GREAT FALLS — Pounding stakes into the ground Friday morning, volunteers secured the canvas of a teepee outside the Great Falls Public Schools district office.
"We're putting up 12 teepees here at the district office building, one for each tribe in the state of Montana,” said Dugan Coburn, the GFPS Indigenous Education Director, who came up with the idea.
"I have a teepee at home that I've lit up in the past. People drive by and really enjoy it and because the school district has enough teepees I wanted to do it for our community, have all the teepees up on this high point so they can see them,” said Coburn.
Along with the location, how they're set up is also intentional.
"It's very important to know how to put a teepee up. If you put it together the right way, placing the poles in the right spot, then when the wind does blow on it, the poles on the opposite side are catching the weight of it,” said Coburn.
The teepees will be lit up at night.
"The first week, we'll have multiple colored lights representing all the different tribes. the second week of the month, we're going to be putting in just red lights for the Montana Murdered and Missing Indigenous People program. Then, the week after that we're going to turn them all orange so that we can represent the residential school children - native kids that died at residential schools. Then we will put it back to multiple colors for Thanksgiving week,” Coburn explained.
For more information about the MMIP program in Montana, click here.