PROJECT TYPE: Indigenous-led, bison restoration

PARTNERS: Blackfoot Confederacy, Blackfeet Nation, Kainai First Nation, Siksika First Nation, Piikani First Nation, the Buffalo Treaty, Glacier National Park (US), Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Native Science Field Center at Blackfeet Community College, Piikani Lodge Health Institute

VISION: To restore free-ranging iinniiwa (buffalo) to the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and support the restoration of traditional Blackfoot culture and ceremony.

MOTTO: Iinnii did not leave us, we left him.

Since time immemorial, the transboundary region of the Northern Rockies has been and continues to be the Blackfoot Confederacy’s homeland. Today the Nations that make up the Confederacy (the Amskapi Piikani, the Kainai, the Piikani, and the Siksika) hold Tribal sovereignty, internationally recognized rights, established governance systems, and deep scientific and cultural knowledge of the region—all of which are essential to the durable conservation and management of the Northern Rockies’ biological and cultural diversity and the well-being of the human communities inextricably connected to this globally significant landscape.

WCS works in deep and lasting partnerships with the Nations of the Confederacy to advance a shared vision for wildlife conservation, cultural restoration and human well-being. We believe that one of the surest ways to conserve wildlife is to partner with Indigenous and local communities in a process that braids Indigenous and western knowledge systems to both define the conservation challenge and craft effective solutions. 

About a decade ago, WCS was searching for a place to ground our bison restoration efforts - a large, high integrity landscape that could also serve as a platform for a new conservation paradigm that is integrated, systemic, community-driven, Indigenous-led, and grounded in relationship and partnership. At the same time, a conversation was emergent amongst the Elders of the Blackfoot Confederacy about bringing iinnii (buffalo) home and how best to achieve this critical vision and with what partners. This synergy led to the Blackfoot Confederacy and WCS working together to launch a series of community meetings, the Elder Dialogues, and create the space for visioning and exploring the possibility of Buffalo coming home. Between 2008-2014, meetings were held across the Blackfoot Territory. Some were big, 100+ people, some were as small as 10-15 people, but the Dialogues all had one thing in common. Every meeting left an open seat at the table for Buffalo. What Buffalo told the people was ”I never left you. It was you that left me.” His message guides our collective work to this day.

From those Dialogues emerged a vision for restoring buffalo that addresses both the ecological and socio-cultural reasons for wanting buffalo to return to this landscape. The Elders also established three goals, and a strategic plan to achieve them: connecting with youth, dissolving boundaries, and healing the land & people.

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WCS, the "W" logo, WE STAND FOR WILDLIFE, I STAND FOR WILDLIFE, and STAND FOR WILDLIFE are service marks of Wildlife Conservation Society.

Contact Information
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