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Ninepipes Museum holds benefit to honor Bud Cheff Jr.

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CHARLO — The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana will be holding a celebration and fundraiser on July 17, the ‘Keeping Our Valley’s History Alive’ Summer Benefit. 

Last year, museum founder Bud Cheff Jr. was awarded the 2021 Montana Historical Society’s Heritage Keeper Award. The award honors those who have had a significant impact on generating interest in preserving Montana’s history and heritage. 

Cheff grew up in the Mission Valley and in the 1970s became increasingly concerned by the fact national and international collectors were buying many important Native American artifacts, and he “aggressively started to preserve Indian and early Montana items” to make sure they stayed close to home. This led to he and his wife Laurel opening the museum in 1997, named after a historic Bitterroot Salish leader, Chief Joseph (Nganta) Ninepipes. Today, the museum holds almost 2,000 historical items that speak to Montana’s past. 

“It’s a pretty prestigious award,” commented Executive Director Jo Cheff. “We’re really excited to celebrate Bud and his achievement.”

A celebration of this achievement couldn’t be held in 2021 due to a surge in Covid-19 numbers, and the museum was forced to miss two previous fundraisers as well. Museum staff are hopeful that this benefit dinner will bring in much needed funds. 

The dinner will start with an introduction from Montana Historical Society board member, Ninepipes Museum board member, and former Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes council member, Steve Lozar, who said being asked to serve on the board of the museum has been an honor. 

“We recognize (the Cheffs) with our award from the historical society for their unceasing work … Bud has kept the Ninepipes Museum going for many years. It’s an honor to even talk about him for all the things he’s done privately and publicly for history here in the valley,” Lozar said. “One man has basically taken it upon himself and deserves every accolade he could possibly get.” 

The dinner will feature a meet-and-greet with Cheff and the dinner will feature a brief live action, as well a raffling off of an original oil painting of Glacier Creek by museum co-founder Laurel Cheff. A special variety of fiddle music, provided by Del and Cheryl DesJarlais, will provide another special feature for evening. Their mixed style of music incorporaties a French-Canadian style paired with Native American drum. The DesJarlais’ will give a brief history of the combined cultural music as well as a live recital. 

“One of the things about the Cheffs’ museum is that they are so inclusive in all they do, and I think that that’s really one of the highlights of the whole museum operation,” Lozar stated. “Everybody’s history is included and they’re very sensitive about making sure that what they show and interpret is accurate.” 

As the event will take place inside the museum, seating is limited, but some tickets are still available for $30. Donors of $200 or more will receive a personalized signed book from Cheff, and those who donate $600 or more will receive a set of four of the Cheff family books signed by Bud. To make a purchase, call 406-644-3435, email, or just stop by the museum. 

“In a lot of ways, it makes its own history,” Lozar said of the benefit. “The important topics that’ll be discussed and how it is more than just a regional organization. We see a much, much bigger picture of who we are as citizens of the valley and how we got here, how we’re all connected. I think it’s remarkable.” 

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