Blackfeet Festival Brings Tribal Members to Washington D.C.

Smithsonian exhibit to highlight cultural values and policies of Montana tribe

By Tristan Scott

Members of the Blackfeet Nation are converging this week on the nation’s capital to celebrate culture and ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Visitors can learn about the Blackfeet Nation and the many aspects unique to Blackfeet culture during the two-day festival Nov. 16-17, as well as attend drumming and dancing ceremonies.

The Blackfeet Reservation, located in northwest Montana along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, is home to one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States, with more than 17,000 enrolled members.

Throughout the festival weekend, Blackfeet artists, performers, historians and culture bearers will share demonstrations and performances, according to Terry Tatsey, vice chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

Highlights will include seasonally appropriate dances and stories, and demonstrations of making traditional regalia from the hides of buffalo, deer, elk and antelope.

During the celebration, visitors can see traditional and contemporary artistic creations, including beadwork, handcrafted jewelry, quillwork, pottery, horsehair work, moccasins, carvings and baskets.

“We wanted to showcase the history and culture of the Blackfeet people, the Pikuni people, and we worked with the museum and some sponsors in D.C. to tell our story,” Tatsey said. “There’s going to be drummers, dancers and demonstrations.”

Blackfeet tribal members will also meet with congressional delegates to discuss pressing policy matters, such as the Blackfeet Water Compact and the tribe’s efforts to protect the Badger-Two Medicine area, a sacred region adjacent to Glacier National Park that has been under threat of energy development for decades.

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