Located in the northeastern corner of Montana about 450 miles from Bozeman, Fort Peck is home to the Assiniboine, Nakota, Lakota and Dakota people. The reservation consists of more than two million acres and is home to about 10,000 residents.
Agriculture is the primary economic driver on the reservation. Based in Poplar, Fort Peck extension is a collaborative effort between Montana State University, Fort Peck Community College and the Fort Peck Tribes. The primary goal is to address the needs to help sustain traditional Assiniboine and Sioux values and practices. Extension teaches life skills to youth and families, helping to foster healthy communities, schools and families in challenging communities.
Youth and family development
Fort Peck Extension serves seven communities across the reservation with a variety of school and community programs and events. From special celebrations such as Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s to Wild West Days and the Wolf Point Stampede parade, there are numerous opportunities for youth to be involved.
One example is Progressive Agriculture Safety Day. For more than 20 years, this special event has combined education with hands-on activities that help youth learn how to be safe around farm activities. More than 400 students and 60 volunteers participate each year. Topics include safety related to grain, chemicals, water and bicycles, along with first aid. Students receive donated materials such as first aid kits, sunscreen, reflective arm bands, insect repellent and bike helmets. Other 4-H programs include camp, teacher training and 4-H fairs.
Market program for youth
The market program teaches youth how to raise an animal from start to finish. They learn about nutrition, quality assurance, animal welfare, food safety and other related activities. Much of the traditional knowledge about how to dress an animal has been lost. but youth are learning it through this program. Kids learn how to make fresh sausage, jerky, snack sticks and summer sausage. More than 250 participants have completed the course.
Tribal garden and pumpkin patch
The Fort Peck Tribes set aside 99 acres for a garden that is used for educational purposes. It has been used to grow numerous types of vegetables and pumpkins. Seeds and produce has been distributed to the community through the elder program, food bank and the kindergarten pumpkin patch.
Financial literacy program
Dozens of students and adults have completed financial literacy workshops which focus on what credit is, how to obtain it and how to use it positively. Educational games are used to reinforce learning objectives. Participants learn how to create a personal budget as well as how to complete job applications, prepare for interviews and build resumes.
Wendy Becker – Extension Educator