MISSOULA — Renovated buildings, updated seating, and new events -- the Western Montana Fair has a lot to show off this year, but as you’re taking in the sights and sounds, don’t forget to look up at the newest addition to the fair’s historical plaza, a set of 8 colorful flags.
“Honoring our tribal nations will always be a component of whatever we do with the fair,” said executive director of All Nations Health Skye McGinty.
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Steadily marching through the fairground’s new historical plaza on opening day, tribal leaders raised the flags of our state’s 8 tribal nations, commencing the 2021 fair, and placing Montana’s indigenous heritage at center stage.
“Kinship is such an important element to all of our relationships throughout our tribal nations, regardless of what nation you come from,”said McGinty, “Any opportunity that we have to do this kind of event, not only in our circles but in a broader audience too, it's so meaningful for all of us to come together and have the chance to do that.”
Following the flags, fairgoers got a glimpse of tribal music, dance, and a fan favorite, Indian tacos.
“I really see our involvement in the fair not only being that, but bringing kind of a food sovereignty initiative piece to the fair,” McGinty told MTN News. “We do have our All Nation's taco booth right over there. We serve Indian tacos which are unfortunately not an Indigenous staple to our diets, but that's what everybody knows us for, and man, they're dang good.”
The tacos are tasty, the music is moving, but McGinty said the day isn’t all smiles. It’s also a reminder that her people are hurting from the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and girls crisis, and the fairgrounds serve as a platform to raise awareness.
“That's really why we come to the fair to do this event, because there is such diversity in the audience that we can reach, and really making sure that folks know that it's not just a Reservation problem with MMIWG, it’s also an urban problem too.”
You can stop by the All Nations booth anytime throughout the fair to learn more about the Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and Two Spirit relative epidemic, as well as opioid use, prevention and proper medicine disposal.