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Preserving the past Grant will help Ninepipes Museum assess and conserve collection

DUNCAN ADAMS Daily Inter LakeMay 20, 2019

Bud Cheff Jr.’s penchant for collecting artifacts began when he was a boy.

In 1946, Cheff and his older sister, Ola, explored a section of rocks above the highway through Bad Rock Canyon while their father labored to change a flat on the family’s 1936 Chevrolet.

Cheff was 9 years old. The family was traveling that day from Ronan to Martin City to visit relatives.

Changing a flat in those days demanded a large measure of time and patience.

“My sister and I came up on a crevice in the rocks and got back in there a-ways,” recalled Cheff, now 82, during a recent interview.

Ola spotted something protruding from a pack rat nest at the back of the cave-like crevice, he said.

Years later, Cheff wrote about that day and its lasting impact.

“We got on our hands and knees as the ceiling was low in the back,” Cheff wrote. “We dug the object out, and were surprised and excited when we realized it was an Indian war club.”

Cheff had heard elders on the Flathead Reservation, where he grew up, describing battles that once raged in the Bad Rock Canyon between the Blackfeet and Flathead tribes.

“Finding the war club in that old pack rat nest triggered my lifelong quest for old artifacts and the stories they tell,” Cheff wrote.

In 1997, Bud Cheff Jr. and his wife, Laurel, with help from Adelle and Bud Cheff Sr., founded the nonprofit Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana south of Ronan along U.S. 93.

The museum’s website features Cheff’s recollections about finding the club.

In December, the staff of the Ninepipes Museum learned the facility had won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The “Preservation Assistance for Small Institutions” grant of 7, with discounts for veterans, students and children. For more information, go to ninepipesmuseum.org

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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