New Exhibits Tell Native American Story of Glacier National Park

Kootenai drummers
Kootenai drummers perform honor song during dedication of new exhibit "At Home In This Place" July 14, 2010

NPS Photo by Amy Vanderbilt

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News Release Date: July 16, 2010

Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838

Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406 888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – New exhibits now greet Glacier National Park visitors at the St. Mary Visitor Center. The new visitor center exhibit entitled "At Home in This Place" focuses on tribal perspectives about the place we today call Glacier National Park. The new exhibits were installed in early July and were viewed by tribal leaders and elders Wednesday afternoon, July 14 during a dedication ceremony. As part of the dedication, tribal perspectives and remarks were offered by Peter (Rusty) Tatsey (Blackfeet), Vernon Finley (Kootenai) and Thompson Smith (Salish-Pend d'Oreille). Tribal singing and drumming groups performed honor songs on behalf of all three tribes. Remarks were offered on behalf of the National Park Service (NPS) by Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright and Hudson Bay District Interpreter Mark Wagner who served as the project coordinator.

According to Cartwright, "Several years of consultation with cultural experts from the Blackfeet, Kootenai and Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes provided authenticity and a true tribal perspective on issues related to land, plants, animals, mountains and history of this area."

Numerous tribal elders and tribal leaders for all three nations were involved in consultations throughout the design and development of the exhibits. Glacier Centennial blankets were presented to three key representatives who worked extensively with the NPS on the exhibit development (in alphabetical order):

Vernon Finley, Language Curriculum Director for the Kootenai Culture Committee

Tony Incashola, Director for the Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee

Joyce Spoonhunter, Administrative Assistant to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council

Although Tony Incashola was unable to attend the exhibit dedication, his written remarks were read by Thompson Smith, Tribal History and Ethnogeography Projects Director for the Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee. Incashola said of his people’s relationship to Glacier: "This is a refuge for the plants and animals, a small, relatively pristine corner of the world where we can still find quiet and solitude. So it is therefore also a place of refuge for those cultures that depend upon these things. For these reasons, the Salish and Pend d'Oreille are glad that this place was given protection a century ago."..."This exhibit represents a small measure of hope. We hope it can help raise awareness of the urgent need to change, to regain the kind of environmental stewardship that Indian people exerted here for millennia. We are seeing the tribes and the park and many other partners come together more and more to learn from the past in order to create a more just and sustainable future."

There are five new main exhibits: 1) Welcome-panels from each of the tribes detailing local Native peoples and their historic and current relationship with the land; 2) Bittersweet Meanings looks at changes faced by tribes with the creation of Glacier National Park; some good, others difficult; 3) Backbone of the World provides native perspectives on the land, mountains, creation stories, and place names; 4) The Wisdom in Spoken Words features oral histories and traditions with video of stories about Glacier by tribal elders. The exhibit includes an indoor tipi setting for sitting and listening to these stories; 5) Animal Lessons is a large winter scene diorama featuring elk, wolves, coyote, and grizzly bear which includes animal stories told by tribal leaders.

Additional exhibits in the lobby focus on other park stories and help interpret resources seen from the building.

These include the following panels: Where the Prairie Meets the Mountains, Who Lives in the Meadows, and Glaciers on the Move.

There is also a new interactive 3-D park topographic map with optic fiber lights highlighting the following: Continental Divides depicts the Continental Divide, Hudson Bay Divide, Triple Divide Peak; Glacier's 10,000-foot Mountains; Tourism and Early Park Days shows locations of historic hotels and chalets; and Goodbye to the Glaciers is an animated look at the disappearance of park glaciers from 1850 to 2020.

These new exhibits will be permanently on display at the St. Mary Visitor Center. Summer hours of operation at the St. Mary Visitor Center are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

- NPS -

Editor’s Note: Digital images of the exhibits and the exhibit dedication are available upon request from the Public Affairs Office and at

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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