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Blackfoot Guardianship

Blackfoot Guardianship of Rocky Mountain East Slopes – Niitsitapii-led Network Hub


The Blackfoot Guardianship of Rocky Mountain East Slopes hub is Niitsitapi-led by the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council which is made up of the four nations. This includes the Aamskapi Pikuni Nation in the USA, and three in Canada: Kainai Nation -Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, and Piikani Nation. The traditional lands of the Blackfoot, “Niitsitapi”, include the Rocky Mountain East Slopes Watershed or, “Mistakissts” from the North Saskatchewan headwaters to the Yellowstone River and out onto the prairies of what is now Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming. Rich in culture and biodiversity, the Rocky Mountain east slopes watershed, and the rivers that it feeds across the Great Northern Plains are under tremendous threat. Exponential growth in land disturbance, increased frequency and intensity of floods and droughts, and dwindling populations of federally listed and other culturally significant species together highlight the risks faced by the region. 

The ancient knowledge systems of the Blackfoot People were not set aside through colonization, in fact, the oral customs that embody Niitsitapi Paitapiisyinn, “Blackfoot Ways”, continue to be practiced today. One example is the exercise of sovereignty through the Buffalo Treaty, among other efforts and initiatives. Including the ongoing practice of ceremonies and passing down creation stories along with other oral customs. Drawing on and continuing the inherent Blackfoot ways of Being, Valuing, Knowing, and Doing, form the basis of the hub as a framework for reconciliation-based watershed governance, much needed towards transforming current environmental management, policy and science. The need for Blackfoot Guardianship has never been greater.  


Knowledge Lead:

  • Kimmy Houle, Environment & Economic Development Director, Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council

    • Member of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe)

Knowledge Collaborators:

  • Elliot Fox, Independent Consultant

    • Member of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe)

  • Kansie Fox, Environmental Protection Manager

    • Member of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe)

  • Noreen Plain Eagle, Piikani Lands Manager

    • Member of the Piikani Nation

  • Irene Solway, Senior Manager of Siksika Lands and Resource

    • Member of the Siksika Nation (member of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council)

  • Cedric Solway, Siksika Consultation Coordinator

    • Member of the Siksika Nation (member of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council)

  • Ira Provost, Manager, Piikani Nation Consultation

    • Member of the Piikani Nation Consultation (member of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council)

  • J.J. Shade, TLUOS Coordinator, Tribal Government & External Affairs

    • Member of the Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe)

  • Matt Coombs, Director, Fisheries Biologist, FINtegrate Fisheries & Watershed Consulting 

  • Dr. Kim Green, Researcher, Selkirk College

  • Dr. Caren Helbing, Researcher, University of Victoria

  • Christine Lacho, Species at Risk Biologist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ontario and Prairie Region

  • Amy MacKinven, ACA Grants Coordinator, Alberta Conservation Association

  • Shannon Frank, Executive Director, Oldman Watershed Council

  • Norine Ambrose, Executive Director, Cows and Fish (Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society)

  • Lesley Peterson, Alberta Provincial Biologist, Trout Unlimited Canada

  • Mara Erickson, Funding Coordinator, Priority Places Initiative, Environment and Climate Change Canada

  • Kimberly Pearson, Ecosystem Scientist, Nature Legacy Program, Waterton Lakes National Park 

  • Kelly Williams, Status and Recovery Manager, Alberta Environment & Parks, Species at Risk and Stewardship Branch 


Other Collaborating Organizations:

  • Selkirk College

  • Fintegrate Fisheries & Watershed Consulting Ltd.

  • University of Victoria

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

  • Alberta Conservation Association

  • Oldman Watershed Council

  • Cows and Fish (Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society)

  • Trout Unlimited Canada

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada

  • Parks Canada Agency

  • Alberta Environment & Parks


Hub Focus and Goals:

 The Hub's three interlinked focus areas will support each Nation's capacity to play a critical role in the guardianship of this fragile ecosystem. 

1.         Governance: Ethics form the basis of the hub’s ability to bring Blackfoot values to the fore that will guide and inform knowledge: i) production, ii) transmission, iii) translation and iv) mobilization. The ethics committee will support policy development and capacity building for guardianship of the East Slopes and closely linked with on-going Elder dialogues from each nation along with other Niitsitapi-led initiatives (eg. Iinnii Initiative-Buffalo Treaty) on both sides of the Medicine Line (Canada-US Border). 

2.         Blackfoot Indicators: Sacred connections and relationships, including the practice of place-based culture and language, nurture the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the Blackfoot People holistically. Indicators of ecological, cultural, and biological health are rooted in place-based relationships and understood as interconnected through time and space. The cumulative effects committee with a focus on both positive and negative impacts and incorporate a multi-species (flora and fauna) place-based approach to developing capacity and knowledge of both aquatic, terrestrial, and human impacts through ongoing ecohydrological, vegetation, riparian as well as pollinators and grounded in community health and well-being outcomes. 

3.         Leadership and Action: This theme area will focus on knowledge mobilization and how these learnings can support ongoing leadership and action through developing processes and policies for data governance and information sovereignty that can be shared broadly among academia, government, and non-government partners and most importantly the new and coming generations of Blackfoot that will continue to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors and utilizing the best available knowledge, tools, and skills.

Through these focus areas, the transdisciplinary team of social scientists, natural scientists, and Blackfoot knowledge holders will inspire a holistic approach to building capacity for Blackfoot guardianship of the Canadian East Slopes.

This Hub was previously titled: Blackfoot Guardianship of East Slope Watersheds - Weaving Blackfoot Values with Science

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