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What We Believe

Land Acknowledgment and Action Plan


The Abbie Shelter serves clients living in Flathead County, which is located west of the Badger-Two Medicine area in Glacier National Park and north of Čłq̓étkw (Flathead Lake). These are the traditional and ancestral lands of the Niitisapi people (the Blackfeet Tribe) and the Séliš and Ql̓ispé and Ktunaxa people (the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), respectively.

The tribes located in northwest Montana have lived harmoniously with these lands and waters for countless generations before the onslaught of colonization. Like most indigenous peoples across the Americas (and most of the world), they experienced genocide, ethnic cleansing, theft of their land and waters, forced assimilation (especially in boarding schools), and forced removal. Our ability to live, work, serve, and enjoy this area is connected to their deep loss.


As a part of our land acknowledgment work, the Abbie Shelter is committed to learning and understanding the true history of the lands on which we reside and work. We invite you to share what we have learned. We are grateful to our teachers who have helped us expand our knowledge of what it means to be native in northwest Montana. 


Native American women and girls face violence at disproportionally and devastatingly high rates in the US. According to Futures Without Violence, “American Indian women residing on Indian reservations suffer domestic violence and physical assault at rates far exceeding women of other ethnicities and locations. A 2004 Department of Justice report estimates these assault rates to be as much as 50% higher than the next most victimized demographic.” There are multiple factors contributing to this, including poverty, historical victimization, and the normalization of violence. European settlers introduced patriarchal values, disease, guns, alcohol, and Christianity to North America, changing the landscape literally and figuratively.

In the United States, more than half of all Native women are raped in their lifetime, per the CDC. In Montana, Native people are “four times more likely to go missing, comprising over a quarter (25.5%) of missing persons, but are only 6.6% of the state population; 60% of missing [Native people] in Montana are women.” This information was collected by the Montana DOJ and the NCAI Policy Research Center. According to the National Congress of American Indians, “84.3% of [Native] women (more than 4 in 5) have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or stalking in their lifetimes."

There are few resources for these crimes. Native women who experience violence also face discrimination in the legal system and when seeking medical care. According to Futures Without Violence, “the barriers of social isolation precludes some American Indian and Alaska Native women from obtaining adequate medical care including the availability of rape kits being preformed by trained medical staff to aid in prosecution.” The next steps are no better: according to the Indian Law Resource Center, “Federal and state officials having authority to protect Native women and girls are failing to do so at alarming rates. By their own account, between 2005 and 2009, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67% of the Indian country matters referred to them involving sexual abuse and related matters. Even grimmer, due to the lack of law enforcement, many of these crimes in Native communities are not even investigated.” This is unacceptable.


To learn more about sexual violence against Native women and girls, please read this study published by Amnesty International: The Never-Ending Maze: Continued Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.


We affirm this statement by the Indian Law Resource Center: “All this highlights the United States’ failure not only under its own law, including the trust responsibility to Indian nations, but also its obligations under international human rights law such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Perhaps the most basic human right recognized under international law is the right to be free of violence.”

We believe that every person has the right to be safe. We recognize the history and present context of domestic and sexual violence against Native Americans, and we created the action plan below so that all the people we serve can access safety, independence, and empowerment. However, these are only the first steps. We are committed to the long fight for justice in all forms.


The Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana


The Blackfeet tribes lived in a large territory called Niitsitpiis-stahkoii (Original People’s Land). This area stretched north to Omaka-ty (the North Saskatchewan River near Edmonton, Canada) and south to Otahkoiitahtayi (the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park), and from Miistakistsi (the Rocky Mountains) in the west to I-kim-e-kooy (the Cypress Hills in Canada) in the east. (See this on a map.) The Treaty of 1855 created the Blackfeet Reservation east of Glacier National Park and south of the present day border between Alberta and Montana. Although it is the largest reservation in Montana, it is only a fraction of their former territory.

Several times, the US government has committed atrocities against the Blackfeet Nation. Blackfeet children were required to attend boarding schools where their culture was outlawed and they were forced to assimilate. The Baker Massacre (aka the Marias Massacre) of 1870 was the “greatest slaughter of Indians ever made by US troops,” according to a US Army commander. In 1874, the US government changed the reservation borders without consulting tribal leaders and without any compensation. The land was further reduced by the creation of the Lewis & Clark National Forest via the Treaty of 1895 and the creation of Glacier National Park in 1910, which seized control of the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area from the Blackfeet Nation. (Learn more.)

We support the proposal to permanently protect the Badger-Two Medicine Area. We urge Montana’s state legislature to collaborate with council leaders to return stewardship of this site to the Blackfeet Tribe. We support reparations for Blackfeet children who endured forced assimilation in boarding schools.

Blackfeet historical territory

Map of Montana showing the Blackfeet Indian Reservation

The current Blackfeet Indian Reservation

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation

The CSKT includes members of the Séliš (Bitterroot Salish), Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille), and Ktunaxa (Kootenai) tribes who were forced into the current Flathead Reservation south of Flathead Lake. These groups of people originally lived in a much larger area, ranging from the Sᐿxétkw (Spokane, Washington) and the Bitterroot Mountains on the present day border Montana and Idaho in the west to Ɫ?umné Sewłkws (the Bighorn River in Montana) and Nkwtnétkw (the upper Missouri River) in the east. (See maps of the Salish and Kootenai original territories.) 


The Hellgate Treaty of 1855 established Sqlixwúlexw (the Flathead Reservation), which is bordered on the east and west by protected wildernesses and spans north-south from Čłq̓étkw (Flathead Lake) down to Nł?aycčstm (the Missoula area). It is an inherently flawed treaty; the translation services were extremely poor and the representatives of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé people believed they would be able to stay in their homelands on Nstetčcxwétkw (the Bitterroot River and Bitterroot Valley). The representatives for the US government acted in their own self interest, without regard for the breach of trust with the tribes. The US government has never followed through with annuities outlined in the Hellgate Treaty, and an 1871 executive order forced the Séliš people to vacate Nstetčcxwétkw, in clear violation of the original understanding. This is known as the Séliš trail of tears. The US government further disrespected the CSKT with the 1904 Flathead Allotment Act, pushed by then Montana Representative and later governor Joseph M. Dixon, which allowed white settlers to homestead on reservation land. Dixon managed this by forging the signature of the Séliš people’s leader. This land grab increased tensions in the area; newly established Montana laws were in conflict with the hunting rights outlined in the federal Hellgate Treaty and led to the Swan Valley Massacre of 1908. Many allotments of land, totalling up to one half of the reservation, were occupied by white settlers before the Allotment Act was canceled in 1934 after Dixon’s death. To this day, the CSKT are still fighting to regain the land and water rights. Furthermore, the name of the Flathead Reservation itself is an indication of the lack of care and empathy for these tribes, as none of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé or Ktunaxa people practiced any method of head flattening or other artificial cranial deformation.

Bitterroot Salish historical territory

Ktunaxa historical territory

Map of Montana showing the Flathead Indian Reservation

The current Flathead Indian Reservation

We support the rights of the CSKT to control and maintain all land and water within the original reservation promised in 1855. We support the Séliš-Ql̓ispé Ethnogeography Project, which advocates returning to the use of original place names for Montana locations, especially in Nł?aycčstm (the Missoula area) and Sčilip (the town of Dixon, Montana on the Flathead Reservation). We encourage any non-Native land owners in Nł?aycčstm or near Nstetčcxwétkw (the Bitterroot River and near the Bitterroot Valley) to return the land to the CSKT if they are able. We also support the CSKT’s collaboration with the International Joint Commission to eliminate coal mining pollution in the Kootenai River watershed.


  1. We create space within our programs for Native clients to feel safe and respected and access resources. We partner with the Blackfeet Domestic Violence Program to help Blackfeet survivors reach safety, independence, and empowerment.

  2. Our staff attend at least one training event every year that focuses on how domestic and sexual violence affects Native peoples, how to increase cultural safety for these survivors, or how we as an organization can better serve this population. We will implement what we learn into our existing programs, including internal trainings for staff and volunteers.

  3. We will reach out to local Native organizations when recruiting staff, board members, or volunteers.

  4. We call upon Flathead County service providers and other organizations to create their own land acknowledgments and action plans. We are ready and willing to assist where we are able.


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