The Project: A Precedent-Setting Collaborative Effort
The purpose of the Glacier National Park Ice Patch Project is to document the melting of alpine and subalpine ice patches – some of which are thousands of years old — to intercept and collect the remains of ancient animals and plants, to aid in understanding past climates, and to protect any cultural artifacts associated with Native American hunting and travel in these high-elevation areas. The project is also collecting ethnographic data through archival research of documents and historic interviews as well as conducting current interviews with living tribal elders to more thoroughly characterize the dynamics of travel, hunting, and spiritual use of alpine and subalpine areas. This, along with the archaeological and paleoenvironmental materials, will provide a better understanding of Native American relationships with Glacier's high country.

This project sets several precedents. Field and laboratory protocols for recovery, handling, analysis, and documentation of Indian artifacts have been developed under close consultation with our tribal partners—the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation. In recognition of the projects outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnership with our tribal partners and others, the Department of Interior awarded the project its 2012 Partners in Conservation Award . In the words of former Glacier Superintendent Chas Cartwright, “This national award recognizes a level of collaboration, cooperation, and communication that far exceeds the usual requirements for consultation, and has identified employees of the park and our partners as leaders in conservation.”

Download the Ice Patch Archaeology Resource Brief, a pdf with more information about the project or click the tabs below to learn more. You can also view our Protocol for Discovered Artifacts by clicking the button below right.
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The is project is unique in developing culturally-informed documentation, handling, and collection protocols in full partnership with tribal experts from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation (GCRMG).

Project Goals

The goals of this project are to:

• Work collaboratively with scientists from the University of Wyoming and INSTAAR (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research) at the University of Colorado University at Boulder to investigate and document ice/snow patches in Glacier National Park in order to identify archeological, ethnographic, and paleobiological resources endangered by recent climate change and to recover archeological and paleoecological data relevant to climate change research.

• Work collaboratively with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation and the Blackfeet Nation to develop and implement culturally appropriate protective and conservation measures for sensitive cultural sites, features, and objects at risk from snowmelt.

• Enhance cultural resource stewardship and protection at Glacier National Park through public education and interpretation efforts focused on the impacts of climate change on cultural resources and resident indigenous communities.

• Develop strategies and methodologies for assessing and mitigating impacts to cultural resources from glacial and snow/ice field recession that can serve as a model for other parks, agencies and entities in the United States and throughout the world.


This project is financially supported by the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program and Glacier National Park. The Climate Change Response Program is a cross-disciplinary program that provides guidance, training, technical expertise, project funding, and educational products that support actions to preserve the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park Service.

The NPS Response to Climate Change is coordinated around four areas of emphasis:
…….• Using science to help parks manage climate change
…….• Adapting to an uncertain future
…….• Mitigating or reducing our carbon footprint
…….• Communicating to the public and our employees about climate change


Watch this fifteen-minute project-overview video: Alpine Archeology in the Land of the Blackfeet, Pend d'Oreille, Kootenai, and Salish.