Last updated: June 22, 2021
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Lewis and Clark NHT Visitor Centers and Museums
In the heart of western Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation is a unique cultural center, the Three Chiefs Cultural Center, formerly named “The People’s Center.” The original building burnt down in an arson fire in September 2020.
After extensive loss and recovery, the center staff chose to “rebrand” the center and display the collections that survived. Owned and operated by the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes, the new Three Chiefs Culture Center is temporarily housed in a log building built several years ago for Colonel Doug Allard as his first restaurant. It will continue to be more than a museum; it is a vital, living encounter with Native American culture.
Three Chiefs Culture Center is a place to experience the rich cultures of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes. The traditions of these people have been passed down orally from generation to generation. As their lifestyles change with time and technology, they continue to preserve and protect their heritage, history and culture. Explore the artifacts and exhibits, hear the stories of their people, and participate in cultural activities, traditional arts and crafts, cultural education, Native games and other events. Visit the Center’s Gift Shop which has a beautiful collection of Native arts and Native made crafts.
From 2003 to 2006, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were very active in the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration which shared the tribal perspective of the Expedition. They worked together with the Circle of Tribal Advisors in telling the Native American story. Compiled by the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee and the Elders Cultural Advisory Council, the University of Nebraska Press published The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The tribes also created a tribal history pageant, and tribal artisans made thousands of handmade, traditionally tanned leather pouches for the US Mint commemorative Lewis & Clark coin and pouch set.
The Three Chiefs Culture Center illustrates how the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille lived before and after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Today, the Tribes still thrive in their homeland and the Center honors this rich cultural heritage.
“Our elders knew the curves of the hillsides and the lines of the trails as intimately as they knew the curves and lines of their mother’s faces. Today, our grandparents lament that children born on the reservation are like buffalo born behind a fence. Along with our many rights and privileges we bear responsibilities for teaching our children about their birthright.”
— Germaine White (Salish)