Event focuses on tribal collaboration

BACKPACKER’S BALL

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This Saturday the Backpacker’s Ball will give local supporters of Glacier National Park an opportunity to give back at the largest annual fundraiser for the park’s fundraising partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

The conservancy funds dozens of projects and programs in the park each year, ranging from trail work and infrastructure upgrades to educational outreach programs and ongoing scientific studies.

Amy Dempster, the conservancy’s director of marketing and communications, said this year’s Backpacker’s Ball will focus on securing funding for Glacier’s ongoing collaboration with local American Indian tribes whose history with the landscape dates back centuries.

“Our main project that we hope to fund during the ‘live drive’ is the tribal outreach program,” Dempster said. “It’s for a variety of different programs. The park is collaborating with the tribes to put together a new educational program for visitors and schoolchildren during the year.”

The “live drive” event will begin with the organization asking attendees for high-dollar donations, then progressively bringing the asking amounts lower as the conservancy zeroes in on its fundraising goal.

One of the park’s main initiatives has been Native America Speaks, now in its second year, in which members of the four present-day tribes in the region share their historical connection to Glacier with the park visitors. Presentations are held throughout the park during the summer months, and often multiple times per day.

“Obviously, the area that we now call ‘Glacier National Park’ really has significant and important stories to all the area tribes, the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes that all were in the area,” Dempster said. “It’s important to tell the stories of the people and cultures that were in the area long before it was national park.”

Glacier has also teamed up with Blackfeet Community College for a partially conservancy-funded course to teach the history of the landscape from the perspective of the Blackfeet’s cultural heritage.

Dempster said her organization is looking to raise $113,429 to continue the programming for a third year, and has already secured a grant match of up to $50,000 from one of the conservancy’s donors.

The Backpacker’s Ball takes place at Green Valley Ranch in Coram on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The festivities kick off with cocktails at 5:30 p.m., including a chance to meet “Bark Ranger” Gracie and her handler Mark Biel, Glacier’s natural resources program manager. Hudson Bay District Interpretive Ranger Mark Wagner also will be a special guest.

The Blackfeet Singers and Dancers will provide entertainment at 6 p.m., followed by a dinner, presentations, the live auction and “live drive” event.

The evening also includes a silent auction and will close after music by the Ashley Creek Ramblers starting at 9 p.m.

For more information or to RSVP for the event, visit glacier.org/backpackers-ball.

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