GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Public School District is celebrating Native American Heritage Month by setting up 12 Native American lodges behind the district office building.
Each of the lodges will be lit up so they can be seen at night.
“Being able to light them in different colors brings more awareness, especially during Native American Heritage Month,” explained Dugan Coburn, Director of Indigenous Education for Great Falls Public Schools. “We can bring awareness to some of the issues that the natives community has.”
The first week, each lodge will be a different color to represent a different tribe. Week two they will be orange to represent the natives who never returned from boarding school. Week three they will be red for murdered and missing indigenous peoples. Week four and on they will all be different colors again to celebrate the holiday season.
Great Falls has a high Native American population, especially in the public school system, and this is their way of not only supporting them but educating them as well.
“One in six students in our schools are Native American,” Coburn said, “So to make everybody feel comfortable and like they're being seen and heard in our community by putting these up, we get to bring that issue out in front of Great Falls so that they can recognize it and celebrate with us all the native people that are here.”
Dugan and a fellow staff member have been setting the lodges up for the past week, able to complete one every thirty minutes or so. By being behind the school district office building, they can be seen clearly from the high-traffic 10th Avenue South.
“I just appreciate how Great Falls is celebrating Native American Heritage Month, putting these things up,” Coburn said, “There's a lot of different organizations in the community that have been putting on different events... I just really appreciate how our whole community jumps in and recognizes this with us.”
The lodges are expected to be completed and lit on Thursday, November 16th. If you want to check out the lodges up close, the Great Falls Public School district offices are at 1104 Fourth Street South.