Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana helps to teach, inspire and connect communities and cultures.

Joseph's Son, Antoine
1840-1922

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana was established by Bud and Laurel Cheff in 1997 as a means to educate local residents and visitors about the Flathead Reservation and early Montana. The Cheffs felt the urgent need to ‘bring history and culture back to the valley’ which was quickly being outsourced to private collectors. Their love for this history and rich personal experiences with both Native and non-Native people alike, provides the foundation for this unique and significant resource. Many of the items found on display at the museum are from their personal collections which they spent a lifetime collecting and preserving. They wanted to ensure that the culture and history of this Valley would be preserved and that its stories would not be forgotten.


Even though the Cheffs started out as a small ‘mom and pop’ museum, they have worked tirelessly to learn and follow professional museum practices, while reflecting the ideals and ‘feelings of home’ on the land with which the museum resides. Visitors and members alike comment on the level of ‘comfort and closeness’ they feel, giving them a ‘feeling of home’ at the museum. It is this personal experience with the history, culture and nature of Montana with which they hope will live on as the Museum continues to be a rich resource to the Flathead Reservation, Montana and the Nation.

Listen to Louie & Adolph singing the Owl Dance Song:

The museum is named after a highly respected Bitterroot Salish leader, Chief Joseph (Nganta) Ninepipes (1820-1871).  The nearby Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is also named after Joseph Ninepipes.  Some early historical documents show the English version of his name pluralized with an ‘s’, but in later years the family dropped the ‘s’ and went by “Ninepipe.” Joseph was a war pipe holder, a prestigious honor, and the probable story behind the name Nine (X’nut) Pipe (Senme), is that he was part of nine successful war parties or horse-stealing parties. A pipe belonging to the Ninepipe family, along with other artifacts, can be seen in the first hall of the museum.

Regretfully we know of no pictures that depict this exceptional person, but in the museum we have family artifacts and pictures of Joseph’s son, Antoine (1840-1922), and Antoine’s four children, Helen, Andrew, Adolf (Happy) and Louie, who was the song and legend keeper for the Salish tribe until he died in 1974 at the age of 83.

Bud Cheff Jr.

Bud's Story

Bud Cheff Jr.’s ancestors first came to what is now Montana in the early-1800’s from Ontario, Canada. His French and Iroquois grandparents settled on the Flathead Reservation in 1907, and became good friends with the tribal families that were their neighbors. Bud’s dad went on hunting and gathering trips in the Montana wilderness with these family bands from the time he was a small child. He learned the old ways, and spoke Pend’ Oreille fluently. Bud Jr. was born in his grandparent’s log house at the foot of the Missions Mountains in 1936. Growing up on the family ranch and traveling on those same old Indian hunting trails was an ideal childhood for Bud. As he put it, “I grew up with a foot in both cultures.” He spent many happy hours listening to the elders telling stories, and worked hard to memorize them as a child. In later years he recorded some of them.

 

When he was 9 years old, Bud and his sister Ola found a war club in a cave near Glacier National Park and he became interested in collecting artifacts as well as stories. Later, a fire burned his childhood home, destroying the war club, and other treasures. These experiences led him to realize the importance of preserving the history and personal stories of Flathead Reservation.

 

When most people are beginning to contemplate retirement, Bud instead fulfilled his lifelong dream and built Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana with the help of his wife Laurel. His father, Bud Sr., and many other friends and family contributed time, effort, donations and snippets of history.

 

Join Bud as he shares stories and historical accounts of the Mission Valley, and keeps us up-to-date on what is happening with the wildlife on the ranch!

Joseph's Son, Antoine
1840-1922
Bud Cheff Jr.

Listen to Louie & Adolph singing the Owl Dance Song:

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana was established by Bud and Laurel Cheff in 1997 as a means to educate local residents and visitors about the Flathead Reservation and early Montana. The Cheffs felt the urgent need to ‘bring history and culture back to the valley’ which was quickly being outsourced to private collectors. Their love for this history and rich personal experiences with both Native and non-Native people alike, provides the foundation for this unique and significant resource. Many of the items found on display at the museum are from their personal collections which they spent a lifetime collecting and preserving. They wanted to ensure that the culture and history of this Valley would be preserved and that its stories would not be forgotten.


Even though the Cheffs started out as a small ‘mom and pop’ museum, they have worked tirelessly to learn and follow professional museum practices, while reflecting the ideals and ‘feelings of home’ on the land with which the museum resides. Visitors and members alike comment on the level of ‘comfort and closeness’ they feel, giving them a ‘feeling of home’ at the museum. It is this personal experience with the history, culture and nature of Montana with which they hope will live on as the Museum continues to be a rich resource to the Flathead Reservation, Montana and the Nation.

The museum is named after a highly respected Bitterroot Salish leader, Chief Joseph (Nganta) Ninepipes (1820-1871).  The nearby Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is also named after Joseph Ninepipes.  Some early historical documents show the English version of his name pluralized with an ‘s’, but in later years the family dropped the ‘s’ and went by “Ninepipe.” Joseph was a war pipe holder, a prestigious honor, and the probable story behind the name Nine (X’nut) Pipe (Senme), is that he was part of nine successful war parties or horse-stealing parties. A pipe belonging to the Ninepipe family, along with other artifacts, can be seen in the first hall of the museum.

Regretfully we know of no pictures that depict this exceptional person, but in the museum we have family artifacts and pictures of Joseph’s son, Antoine (1840-1922), and Antoine’s four children, Helen, Andrew, Adolf (Happy) and Louie, who was the song and legend keeper for the Salish tribe until he died in 1974 at the age of 83.

Joseph's Son, Antoine
1840-1922

Our Mission

Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana’s purpose is to discover, memorialize, preserve, and protect the history and culture of the Flathead Reservation and Early Montana.  It is designed for the enrichment, education, and recreation of the local residents and visitors to our valley.

Our Vision

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana is a non-profit organization.  Established in 1998 and governed by a board of directors, the museum’s goals are community oriented.  We are dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the natural and cultural heritage found in Montana and particularly to the Mission Valley-Flathead Reservation. Because of cultural differences then and now, the museum strives to represent both cultures living on the reservation with respect. Today as the area continues to develop, and the population and economic base change, the rich natural and cultural heritage embodied in the art and artifacts of the early Montana era is in danger of being lost. 

The Ninepipes Museum addresses this situation and challenges concerned individuals to become interested in our mission.

Testimonials

This is one of the most exquisite displays of Euro/Indian cultural meeting I’ve seen. Beautifully organized and displayed.
Connie
Gig Harbor, WA
Very thoughtful narrative and photos and artwork. Good to hear detail told in its timeline. Wish I had more time to spend.
Penny
Grand Rapids, MI
What a wonderful introduction to the people of the area and their history. Thank you.
Adam
Worcester, MA
Learned so much about local Native American tribes. Extremely interesting.
Bernadette
Bennington, VT

Ninepipes Museum Staff & Volunteers

Museum Staff

  • Jo Cheff, Executive Director
  • Renee Roragen, Bookkeeper
  • Sandy Hansen, Operations Director
  • Joyce Schliep, Office Clerk
  • Jessica Dauterive, Development Manager
  • Amy Webster, Collections Curator
  • Shannon DePoe, Educational Program Curator
  • Lynn Kiedrow, Retail Associate
  • Ramona Cajune, Social Media and Gift Shop
  • Brett Myers
  • Rachelle Hewanhorn
  • Jamie Lozeau

Volunteer Staff

  • Bernice Hawkaluk
  • Millie Whittaker
  • Donna Cheff
  • Patsi Pohle
  • Jan Kauffman
  • Diane Gannon
  • Pat Jamieson
  • Laurel Cheff
  • Connie Marmet
  • Anne Furhmann
  • Angie Wilkinson
  • Bud Cheff Jr.
  • Jim Cheff
  • Bud Cheff III
  • Ron Hansen
  • Yo Shuin

Museum Of Early Montana Board Directory - June 2024

501(c) (3) Organization Tax ID# 81-0519843

Meetings are generally held the third Tuesday of each month, except August and December, at the Ninepipes Museum,
with the option of attending via zoom. Meeting times may vary between 4:00pm and 5:30pm.

Steve Lozar (President)

stevelozar@gmail.com

Ed Gannon (Vice-President)

edgannon2018@gmail.com

Tony Harwood (Treasurer)

tharwoodmt@gmail.com

Sean Cheff

SeanCheff@rockymountaintwist.com

Rod Wamsley

Connie Marmet Bauldwin
conniemarmet@yahoo.com

Millie Whittaker (Secretary)
m2whittaker.mw@gmail.com

Laura Sharp
TheKnowBetters@gmail.com

Laurel Cheff & Bud Cheff Jr.
budnlaurel@blackfoot.net

Dr. Stephen Cheff

1endodoc@gmail.com

Doug Stevens
Dr.doug.phd@gmail.com

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