Saturday, June 19, 2021
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Grand opening event set for Three Chiefs Culture Center

by CAROLYN HIDY
Lake County Leader | June 2, 2021 10:19 AM

ST. IGNATIUS — Three Chiefs Culture Center, formerly The People’s Center, will celebrate its grand opening of the new temporary site in St. Ignatius on Friday. The day will mark the official opening of the new museum, which houses many artifacts rescued from The People’s Center fire last September.

“The opening is to welcome the public and community back again,” said Marie Torosian, program director at the center. “We want to thank them all for their support and let them see how we’re doing.”

The event will open with a blessing and an honoring song at 10 a.m., followed with a welcome and introductions and a half-hour open mic session. The museum officially opens at 11 a.m. Admission to the museum is free for the day. Crafts and activities will be available for visitors to participate in.

Many items from The People’s Center in Pablo received heat, soot and water damage. The items that received the least amount of damage have been cleaned locally by Geri Hewankorn, the center’s curation technician, and education coordinator Aggie Incashola, under the guidance of lead conservator Nancy Fonicello. Those are the items that will be going back into the museum at this time.

“They will not be 100 percent, but they will be viewable and able to be enjoyed again.” Torosian said.

Fonicello, of Ancient Artways Conservation, is a specialist in preservation of indigenous cultural materials. She is guiding the direction and care of all of the artifacts recovered from the fire.

The gift shop has been open at the new site since last December, under the management of Lucy Charlo. The store offers many Indigenous items and includes local beadwork and handmade ornaments by a tribal member. Other locally made items are occasionally available, such as ribbon skirts, bags and necklaces.

“We are feeling really welcome here in this building,” Torosian said. “We’ve come back. We were just sidetracked — terribly. It’s still hard; we’re still dealing with the after-effects of the loss.”

The original Pablo building opened in 1995, and the place had been like a “second home” to many of its devoted staff.

Items that are requiring more time and expertise for restoration will not yet be on display. Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana is storing some of the items in their vault that were packaged up to work on restoring later after higher priority items were done. Specialists all across western Montana are working on restoring paintings, woodwork, photographs and other artifacts

Every so often they come across good news, though.

“We have some things that we found that we thought we lost,” Torosian said, such as two custom Pendleton blankets, both designed by The People’s Center staff. “It was great to find them in our storage unit and know they were not in the fire.”

The center is located at 77581 U.S. Highway 93 in St. Ignatius.