November is Native American Heritage Month!
Since 1990, Native American Heritage Month has served as a platform for elevating Native American voices and stories that too often are stifled or ignored. This month-long celebration is a chance to share and learn about Native American culture and traditions, better understand the historical injustices, and take steps to create a more inclusive future. It’s a chance to appreciate and understand the original inhabitants of our lands, promote equity, and work toward restoring the Native American values and cultures that have existed for thousands of years.
Historical Trauma and Hope in Montana
At the Center, we hope that Native American Heritage Month will help us all recognize the unique perspective that Indigenous peoples bring to conservation. We strive to use our reach as a conservation non-profit to support Native sovereignty and include Native perspective in our work and the work of our partners whenever possible.
Native American Heritage Month also serves as an opportunity for people and partners engaged in conservation efforts to recognize the traumas incurred by Indigenous peoples during the establishment of the North American conservation movement, and to consider new ways to achieve conservation goals that build a more equitable and just future.
Current disputes around treaty rights provide an example of how historical oppression is still affecting tribes, and land management, today. In northwestern Montana, the Blackfeet Tribe has fought for decades to exercise their treaty rights to use and protect the Badger Two-Medicine, an expanse of mountains sacred to the Blackfeet nestled between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
For decades, the Badger Two-Medicine has been threatened by oil and gas leases which are opposed by current tribal leadership. This past summer, thanks to sustained efforts by the Blackfeet Tribe, a federal court rejected the last remaining oil and gas leases in the area. Legislation to provide permanent protections for the Badger Two-Medicine has been introduced in Congress.
Efforts have been made in recent years to build a good relationship with the Blackfeet Tribe. Administrative officials of Glacier National Park and leaders of the Blackfeet Tribe have worked together to repair damaged relationships and re-center Native perspectives in telling the history of the Park. Each year since 2016, the Park and the Tribe have hosted a Glacier National Park Blessing ceremony.
This ceremony is intended to hold space for recognition and celebration of the integral role that the Blackfeet people have played in stewarding the lands now called Glacier National Park. Blackfeet dancers perform, prayers are sung in Piikani (the traditional language of the Blackfeet), and stories are shared of the deep connection between culture and land.
This event exemplifies the importance of building reciprocal relationships that honor tradition, culture, and the knowledge of the Blackfeet people. Tribal employment within Glacier National Park is increasing, and current Superintendent Jeff Mow works to continue to improve the relationship.
Coming Up: Stories from Indigenous Conservationists
Here at the Center, we wish to express our gratitude for the many contributions Indigenous people have made to sustaining biodiversity, reversing habitat fragmentation, and resisting environmental injustice.
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, each Monday in November we will be sharing stories from four Indigenous conservation practitioners.
These conversations offer an opportunity to hear from Indigenous conservationists about their experiences, their path to working in conservation, and their visions for a future that honors Indigenous peoples and achieves collective conservation goals.
We hope you enjoy these stories.
Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation is located in the homeland and traditional use area of the Séliš (Salish), Ql̓ispé (Pend D’Oreille), Ksanka (Kootenai), Tsias tsis’tas and So’taa’eo’o (Northern Cheyenne), Apsáalooke (Crow), and other peoples indigenous to the region.
We honor the history of the land upon which our organization has come to rest, and we are committed to supporting conservation efforts that center Indigenous peoples and priorities, buttress tribal sovereignty, and transform the conservation movement into a more diverse, inclusive, and representative movement.