which are not included with tuition.
Teen volunteers in the first session receive 100 community service hours; volunteers in the second session receive 60 community service hours. Youth summer camp program for ages 14 – 18.
Program Director
Montana Blackfeet I
Program Director
Montana Blackfeet II

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