Fort Union Hosts Indian Arts Festival

Traditional American Indian Dancer at Fort Union
NPS Photo/Emily Sunblade
Traditional American Indian Dancer at Fort Union NPS Photo/Emily Sunblade

Fort Union preserves the history of what was once a bustling fur trade post on the Upper Missouri River. Next weekend, the fort is hosting an event that brings that history to life.

On August 5-6, the Indian Arts Festival will be held at Fort Union and will showcase American Indian history and culture through regional guests and demonstrations.

This festival was an annual event that has been rebooted after a few years hiatus due to Covid. Park Ranger Loren Yellow Bird Sr., a park ranger at Fort Union for over 23 years, has headed the event for many years.

“There will be plenty to do,” Yellow Bird said. “All the (scheduled) activities and the sites of the fort. It all ties in with our historic theme.”


The lineup of events for the weekend is sure to entertain and engage those who come to take in the history. The Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers will perform traditional Metis jigging. IFMD are a trio of siblings who dance in the memory of their grandfather, Ivan Flett in a mix of hip-hop and Metis Red River jig. The group has traveled and performed together since 2010 and has made an appearance on Canada’s Got Talent.

Lissa Yellow Bird Chase will put on a program on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and People. She is a member of the MHA nation and works with families of missing people to conduct searches.

The Indigenous Games Society will host a traditional games program, Matt Schanandore will play the traditional native flute and Laine Thom will showcase trade blankets. Cowessess First Nation Cree group of Saskatchewan will present traditional Native American singing and dancing.

This event is free and will be hosted inside the fort walls. A food vendor of traditional fry bread will be on site. Fort Union will be open its regular business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with festival events beginning at 10 a.m.

The schedule is the same for both Saturday and Sunday:

10 a.m. Traditional games program by Indigenous Games Society
11 a.m. Traditional Metis Jigging by IFMD Dancers
12 p.m. MMIW/P program - Lissa Yellow Bird Chase
1 p.m. Traditional Native AMerican singing and dance presentation by Cowessess First Nation Cree group of Saskatchewan
3 p.m. Traditional Native flute playing by Matt Schanandore
4 p.m. Modern and historic trade blankets with Laine Thom
Traditional beadwork, quillwork, ledger art, children’s games, flint knapping and storytelling will be ongoing throughout the festival.

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