Northern Passage

Northern Passage
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 

The Montana Cheyenne Reservation in Southeastern Montana is home to the VISIONS Northern Passage middle school camp during this summer community service program. Middle school-aged volunteers will earn 40 service hours working on age-appropriate 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.

  • Northern Cheyenne native dancer in Montana
  • VISIONS middle school volunteers pose at one of our work sites in Montana
  • A VISIONS middle school participant cooks breakfast for the rest of her team
  • VISIONS programs in Montana include exposure to the native cultures through presentations and time spent with community members
  • VISIONS middle school volunteers working on a structure for the local community

Welcomed Service

Our service on the Northern Cheyenne is a great blend of building projects, assisting elders, and working with children through the Kids Kollege program. You will learn how to use carpentry tools for projects such as constructing picnic tables for schools, renovating playgrounds, and helping on home repairs. We serve lunches at the Senior Center, which has become a wonderful partnership and beloved project. Another favorite is working with the summer camp, Kids Kollege, where we are both participants and facilitators for younger children on outdoor activities, art and crafts.

Full Immersion

There are constant opportunities to explore and learn about Northern Cheyenne culture, to mix and mingle with community members, and hear stories about traditional ways of life that are still ever-present on the reservation. Our longtime Cheyenne friends often make fry bread and berry pudding with us, teach us how to do simple traditional beading, and even find time to spot the tribe's buffalo herd during its summer grazing. We also will visit St. Labre Mission in Ashland, one of the largest and most active Indian Schools in the West.

"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."

Dana Weinberg – Chappaqua, New York
Our Home Base 
Lame Deer
The Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana first hosted VISIONS youth volunteers more than twenty years ago. We live in Lame Deer, the business and government center on the reservation that is home to about two thousand people.
VISIONS middle school travel programs are carefully designed as a comfortable next step from traditional sleep-away camp, and a building block toward the high school programs ahead. Projects, recreation and group activities have the middle school student in mind. Work days are a bit shorter than on high school programs, kids are almost always with leaders, and group size is smaller (12–15 participants on average) while maintaining VISIONS 1 to 4 leader ratio.
Explore Montana

We backpack and hike in beautiful mountains, swim in cool streams, visit the nearby Western coal town of Colstrip, and even visit Little Bighorn Battlefield, famous site of Custer’s Last Stand.

Daily Life

Our group lives together in a family-like setting at the Head Start school in Lame Deer. There are showers and bathrooms, kitchen facilities, a big backyard with picnic tables, and gender-separated rooms with a thick floor mattress for each person.

We work hard five days a week at the service projects, but we keep the work hours a bit shorter than our high school counterparts. Participants typically get to choose between two different worksites each day, and then the entire group gets to help with Kids Kollege in the early afternoons. There also are “homebase crew” rotations with a few kids and a leader. The crew helps make breakfast, runs errands and goes to the small grocery store to get food for the next meals, cleans, and enjoys in a “day in the life”.

Afternoons after work are for cultural and recreation activities. We go swimming, take hikes and learn about the native plants, spend time with neighbors, go on rez tours and see the tribe’s buffalo herd, and also get time to play and have fun before dinner. A few nights a week, we have group meetings to reflect on and talk about the volunteer and cultural experience.

In addition to afternoon activities, we have full-day excursions. An overnight backpacking trip and visit to the renowned Little Bighorn Battlefield are two highlights.

Itinerary

First Day
Last Day
Arrivals to Billings & Drive to Lame Deer
Orientation & Worksite Training
Little Bighorn Battlefield & Rodeo
Backpacking Trip
Outing with Kids Kollege
Community Goodbye Dinner
Departures
  • Swimming in a mountain lake in Montana with friends on a VISIONS service program
  • Camp and explore the mountains of Montana as part of a VISIONS summer program for middle school students
  • VISIONS middle school students mix meaningful service work with adventure
  • Middle school campers exploring their country on a service trip with VISIONS

More Details

Summer leaders receive students at the Billings airport and then travel two hours by bus to Lame Deer. Airfare is not included, but VISIONS assists with travel plans.
Middle school volunteers and their leaders live together in a Head Start school, with showers, bathrooms, a kitchen, and common area.
Boys and girls sleep in separate rooms. VISIONS provides floor mattresses and you bring your own sheets, sleeping bag and pillow.
You typically choose your community service project four days a week and spend the other day on “homebase” crew, cooking breakfast and running errands for the group.
Weekends are for excursions and many afternoons after work are for closer-to-home activities. A few nights a week we meet to discuss our volunteer and cross-cultural experiences.
Details such as a packing list, travel parameters, and health forms are provided upon enrollment through login web pages. The process is straightforward and we also are here to help.
40 community service hours; middle school travel summer camp program for ages 12 - 14.
Program Co-Director
Northern Passage Program
Program Co-Director
Northern Passage Program

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