About Us

  • Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

Storytelling – sharing the cultures and the history of the land and its people and wildlife.

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana reflects the spirit of the Flathead Indian Reservation and early Montana settlers with its impressive collection of artifacts, Native American beadwork, western art, photographs, and life-size dioramas of an early trading post, the St. Ignatius Mission Church, as well as an Indian camp and wildlife of the area.  Collections of hunting artifacts, western horse tack and outfitting equipment also bring to life the stories of life in early Montana.

Why “Ninepipes”?  (Pronounced nine pipes, not ninny pippy!)  

Joseph’s son, Antoine (1840-1922)

Joseph’s son, Antoine (1840-1922)

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  Some early historical documents show the English version of his name pluralized with an ‘s’, but in later years the family dropped the ‘s’ and went by “Ninepipe.”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.

Listen to this link to hear Louie and Adolph singing the Owl Dance Song:  https://folkways.si.edu/louie-and-adolph-nine-pipe/owl-dance-song/american-indian/music/track/smithsonian .

Native American Culture and History.

  Chief Moise Indian Arrow Heads Ninepipes Museum


The nonprofit museum was designed and built by co-founders Laurel and Bud Cheff Jr. in 1997, and is governed by a board of directors. Ninepipes Museum receives its funding through private-sector donations, membership dues, earned revenue consisting of museum entry fees and gift shop sales, and grants.  The log-faced 11,000 square-foot building houses the museum and a large gift store featuring unique gifts and artwork by Montana artisans and crafters. Located on 3.5 acres of land, there is a Nature Trail on the south side of the building that allows visitors to enjoy the majestic vistas of the Mission Mountains, the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and the National Bison Range.  The museum enriches its ties to the community with educational and outreach programs, and provides visitors from around the world a view of Native American culture and the history of early Montana.

Mission Statement:   the museum’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 local residents and visitors.