THE MUSEUM
OF THE PLAINS INDIANS

by

Jon Baldwin

 

 

"YOU'RE RIGHT," WILL SAID AND THEN SIGHED. "We're lost."

His wife didnít respond. She continued to stare at the Rand-McNally road map spread out over the center console, her lips puckered in intense concentration. Will switched off the ignition. The idling Range Rover fell silent.

The dirt road stretched out before them into the distance. The air-conditioning no longer on, the heat of the burning sun penetrated through the rolled up windows. Will unrolled the window on his side. His wife unrolled hers. The ninety-plus degree Montana heat rushed in on them.

Will had heard about the impoverished conditions which existed on Indian Reservations, but this was ridiculous. No sooner had they pulled off Highway 89 at the sign designating the Blackfeet Reservation, that the highway asphalt had ended and became the rutted dirt road they were now on. To top it off, even in this makeshift neighborhood of small, evenly spaced, and nearly identical one-story houses, the road remained nothing more than dirt and dust.

Will shook his head.

Itís the 1990ís and these people donít even have paved roads?

The two narrow lines of houses along each side of the road gave Will the impression that these homes had long ago been condemned. Unfit to live in his mind told him. The houses appeared absolutely devoid of any life. Paint peeling off the sides. Crumbling woodwork. Here and there a broken down, rusted out car. Not one fence existed separating property lines. The grass around the homes was short and brown and dead. Only the overflowing garbage cans and the mess of broken beer bottles gave away the presence of human inhabitants. He suddenly felt out of place in his seventy thousand dollar green Range Rover.

"The museumís only a couple more miles that way," his wife said, pointing at the map. "So maybe if we just stay on this road. . ."

"Iíve got a feeling," Will said," that the Museum of the Plains Indians is nothing more than a shack and probably some teepee or something."

"I know what you mean," she said, looking around. This just didnít seem like a place that would have anything of significance to support its historical past. "But weíve already gone this far from the highway." She glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard. She went on to remind Will that they werenít supposed to meet their friends, Jan and Mike, at Glacier Park for another six hours. "So unless you want to just wait for them at the ranger station all afternoon, I think we should kill some time at this museum."

He looked out the window to the majestic Rocky Mountains. The taller peaks were still capped with snow. He estimated the national park to be no farther than a hundred miles - about two hours driving time. There would be plenty of waiting, as it was, for the park ranger to issue them the necessary hiking permits into the park and so he saw no sense in adding any extra time to that.

"Come on," his wife said cheerfully. "Itíll be interesting."

Will smiled. "I guess youíre right."

 

 
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