"Blackfeet Belong to the Mountains": Blackfeet Relationships with the Glacier Landscape and the National Park
National Parks are home to many landscapes of great significance to Native American peoples. The eastern half of Glacier National Park is considered a homeland by the Blackfeet people, and has historically been very important to their material, cultural, and spiritual well-being. This relationship, like those of many other Native peoples, has been severely disrupted by the establishment and presence of the national park, resulting in prolonged conflict between tribes and parks.
Blackfeet relationships with this cultural landscape require interaction and engagement in order to realize the full extent of its benefits. Often, these practices serve distinct material needs, however, the nature of Blackfeet relationships with the landscape are such that material, cultural, and spiritual needs are often interconnected. By restricting subsistence uses of the landscape, the national park simultaneously restricts these other intangible values which are important to Blackfeet cultural identity.
Conflict between the Blackfeet and Glacier is, however, much more complex than simply a struggle over the material benefits of the park landscape, whether for subsistence or economic reasons. Many Blackfeet support the national park for its role in protecting this significant landscape, particularly as a landscape representative of an authentic Blackfeet identity. Conflict is influenced by tension between the benefits of park protection and the negative effects the park has on Blackfeet well-being.
Tension is also fueled by the symbolism of the park, which is viewed by Blackfeet as part of a larger historical land and cultural dispossession by the federal government. Blackfeet are forced to navigate this terrain of hope and loss when dealing with the national park, for the park landscape embodies both an opportunity for cultural renewal, as well as a real sense of limitation and loss.
Blackfeet interview participants describe perspectives which identify both significant opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with the National Park Service, as well as obstacles which continue to fuel conflict.
Advisor:Alan E. Watson; Laurie Yung; William T. Borrie
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:college of forestry and conservation
Date of Publication:10/01/2008