The Montana Cheyenne Reservation in Southeastern Montana is home to the VISIONS team during this summer community service program. High school volunteers will earn 60 service hours working on projects that focus on construction, carpentry and social services. Participants will work with the tribe elders and the children of the Cheyenne Reservation. Free time will be spent experiencing the strong community traditions, participating in the annual powwow, and backpacking through the Bighorn Mountains.
Lack of adequate housing, sparse social resources, and the highest poverty rates in the U.S. are facts of life for Indian reservations today. For two decades VISIONS has accomplished carpentry and social projects in Lame Deer, the reservation headquarters, and Birney, a village on the Tongue River where about one hundred families live. We work with Head Start, Cheyenne Children Services, Dull Knife College and the Department of Housing. Projects include renovations to elders’ homes, building shade structures and picnic tables at community parks, preparing the pow wow arbor for festivals, and volunteering with local children through the Kids Kollege program.
One of our partners: Cheyenne Children Services supports 500 low-income families and 41 children on the reservation. CCS provides education materials, student sponsorships, and a public library for community members. CCS also provides basic needs, such as clothing and warm coats in the winter.
You will spend time with our Cheyenne friends, learn cultural traditions, hear stories and the native language still spoken by some tribal members. Activities include everything from participating in a sweat lodge ceremony to learning to make Indian fry bread, taking a beading class and sometimes even spotting the tribe’s buffalo herd during its summer grazing. We attend the annual Fourth of July pow wow, where we watch traditional dancers in their regalia, listen to drumming circles, and have a meal at the kickoff communal dinner. You will visit St. Labre Mission in Ashland, one of the largest and most active Indian schools in the West. We also tour the Little Bighorn Battlefield, site of Custer’s Last Stand.
"I one hundred percent enjoyed everything. The projects were rewarding and a lot of fun. This trip was truly an amazing experience from start to finish."
You will go backpacking and camping, swim in cool streams, attend a youth rodeo, and accompany local kids from the Kids Kollege program to a county fair—all under the big Montana sky!
We live together as a group in Lame Deer at the Head Start school, which has everything we need to make our temporary home.
We go to work five days a week, usually ending in the late afternoon. Each day you get to choose from about three different worksites, including carpentry as well as our social service projects. Once a week you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other students and a leader. The crew makes breakfast for everyone, goes to the small grocery store and market to get food for the next meals, does laundry, cleans, and takes in a “day in the life” on the rez.
After work we attend community events, take short scenic hikes, go swimming, participate in a rez tour, spend time with local friends, or sometimes just have downtime before dinner. In addition to after work activities, time is carved out for our full-day excursions.
Meals on VISIONS programs are varied and plentiful, and always with vegetarian and meat options. After dinner a few nights a week, we have group meetings to talk through the volunteer and cultural experience.
VISIONS is not a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary. Instead we settle in to our home and are part of daily life. The itinerary provides some of the highlights of our time in Montana.