Friends of the Museum of the Plains Indian (FMPI) was formed as a tax-exmpt, non-profit organization to support the museum when it appeared that the Department of Interior might close the facility and move its globally significant collection to storage. This group continues to serve as the primary citizen-based advocate for the museum to educate the public, preserve Plains Indian culture and heritage through the arts, and to keep the museum open to the public.
The Museum of the Plains Indian (MPI) is a unit of the U.S. Department of the Interior (USDI), being managed by the USDI Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) since the mid-60s. The IACB manages three museum, including the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, the Sioux Museum in Rapid City, and the Southerm Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko. Thus, the museums' operation is public and political.
The IACB has two primary responsibilities, operation of the museums and support of Indian creative work / economic development. The latter includes efforts to constrain the counterfeiting of Indian arts and crafts.
Until recently the funding for the IACB museums was carried within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) budget. The BIA had established the museums in the early 1940s as part of the education program, and while it had turned the museums over to the IACB in the '60s funding for the program still remained (and was unsupervised) in the BIA budget. In 2005 management of the IACB including funding for both its museums and arts and crafts development / protection programs, was administratively tranferred to the USDI Assistant Secretariat for Policy, Management and Budget.
Several months later President Bush presented a Fiscal Year 2006 Budget to the U.S. Congress that stated the Indian Arts and Crafts Board wanted to turn the museum over to non-federal "parties who mission is more closely tied to museum operations." All hiring within the IACB museum program was frozen. The IACB plan was to stop requesting museum support beginning in Fiscal Year 2008, which is October 1, 2007, under the assumption that by then they would be managed by a non-federal entity. Funds in the IACB budget could then be used exclusively for the arts and crafts development / protection program.
Several members of the Blackfeet artist community formed the Museum of the Plains Indian Artist Association (MPIAA) in 2004, to support the exhibit and sale of their traditional arts and crafts in association with Museum programs. That group acquired its 501(c)(3) tax status in early 2006.
In response to the concerns about the possible transfer / sale / closure of the Museum, an Association subgroup named the Friends of the Museum of the Plains Indian (FMPI) was formed. The Friends are involved in discussions with the Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and with other states' Congressional delegations to preserve the Museum's federal status and funding. To date they have assisted in the placement of language in the House and Senate FY 07 Appropriations bills directing the USDI to maintain the three IACB museums as a federal program.
More broadly, the Friends are concerned with the Museum's long-range health. This includes assisting the Museum to develop a strong education program, acquire funds for building maintenance, and build a stronger regional arts and crafts program. More help is always needed to keep the Museum of the Plains Indian open.
Highlights of Recent Accomplishments
The Friends group has worked with the Montana congressional delegation to introduce legislation to provide continued funding for the museum.