Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

American Indians Today

The American Indian tribes of Montana and Alberta actively maintain their ancient cultures and traditions while finding ways to keep in step with today's society.

The Blackfeet Nation in Montana borders nearly all of eastern Glacier National Park, while the Blood Indian Reserve in Canada lies east of Waterton Lakes National Park. The Piegan Reserve lies north of Waterton near Pincher Creek. To the southwest, the Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai covers 1.2 million acres and surrounds half of Montana's largest natural lake, Flathead Lake. Nine other tribes have, or share, reservations within Montana, making up about nine percent of the state's population.

These tribes are working to improve their lives through community and education projects. These programs have been initiated to ensure that residents of reservations get training and opportunities for jobs in the area to help support the local economy. One such program, being developed through the coordinated efforts of the Blackfeet Tribe, Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI) and area colleges, provides education and training in the hospitality industry, and opportunities for graduates to work at GPI facilities. In addition, the work of local American Indian artisans is featured in many GPI gift shops.

Preserving culture is another important goal for the region's American Indians. Programs such as the one at the Piegan Institute in Browning, near East Glacier, rediscover original Blackfeet languages, which are considered the glue that holds their traditions together. The Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning exhibits a world-renowned collection of ancient and modern American Indian art and artifacts. The Salish Cultural Center in St. Ignatius and the Kootenai Cultural Center in Elmo offer exhibits about these tribes' cultural traditions. The World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, located in Alberta, recalls how American Indians killed the mighty bison before the advent of horses and rifles.

Cultural traditions are maintained through special events such as the Blackfeet's North American Indian Days held in mid-July; Babb Rodeo held on the Fourth of July weekend; and the Salish-Kootenai's big festivals: the Arlee PowWow on the first weekend in July; the War Dance Championships in mid-November; and the buffalo feast and Hand Game Championships in mid-May.