By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF
BOZEMAN – Atop Peets Hill tonight in Bozeman, seven illuminated teepees will glow an assortment of colors through the gently falling October snow. The teepees are an evocation; an opportunity to reflect on and learn about Indigenous history in the area.
The art fixture was installed on Oct. 8 and is a collaboration between Mountain Time Arts, the Pretty Shield Foundation, the City of Bozeman and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council to honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which this year falls on Oct. 11.
More than 20 states across the country now recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than or in addition to recognizing Christopher Columbus Day. While Montana is not one of these states, Bozeman adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to Columbus Day in 2016 under Mayor Carson Taylor.
Installed on the ancestral lands of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Chippewa Cree, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Dakota, among other Indigenous nations, the art installation acts “as a blend of art and culture…that makes us stop and pause and think about the Indigenous people who first lived on this land,” said MaryBeth Morand, executive co-director of Mountain Time Arts.
“This is the beauty of art,” Morand said. “It’s going to hit people’s souls in different ways.” She added that like most art, the teepees are intended to be up for interpretation. “These teepees are so powerful,” she said. The vibrant display of illuminated teepees will work as a non-threatening way to remind and educate city residents of the Indigenous footprint embedded in the land now known as Bozeman, Morand said.
The teepee fixture works in line with Mountain Time Arts’ mission: to educate Bozeman residents and visitors through art by inviting them to think about who they invite to the table—and who they exclude—when discussing both social and growth issues. The goal of this installation, according to Morand, is to illuminate the presence of the area’s original Indigenous residents and to prevent further erasure of their cultures and history as Bozeman continues to grow rapidly.
Tonight, the teepees will be lit for the fourth time. A roster of Bozeman leaders will speak at tonight’s illumination from 6-7 p.m. on Peet’s Hill. Among them will be Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus who will speak in acknowledgement of both the holiday and the land. The teepees will continue to be lit throughout the week each evening at dusk.
One of the goals of the art fixture, according to Morand, is to appeal to the State of Montana to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day statewide. And for the public, she says this an opportunity. “For me, the teepees and illuminating Indigenous People’s Day will make viewers pause and say ‘Who are we really grateful to for this gorgeous place we live in? Who really preserved and stewarded this landscape for thousands of years before us?’”