GLACIER’S NATIVE AMERICA SPEAKS PROGRAM
Connecting with Glacier’s First People
The Native America Speaks program is the longest running Indigenous people’s speakers series in the National Park Service system. This inspiring program began in 1982 and provides visitors with connections to the history, culture, and language of Glacier National Park’s first people.
Through this sacred connection to Glacier National Park, the Glacier Conservancy has devoted their efforts to building lasting relationships and preserving the traditions, language, and land of the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples.
The Blackfeet Nation’s Historical Relationship with Glacier
The Blackfeet Nation were the keepers of nearly 28 million acres of land stretching from the Northern Great Plains to regions of southern Canada. These Great Plains Indians were known as nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in tipis and based their livelihood off of hunting buffalo and gathering other natural resources provided by Glacier’s eastern mountains.
Due to interference from the U.S. government, the Blackfeet Indians were left with a gradually shrinking territory. The destruction by outsiders of their once abundant supply of bison left them without their primary food and materials source. Forcibly confined from their nomadic lifestyle, they were left impoverished. In 1888, under these conditions the Blackfeet signed an agreement where they retained their present-day reservation for sole use of the Blackfeet Nation. The Blackfeet Reservation sits along the eastern edge of Glacier National Park, covering nearly 1.5 million acres of rolling plains and Rocky Mountain Front. For more information about Glacier National Park from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe, you can book a guided tour with Sun Tours.
How is the Glacier Conservancy Honoring Montana’s Native American Tribes?
Each summer at Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribal members share their knowledge of the history and culture of Native America with visitors as part of the Native America Speaks program. These programs are offered in campgrounds, lodges, and at St. Mary Visitor Center. This year the park is expanding to include programs in Browning and Babb, MT.
The Native America Speaks program provides content and connectivity with presenters from the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai peoples. Proceeds help the Glacier National Park Conservancy continuously support the Native America Speaks program.
PRESENTERS & PROGRAMS
Blackfeet Singers and Dancers
The Blackfeet Singers and Dancers provide insight into contemporary and traditional Native American history and culture through narration and dance demonstrations. These captivating dances share Blackfeet history and culture through narration and fancy, jingle, traditional and grass dance demonstrations.
Native America Speaks co-founder and Blackfeet Nation singer-songwriter, Jack Gladstone, provides stirring presentations featuring a compelling “mosaic of music, lyric poetry, and spoken word.”
Rose Bear Don’t Walk
Rose Bear Don’t Walk provides compelling talks about ancestral food of the Salish people, and science-based ideas about reclaiming a traditional and healthy diet revolving around native plants.
Vernon Finley shares stories that describe the history of the area, giving insight into the Kootenai cultural perspective and what Glacier means to their community.
Having grown up attending park programs with her father, Mariah Gladstone now offers her own programs too, featuring narratives that guide visitors through tribal stories, animal legends, and character portraits of Native American heritage.
What Makes the Native America Speaks Program so Significant?
Now celebrating its 41st anniversary, the Native America Speaks program has been the cornerstone of Glacier’s tribal community engagement project. Native America Speaks is the longest-running Indigenous speaker series in the National Park Service. Your support funds over 100 events in Glacier each year, attended by more than 7,500 visitors. This award-winning program provides a unique window into the meaning and history of the place we now call Glacier National Park from the different perspectives of the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples.
With continued Conservancy support, the park will employ a full-time ranger to enhance relationships with local tribal communities. It will also support a VISTA volunteer to help create training programs enabling young Blackfeet to find employment in Glacier, and will fund over 100 Native America Speaks presentations throughout the park and on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
1.“American Indians.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, June 2016, www.nps.gov/glac/learn/education/american_indians.htm.
2. Graetz , Rick, and Susie Graetz . “This Is Montana.” This Is Montana – University Of Montana, www.umt.edu/this-is-montana/columns/stories/blackfeet.php.
3. “Native America Speaks.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Aug. 2019, www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/nas.htm.
4. “Our Lands.” Blackfeet Nation, blackfeetnation.com/lands/.
5. Weiser, Kathy. “The Blackfoot Indians – ‘Real’ People of Montana.” Legends of America, Oct. 2019, www.legendsofamerica.com/na-blackfoot/.