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Three Chiefs Cultural Center returns home to Pablo

The Center embodies resiliency and they're showing that by rebuilding their artifact collection after a devastating fire in 2020
Three Chiefs Cultural Center Sign
Posted at 10:35 AM, Jan 11, 2024

PABLO — The Three Chiefs Cultural Center embodies resiliency and they're showing that by rebuilding their artifact collection after a devastating fire in 2020.

“From the words of our ancestors, the words from our elders, it's important to show people what our tribes have come through. How resilient our tribes have been," Three Chiefs Cultural Center Program Director Marie Torosian told MTN News.

The destruction from the blaze forced the then Pablo's People's Center to find a new home. After a brief residency in St. Ignatius, the cultural center of the Flathead Reservation returned to Pablo in late summer 2023.

The Three Chiefs Cultural Center is now working on rebuilding.

“That's one of our goals is to buy [artifacts and belongings], bring those back and help share those family stories again," Torosian said.

As of January 2024, the gift shop is up and running with hats, blankets, and more items requested by the community.

“[Community members] reached out to us. 'Can you get this, can you get that?' So, we try to get what they want so they're not having to pay for shipping or go out and look for it themselves. It's right here," Loushie Charlo, Gift Shop Manager and Administrative Assistant for Three Chiefs explained.

Three Chiefs Beads
The Three Chiefs Cultural Center has beads so you can make garments and other beaded items ready for wear. They source from Flathead Reservation locals.

Three Chiefs sources from Flathead Reservation locals and they are looking for more.

“All the beadwork is local. We do buy from the inmates, they send it out to their family and so they bring it in and we buy from them. We buy from the college kids that come, whatever tribes they are from, we buy from them too," Charlo detailed. "We're always looking for vendors. If they want to sell their beadwork, bring it in and we’ll take a look."

However, the museum isn’t open just yet — there are artifacts being stored in Helena and more to set up.

Baby Board
Three Chiefs Cultural Center Curation Technician Geri Hewankorn shows a small baby board with a doll. Pictured behind her is a larger board.

Curation Technician Geri Hewankorn gave MTN News a sneak peek into the collection, sharing a small deerskin and beaded baby board, “This was for girls to learn how to take care of babies. When they were little, they'd play with these."

She then displayed a purple beaded baby bag. Babies can be carried in soft handmade bags.

Hewankorn recalled that her grandchildren were carried around in baby bags when they were little, "I know my grandchildren had bags."

Baby Bag
Three Chiefs Cultural Center Curation Technician Geri Hewankorn shows a baby bag. She shared that her grandchildren were carried in those when they were little.

Another section the Three Chiefs Cultural Center is finalizing is the classroom space.

Education Coordinator Nadia Adams will have an area in the basement of the center where she’ll teach hands-on classes.

“When I was teaching a class the other day, one of my students was having a hard time and we had this whole talk about why it's important that nothing's perfect and it's ok to mess up. So, like it was a whole lesson on things just outside of making a ribbon skirt. It was, it was awesome,” Adams shared, reflecting on a class she had taught.

Nadia Adams
Nadia Adams will be teaching classes in the basement of Three Chiefs Cultural Center. Attendees will get to learn by doing.

Being back in Pablo, the Three Chiefs Cultural Center is excited for the near future in this more central location on the reservation.

"You know, most people that do come through the doors, they don't know they're on a reservation. We're able to, to tell our own story and inform them. ‘Yes, you are on a reservation. Yes, we're still here. And we're not going anywhere.' So, that's important," Charlo stated.

This spot off of U.S. Highway 93 and Major Houle Road is a temporary move while they create a new building. As they make progress, we’ll keep you updated.