Understanding the tribes and showing respect
Montana’s Indian Country is a scenic, sacred, and storied destination that’s home to 12 tribes, each with unique cultures, histories, languages, and traditions.
While Montana’s Indian Country is diverse, one thing all tribal communities share is friendly people who welcome respectful visitors.
While our general advice for visiting Montana applies to Indian Country too, here are some extra tips to help set you up for a great experience.
Montana is home to several historic sites and battlefields involving Native Americans. These locations provide some of the most educational and humbling experiences you’ll find in Montana and should be treated with reverence.
A powwow is a family-friendly celebration that’s open to the public. Most powwows occur on Indian Reservations during the summer months and run for multiple days. Click here for a list of events and inquire with the host tribe for specific schedules, which may be flexible.
Powwows center on a dance arbor with seating for visitors to watch traditional drumming, singing, and dancing performed in colorful regalia. Additionally, there will be vendors with arts, crafts, and foods for sale, including Indian tacos (made with frybread). Plan for enough time to browse the vendors, and bring some cash to buy lunch or dinner and a handmade souvenir.
In general, there is no cost to attend a powwow. Some may accept voluntary donations or charge a nominal fee for special events like Indian Relay or a rodeo.
For most parts of the powwow, it is appropriate to applaud and take pictures of groups of performers. Some powwows may include songs, dances, prayers, or special ceremonies to honor elders, veterans, or other members of the tribe. To be respectful, it is customary to set down the camera, stand, and remove any headgear. Normally the emcee will keep visitors apprised of the happenings, but when in doubt, follow the lead of the audience.
If you’d like to photograph an individual performer, please ask for permission first and refrain from touching any part of his or her regalia. For a list of events in Indian Country, click here.
Some areas of Indian Reservations may be open to residents or members of the tribe only. Additionally, certain outdoor recreation activities, including hunting and fishing, require permits issued by the tribe. Plan to research any specific requirements in advance by visiting the websites of the tribal governments or by calling ahead with any questions. Once you’re on location, be sure to respect any posted signs and local law enforcement.