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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 232-242

"Blackfeet Belong to the Mountains": Hope, Loss, and Blackfeet Claims to Glacier National Park, Montana


College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

Correspondence Address:
David R Craig
College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.101836

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While relationships between indigenous groups and protected areas have been extensively documented internationally, research on Native Americans and US National Parks is surprisingly sparse. Based on in-depth interviews with Blackfeet Indians, this article examines the complex contemporary relationship between the Blackfeet and Glacier National Park. According to the Blackfeet, tribal relationships with the park landscape are sustained through on-site practices that provide an interwoven and inseparable set of material, cultural, and spiritual benefits. The prohibition and regulation of many historic practices within park boundaries prevents the realisation of these benefits and fuels tensions between the tribe and the park, especially in the context of past dispossession and longstanding animosity toward the federal government. At the same time, the undeveloped landscape of Glacier National Park is evocative of an ancestral past and has, for many Blackfeet, preserved the potential for cultural reclamation and renewal. To realise this potential, Blackfeet argued for greater integration of their needs and perspectives into park management and policy. We suggest reinstatement of treaty rights, voluntary closure of cultural sites, co-management of parklands, and special legal designations as possible paths forward.


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