Hands Across the Border Project

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Chief Mountain - Sacred Mountain to the Blackfeet Nations, straddling the US-Canada border
Chief Mountain - Sacred Mountain to the Blackfeet Nations,straddling the US-Canada border

Hands Across the Border is a project of the New Old Time Chautauqua (NOTC) that will travel June 13-25, 2017, from Port Townsend, WA to the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana and the Piikani Nation in Brocket, Alberta, Canada. Since 1981, Chautauqua’s intention has been to nurture community through education, entertainment, and laughter. This year, by working in collaboration with the Blackfoot Confederacy, we hope to shine a steady light on the knowledge and history that is so often left out of American history books.

Forums and talks given by members of the Blackfeet communities and NOTC will include the Doctrine of Discovery, Border and Treaty issues, inter-generational trauma, and other subjects informative and important to the Nations. Chautauqua will add circus skills, dance, music, clowning, and arts and crafts workshops. There will also be Fry-Bread Making Contests, Community Talent Shows, and parades featuring the Chautauqua band (the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Band/Orchestra) and the local high school band.

Together we’ve designed a wonderful program that will take place over five days in each community of Browning and Brocket. As Tribal members and NOTC travel between the United States and Canada with Hands Across the Border, we will serve as a bridge for reconciliation, friendship, and of course, fun and laughter.

Piikani Nation Tribal Council - Brocket, Alberta

The Blackfoot Confederacy is made up of four bands: the Blackfeet, Piikani, Kainai, and Siksika Nations. In the 1800s, the United States and Great Britain created the US-Canada border, drawing a line through traditional Blackfoot Territory dividing families and communities. This painful legacy of the separation continues to this day and negatively impacts self-determination, sovereignty, language, customs, trade, hunting, ceremonies, spirituality, education, health, and general well-being.

Currently, the Nations and their allies are engaged in strengthening the bonds of support between their sister bands. The Nations are eager to share inter-tribal information about their successes and how they might support each other’s upcoming challenges.

The Chautauqua continues to be inspired by the unprecedented gathering of over 300 indigenous tribes from North America in South Dakota to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. The issue was the tribe’s right to protect the water for the millions of native and non-native people who depend on the Missouri River as their main water source.

The elders at Standing Rock encourage all people to share the water protector stories and do the work of protecting the earth and its people.

Blackfeet Nation Tribal Council - Browning, Montana

Paul Magid, on behalf of Chautauqua, journeyed to Browning, Montana and Brocket, Alberta, Canada three times, initially to introduce himself and start the conversation, then to talk and nourish a budding friendship, and finally to deepen the relationship and nurture trust. Between May 8-10, 2017, the Tribal Councils, Elders, and educators granted full endorsements (see attached letters). Now we are all able to move on to planning, imagining, and fundraising.

On April 22, 2017, in Port Townsend, WA, we had the great honor of hosting delegates of the Piikani and Blackfeet Nations: Chief Stanley Grier and Barnaby Provost, Secretary of the Tribal Council of the Piikani Nation; and Tyson Running Wolf, Tribal Council Secretary; Lona Running Wolf, Browning School District educator; and Allen Racine,

Sixteen people sat in a circle telling their own stories and what brought the to the Hands Across the Border project. The tension usually present when strangers first gather began to dissipate. The meeting was less about planning and more about meeting, less about how and what HAB would be, and more about who we are and are we a good fit for working together on this project?

The process of unfolding and evolving HAB has been slow and deliberate. Thoughtful relationships grow this way.

We are learning new ways of working with each other and continue to honor the contributions everyone makes to the whole project.

We invite you to join us in a different kind of project, one based on kindness, curiosity, and generosity. This is a project where sharing our selves and building relationships is the goal. Money is not the only currency.

The Blackfeet and Piikani Nations are committing significant resources to ensure the success of the project, which includes tipis for us to stay in, venues for the different programs, security while we are there, water, electricity, publicity, support personnel, and many paid and volunteer hours of work. Local Native professors, educators, and speakers will present forums and workshops.

Chautauqua will not be asking either Nation to contribute money. The fundraising necessary for the journey will be left to us.

Chautauqua, an intergenerational community of 35 people, will volunteer their time, experience and skills in workshops and performances collaborating with the communities in Browning and Brocket. The Hands Across the Border project has raised over $7,000 for meetings, planning, research, and start up expenses. We need $15,000 more for the trip from the West Coast to the Blackfoot Confederacy in Montana and Canada.

Please collaborate with HAB by helping to fund this work. Any amount is appreciated.


or send a check to :

The New Old Time Chautauqua, 615 54th St.
Port Townsend, WA 98368