No one can truly understand or appreciate the history of the lands that are now the United States (and Canada) without understanding the stories and traditions of Native Americans. Today, there are many reservations in the United States (and Canada), and the largest of these is the Najavo Nation, home to some of the Southwest’s most iconic landscapes.
Many Indian reservations are not really open to tourism, but a few are. The Blackfeet Nation in Montana, right next to Glacier National Park, is a tourist destination. It is a reserve that combines history, culture and stunning landscapes in one experience. It’s a great place to learn about American history from an often overlooked perspective.
The Blackfeet Nation – Montana’s Great Reservation Open to Visitors
The next time you plan to go to Glacier National Park, take a side trip to the Blackfeet Nation (officially called the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana). Most of the tribe’s members belong to the Piegan Blackfeet Band of the larger Blackfoot Confederacy (the confederation extends into Canada).
- Location: East of Glacier National Park, Montana
- Cut: 3,000 square miles or 7,800 km2
- Population: About. 11,000
The reserve is large, spending 3,000 square miles. Although it may not seem large in the context of Montana, it is much larger than the state of Delaware. It is located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and borders Glacier National Park to the west and Canada to the north.
According to the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, the name comes from the “characteristic black color of their moccasins, painted or darkened with ash.” The tribe is actually called “Niitsitapi” (pronounced nee-itsee-TAH-peh), which means “the true people”.
What to see and do in Blackfeet Nation
Visitors can enjoy the Blackfeet Nation in both summer and winter. Activities include hiking, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, etc. – although tribal permits may be required.
Places to visit include:
- The Blackfoot Heritage Center
- Glacier Peak Casino
- Pikuni Gift Shop
- Plains Indian Museum
- The Blackfeet Trail Tour (Defined by historic road markers)
Plan your visits around the annual North American Indian Days celebration for a unique insight into Native culture. It is held at Browning (the headquarters of the reservation) the second weekend in July. Another upcoming time is the Heart Butte Indian Days the second weekend in August.
The Plains Indian Museum
The Plains Indian Museum is one of the main attractions on the reservation and one of the best places to learn about the history of the Native Americans of the Great Plains. The museum is located in the Browning Tribal Headquarters.
It was founded in 1941 and focuses on the art, historical clothing, horse gear, weapons, and other artifacts of the northern tribal plains people. Their exhibitions rotate with the seasons.
The museum represents more than the Blackfoot; it also represents the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Arapaho, Shoshone, Assiniboine, Flathead, Cree, Chippewa and Nez Perce.
- Photography: Forbidden in the museum
- Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Firm: Sunday and Monday
- Adult: $6.00
- Child: $2.00 (6 to 16 years old)
The Plains Indian Museum is one of the great hidden gems to learn more about the culture and history of the tribes that roamed the Great Plains and their culture.
Blackfoot Cultural Camp
Another of the reserve’s attractions is the Blackfeet Culture Camp. It is nestled in the breathtaking foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Browning.
Visitors should also visit their Native American Art Gallery and see its exhibits of contemporary and traditional Blackfeet art.
Bring the history of the Blackfoot Indians to life with their Blackfeet History Tour. On tour, visitors visit buffalo jump sites, powwows, tipi rings, and the Museum of the Plains Indians.
Ride a horse:
- Half day: $125 per person
- Full day: $195 per person
Other activities offered are horseback riding, hiking, fishing, listening to stories of Native American tribes, and more.
- Camp: Stay in a traditional teepee
The Blackfeet Culture Camp is, well, a camp. They have a number of teepees and other accommodations to stay in. See their price list for more information on the stay.