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Montana's Indigenous Three Chiefs Cultural Center is moving, again

A tribe involved wanted to move the center to a building that would better house the centuries of priceless artifacts that it protects.
Montana's Indigenous Three Chiefs Cultural Center is moving, again
Posted at 9:54 PM, Aug 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 21:55:35-04

It's another new beginning for the Three Chiefs Cultural Center in Montana's Saint Ignatius, which is opening a new center in Pablo, a town located in the far West of the state.

It has been called a homecoming of sorts, and one that comes with not just a fresh start, but a fresh opportunity to share Indigenous culture.

Moving day is always stressful, but imagine moving centuries of priceless Indigenous artifacts.  

That is exactly what the women running the center spent a week doing, as they moved from a leased building in Saint Ignatius to the new location.

"The tribe wanted to get us into one building that was going to be able to safely house our collections and they bought the bank building, and that's in the process of continuing to be renovated," explained Three Chiefs Cultural Center Program Director Marie Torosian. 

“We'll have a repository there. We can bring our collections back. Right now, they’re being stored in Helena at the Historical Society’s warehouse” in Montana, Torosian said.

"The last thing we want to do is go through another catastrophe with what we have left," she said. 

The catastrophe she is referencing happened in the fall of 2020, when an accused arsonist set fire to what was then called the People's Center in Pablo. 

The suspect was found dead inside the building. More than half of the museum's collection in the repository was lost.

SEE MORE: $9.5M allocated to Indigenous landscapes in Western Montana

The center won't be returning to its former home. Instead, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are leasing the old building for a Glacier Bank location in Pablo, where they are busy setting up.

"This is another temporary move for us. We'll be there for ... they told us for three to five years ... until they get the new building planned and designed and go through all of that," Torosian said. 

As the Three Chiefs Cultural Center rebounds, it continues to grow, and the organization recently hired an education coordinator to share and teach the Indigenous culture of the area.

"So, my job is basically to educate any way I can. If you need help with crafting or making things, making regalia or bead-work, if you want to learn something, I'm your girl," center worker Nadia Adams said. 

"It's my most important goal to make people know we're still here and to advocate for my people and be the person that helps in any way I can," she said. 

It's a new start to celebrate and teach the old ways and traditions of Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille people — and they’re ready for this next chapter as the caretakers of culture.

"This is something from my people. It's so powerful, It's almost unexplainable. The connection is deeper than what can be explained," Adams said.

The Three Chiefs Cultural Center plans on holding an opening celebration in the near future, once they are able to set a date. 


This story was originally published by Jill Valley at Scripps News Missoula.


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