HELENA – An event outside Helena this weekend showcased Native American culture and celebrated Montana’s public lands.
An “encampment” was held Saturday and Sunday at Devil’s Elbow Campground, a Bureau of Land Management recreation site above Hauser Lake. It celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System – including the nearby Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
The encampment featured traditional drumming and dancing, along with storytelling and presentations about tribal history and culture from the time of Lewis and Clark.
“We told our story, the Indian side of the story of the Lewis and Clark Trail and expedition – of the plants, the trail itself, the location and all those things surrounding that,” said Louise Ogemahgeshig Fischer, who organized the event.
Fischer said a previous encampment had been held at Devil’s Elbow more than a decade ago, when the site opened.
“They’re rare for Indian people now to have one, so we’re really excited to be here,” she said.
Fischer said several hundred people attended the encampment over the two days, including some from outside the U.S. She said she was happy with the opportunity to share culture with a wider audience.
“What I was hoping to accomplish was to bring the people together as one,” she said. “We do have a story to tell as Indian people about history – the history of Montana – but the big thing is coming together with all nations, all people, from different races. Our blood all runs the same color.”
The encampment was one of a series of events the BLM’s Western Montana District is hosting in September in recognition of National Public Lands Day.
Some of the drummers and dancers who performed at the encampment will also be taking part in the annual Last Chance Community Pow Wow, Sept. 28 through 30 at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds. The pow wow is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.