Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Jeffrey A. Gritzner

Commitee Members

Rafael Chacon, Sara Jean Halvorson, Wade Davies


Art, Education, Geography, Montana, Salish, Sense of Place


University of Montana


In northwest Montana, there exists a rich tribal culture and vibrant physical environment. The Salish tribal culture that exists in this environment holds an immense knowledge of the landscape that surrounds it, and the Salish people are intimately tied to this place. They have unique and fascinating culturally informed ways of looking at and interpreting the landscape. It is evident in their artistic traditions and expressions, both in the past and in the present. This research examines the importance of local knowledge in indigenous communities. The intent of this research is to identify links between Salish art and sense of place. The purpose of this research is to develop a curriculum guide that addresses the role art plays in establishing and expressing a sense of authentic human attachment and true belonging in a special or unique place. The curriculum guide will focus upon the artistic traditions and expressions of the interior Salish tribes of northwestern Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation. This study will take a particular interest in exploring how art has changed and how Native artists creatively re-imagine themselves in order to reclaim traditional strength and voice. There will be a focus on the Indian Education for All Laws and Policies, giving teachers an understanding of the policies and laws that affect all people in Montana. The basic research question being asked is: What is the relationship between Salish artistic expressions and sense of place? To answer this question we must develop a good understanding of art, sense of place, and the relationship between art and sense of place. Art and place both have a past, present, and future. The recognition of beauty is found not only in art but also in sense of place. Place is a center of meaning and the same can be said of art. Place and art are both different things to different people. Art and place can be animated, but both express only what their animators enable them to say. Both place and art can only give back to one equally as much as the amount of thought, feeling, and attention which one has devoted to them. Art, as well as place, is animated by the people who attend to it. So, even in total stillness, places or works of art can speak to one. People have relationships with places. These relationships are expressed in numerous ways. Some are expressed through political ritual, religious ceremonies, myth, prayer, music, dance, and architecture. Art can be the place where the tangible and the mythical become the same. Through artistic traditions and expressions conducted daily, monthly, seasonally, or annually, places and their meanings are continually rewoven into the fabric of our life. Art and place both change, while at the same time stay the same.

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© Copyright 2008 Nathan E. Davis