Three Chiefs Culture Center (formerly The People's Center) | St. Ignatius, Montana
Much like the beating of a heart, the People’s Center lies at the core of the Flathead Indian Reservation, pumping life into the culture of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai nations.
“Xalt Sxlxalt,” or “good day,” greets visitors at the door, an invite that arouses curiosity about the stories and lives of people who have managed to maintain a culture that might have been easily washed away by the currents of time.
Established in 1991, the People’s Center brings alive the traditions and ways of natives, dispelling myths and stereotypes that have often plagued the reservation. In 1994, through grants and tribal funding, a new building was created with an architectural design that visually represents efforts to show visitors that the tribes are persisting, indeed even flourishing in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world. Designed much like a tribal lodge, the Center houses educational experiences, inviting visitors to explore the heartbeat of life thriving in the modern museum.
Three Chiefs Culture Center (formerly named The People's Center) has recently relocated to St. Ignatius at the Allard Complex on U.S. Highway 93. The gift shop is open. A gallery/mini-museum is in the works with photos, exhibits, an artist section, and videos to sit and watch about the Tribes.
“The Three Chiefs Culture Center promotes pride and respect for all life,” announces the website, while the vision statement seeks to “bring people together, promote a healthy way of life and create a vision for life.” Such concepts reflect upon lessons much needed for any culture, offering opportunities to exchange knowledge.
Compelling displays and artifacts draw even casual visitors into the history and heritage of a people whose cosmological roots toss tendrils back as far as Pleistocene glacial recession. Using the modern media of CD’s to accompany tours, tribal voices reach out, telling stories through an oral tradition, just as these people have always done. The soundtrack throbs with drumming and song, which is no different or more unusual than beats heard in modern music.
The exotic art of beading adorns the historic attire displayed, fashions that could easily be imagined amid the glamour of style walking the streets of today’s world. The museum’s educational outreach programs seem to be doing just that – bridging past and present. From pow-wow to beading classes, camas bakes to art shows, the People’s Center is successfully integrating the art and ritual found in Salishian culture.
Visitors may find that the occupation of tribal lands by European settlers, as well as the subjugation to politics leading to the Hellgate Treaty that established the reservation in1855, are similar to stories often repeated in other cultures. From the clearances of Scottish lands, to the persecution of Jews, to the domination of Tibetans, The Three Chiefs Culture Center offers distinct wisdom to the children of all cultures.
“Encounter the past. Ensure the future.”
Hours of operation:
Monday-Friday 9am - 5pm