Serving in the Blackfeet Reservation, Montana
Montana’s wild and rugged beauty lures travelers from across the nation, but few tourists discover the richness of its other remote and fascinating natural wonders – its Indian Nations. In the high plains just east of Glacier National Park, live members of the Blackfeet Nation, Montana’s most populous Indian tribe with more than 15,500 enrolled members. The Blackfeet Nation hosts Global Volunteers teams during the summer. A service program with Global Volunteers in Montana enables you to work alongside Native peoples and learn about their culture and day-to-day life. From cooking and serving meals at an assisted living center to reading aloud to children at a summer program or a wide variety of labor projects, there are many ways to share your experiences and talents with the local community.
Community Partner & Work Projects
Global Volunteers’ development partnership in Montana’s Indian country began in 1999, when the Blackfeet Tribal Early Childhood Center in Browning invited Global Volunteers to help build a cultural park designed for family recreation. Since this first team cemented our commitment to working with Native American nations, volunteers have returned to the Blackfeet Reservation every summer, becoming a valued partner in the community. In addition to building mutual respect, Global Volunteers teams working with local people have helped landscape public buildings; have built picnic tables, fences, and outdoor recreation areas; and have collaborated with community leaders on services to primary and middle school students, Girl Scouts, nursing home residents, community college students, mental health program recipients, addiction treatment center clients, children in a crisis center, veterans, and participants in the Blackfeet Nation’s many summer cultural events. Our primary host on the Blackfeet Reservation are Blackfeet Manpower, a social service organization which provides individuals and families in need with resources and the Blackfeet United Methodist Church.
“The Global Volunteers who have been coming to the rez for more than 20 years have been eager to learn our ways and have also taught us respect for the work they do to help us in so many ways. They are good for our people.”
~ Tom Crawford, Blackfeet Elder
While our partnership with the Blackfeet Nation has embraced every region of the reservation, most work projects are centered in Browning – the reservation’s economic, government, and cultural center. Volunteer service partners include the Blackfeet Tribal Care Center, Eagle Shields Senior and Assisted Living Center, Blackfeet Commodity Food Program, Blackfeet Manpower, Blackfeet Methodist Church, and the Browning School District. Volunteers working on projects at these facilities have served meals, coordinated craft projects, read aloud to pre-school children, assisted with summer recreational programs, counseled youth, stimulated elders, and painted and landscaped public facilities. When serving in Native American communities, the need for flexibility is of the utmost importance Work projects can and do change on a daily basis.
Service Program Logistics
Your team will be led by a trained team leader. In cooperation with the community leaders, your team leader will facilitate your team’s orientation, assist you in becoming fully engaged in the work project, and manage all project-related logistical issues.
Meals & Lodging
Volunteers on this program are lodged in Browning, the largest community and commercial center for the Blackfeet Reservation. Living conditions in this low-income, rural area are basic, and our volunteer accommodations likewise resemble how most local people live. In this way, you may describe the lodging as safe and comfortable “indoor camping,” requiring a high degree of flexibility. Bunk beds are arranged dormitory-style in 3 rooms, separated by gender. There are no single or private rooms available at this time, however a family room is sometimes available. Rooming assignments are made based on the team make-up. The facility also has a full kitchen, a large community room with dining tables and a couch, 2 showers, and 2 half-bathrooms. Pillows, towels, sheets, and blankets are provided.
Three meals a day are included in your service program contribution. You’ll prepare your own breakfast and bag lunch as a team, and enjoy evening meals such as spaghetti, burgers, and chicken prepared by a local cook. Evening cultural activities often take place over dinner or shortly afterwards. Desserts and soft drinks are available for an additional charge.
All airport transfers and transportation in the host community are included in your service program fee, assuming you arrive and depart within the specified itinerary. A Global Volunteers team leader will greet you at the Great Falls airport and transport you to your host community in a van. The ride is about 2 ½ hours to Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. Note: transportation for free-time activities is not included in your service program contribution. There is no public transportation on or to the reservation, so if you wish to explore the area outside of the host community, we recommend you drive or rent a car during your service program.
Free Time Activities
Free-time options include exploring natural and historical attractions and participating in scheduled events such as rodeos and sweat ceremonies. In addition, volunteers may have the opportunity to attend special cultural programs held throughout the summer in the host community or in neighboring towns.
In Browning, the Museum of the Plains Indians is nationally recognized for its comprehensive display of Blackfeet traditional clothing and crafts. A local outfitter can take you and other team members for an evening horseback ride with advanced reservations. If you have your own or a rental car, you can explore areas of Glacier National Park adjoining the reservation, or fish or swim in one of the numerous crystal-clear lakes or streams bordering the park. Before or after the service program, volunteers have the option to tour Glacier Park or venture into Canada to visit Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Service Program Contribution
Global Volunteer’s service program contribution covers all lodging, three meals a day, in-community team transportation, emergency medical evacuation insurance, all preparatory materials, onsite orientation, a full-time team leader, and administration costs. The service program fee is $1,177 for one week. Please ask your Volunteer Coordinator about referral credits as well as discounts for students, companions, groups, and alumni volunteers. We encourage you to use Global Volunteers’ online fundraising tool to create a personalized webpage to request partially tax-deductible donations from family and friends to help cover your service program contribution. Airfare and free time activity expenses are your responsibility. The service program contribution and airfare are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
“We look forward to Global Volunteers coming each year to the Reservation. They always bring energy and inspiration to our leaders, a vision of caring to our adults, and a good work ethic to our children. We work hand-in-hand to build a better future.”
~ Bob Tailfeathers, Blackfeet Community College