If you’re anywhere near the east side of Glacier National Park on Thursday night, you can get a taste of what summer park visitors have been enjoying for the past three decades.
At 8 p.m. Jack Gladstone, Montana’s Blackfeet Troubadour, will be singing songs and telling stories of animal legends and characters at Rising Sun Campground on St. Mary Lake.
It's not the only night and place Gladstone will be doing his thing in Glacier this summer. On just about any evening through Labor Day weekend, he or other entertainers from Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes will be somewhere in the park sharing their songs, dances and stories.
It’s the 31st season of the park’s Native America Speaks program, the longest running indigenous speaker series within the National Park Service.
“These are great opportunities to learn about Native American history, culture and language, and you might witness Native American singing and dancing, or perhaps stories,” said Katie Liming, Glacier’s public affairs assistant. “They’re great educational opportunities but also great entertainment.”
Programs generally start at 7:30 or 8 p.m., with a handful at 8:30 p.m. They’re free with one exception: The Blackfeet Singers and Dancers, led by Joe McKay and Ray Croff, will be putting on a show each Wednesday through Aug. 5 at the St. Mary Visitor Center bookstore. Children 12 and younger get in free, others can see them for $5 cash. Tickets are available at the door before the show, but seating is limited. Proceeds help the Glacier National Park Conservancy’s support of the Native America Speaks program.
In their program, the Blackfeet Singers and Dancers provide insight into traditional and contemporary American Indian history and culture. They do it in part with demonstrations of fancy, jingle, traditional and grass dances.
Gladstone was in at the start of Native America Speaks, co-founding it 31 years ago. He’ll be appearing 21 more times this summer after Thursday’s show at Many Glacier Hotel, Lake McDonald Lodge, Two Medicine Campground and Rising Sun.
The poet/singer has a knack for bringing Montana’s mountains, rivers, sky and people to life. Gladstone has presented at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and earlier this year was presented a Governor’s Humanities Award for the state of Montana.
Rising Sun Campground west of St. Mary has the park’s Thursday programs with the likes of Gladstone, Kenneth Eagle Speaker, Vernon Marceau and Brad Hall.
On Fridays the entertainment crosses the divide to Lake McDonald Lodge, then it’s back to the east side at Two Medicine Campground on Saturdays and the Many Glacier Hotel on Sundays.
In general, the programs are held Mondays at Apgar Campground, with Regina Mad Plume of the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes; Tuesdays at Many Glacier Campground; and Wednesdays at Two Medicine Campground, and the Blackfeet Singers and Dancers performance at St. Mary.
New this year are presentations by K-8 students from the Cuts Wood Academy in Browning, a Blackfeet language immersion program.
For more information and a complete schedule of events go to nps.gov/planyourvisit/nas.htm or do a search for “Native America Speaks.”