The enduring connection of the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes is one of the park’s most significant and important interpretive themes. It is hard to imagine fully experiencing Glacier in the absence of these tribal stories, yet the park has few cultural history interpretive or educational programs developed.
This initiative builds upon the success of our Native America Speaks program to directly engage local tribal communities through youth and family education programming and career experience. Through collaboration between park staff, tribal teachers and school administrators, this project will cocreate new cultural programming and provide delivery of these programs during the school year, and during the summer season.
In addition to park programs presented by the tribe, a course will be offered at Blackfeet Community College for youth interested in learning about Glacier National Park, as well as those interested in performing in the Native America Speaks program series. Working alongside the tribes to provide expanded interpretation of Glacier’s natural and cultural resources through the tribal perspectives will enrich the visitor experience while helping to sustain cultural traditions going back thousands of years.
Understanding the importance of tribal engagement to the park’s mission, this is designed as a threeyear pilot project. A dedicated tribal outreach position will be hired to coordinate the project, in addition to seasonal cultural demonstrators to present pilot programming in St. Mary. The staffing will be recruited from local tribal communities. The project will develop interpretive curriculum through the Blackfeet Community College and the Cuts Wood School to integrate into an evolving and sustainable Native America Speaks program series.
In years two and three, the park anticipates expanding programming to Two Medicine and Many Glacier and to collaborate with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes to work to develop cultural programming that is meaningful for the park and for the tribes – both vested in cultural preservation.
Tribal teachers and school administrators have expressed a desire to work with the park to develop this new level of programs and demonstrations. They are interested to help the park to share their cultural heritage and connection to the land with others at a variety of park locations, education levels and age levels. The disconnect between Glacier and its local tribes is not unique across the country and there is great potential, in collaborating with local tribes, for Glacier to serve as a role model among national parks in sustaining the full range of our country’s cultural traditions.