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"The majestic Mission Range is Tribal wilderness, where non-Indians need a permit to recreate.."
- Renate Heygster

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An open Indian reservation in Montana
by Renate Heygster, Montana, USA
Sep 28, 1999

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At present, the Flathead Indian Reservation is occupied by Native Americans of the Salish, Kootenay and Pend d'Oreille tribes as well as by white Americans of all cultures. Our history is reflected in the history of the St.Ignatius Mission,founded in 1854 by Jesuit Missionaries, named after their founder St.Ignatius Loyola. It was the home of the 1st industrial arts school in the Northwest, 1st Catholic Sisters and school in Montana, 1st hostpital, saw mill, flour mill, printing press, carpenter and blacksmith shop in the Mission Valley.

Today, there remains only the Mission Church, built in 1891 and now a National Historic Site, 2 small cabins, the original home of the Jesuit Fathers and Providence Sisters. Though the physical remains may be few, there is a lasting heritage, which has continued and will continue through the years. You may attend Mass in Salish as well as English on every 4th Sunday. The mixture of Christian Faith and Indian tradition is reflected in the 58 original murals by Brother Joseph Carignano (Jesuit cook with no formal training), and among others the uniquely Indian Good Friday Ceremony. In earlier days,these most beautiful murals were a visual aid helping the Indians understand the Christian Religion.

The Mission is a National Landmark because it was the 1st place of worship in this area.

Today's congregation is an equal mix of Indians and non-Indians. There is one county government with limited influence over Indian affairs as tribal police overlooks Indian matters. Water rights are at times a matter of conflict between farmers, who all depend on the tightly controlled flood irrigation system. The majestic Mission Range is Tribal wilderness, where non-Indians need a permit to recreate. In summertime, you will find numerous Indian tent sites for the whole season, enjoying the wealth of fish, clean air and water.

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