Tribal Perspectives
This project is unique in calling for development of culturally-informed documentation, handling, and collection protocols in full partnership with tribal experts from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation and the Blackfeet Nation, whose aboriginal territory includes what is now Glacier National Park. Both nations have strong cultural, economic, and spiritual ties with Glacier NP’s mountain landscapes.

The effort is important to the tribes. Recent man-made climatic changes occurring in alpine and subalpine areas have affected places used and maintained by tribal ancestors since time immemorial. Melting of ice patches posed a threat of permanent loss of heritage—both cultural and natural resources.

Tribal involvement in the project includes 1) collaborating on the development of protocols for culturally appropriate scientific methods to recover and protect endangered objects and burials; 2) conducting research into the traditional uses of alpine areas in the Park; 3) participating in the fieldwork; and 4) producing a documentary video about climate change impacts on Native people.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about tribal perspectives on climate change, cultural importance of mountain landscapes in Glacier National Park, and this project.
Stacks Image 127
John Pilko (Salish) at Logan Pass in 1933. Both the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation have strong cultural, economic, and spiritual ties with Glacier NP’s mountain landscapes. Photo courtesy of Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.
Stacks Image 122
Stacks Image 150
Stacks Image 179
The sacred trust and wise use of our cultural resources is the guiding principle for managing our Tribal trust assets.

Heritage resources are the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation most precious resources. These resources represent the identity of the Salish/Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai ancestry, history and customs – which we are today. Languages, songs, dances, prayers, ceremonies, hunting, hide-tanning, beading, fishing, plant gathering, food and medicine preparation, feasts, story-telling – all are still being done today. Cultural sites within the Reservation and throughout aboriginal territories are further evidence of these living histories and customs. Protection of these irreplaceable resources is essential for sustaining the cultures of the Salish/Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples.

Our blood runs deep into these lands. Our life’s foundation is deeply rooted in this hemisphere. Our ancestors are our unshakable foundation for this life. They have traveled every part of this country; every mountaintop, waterway, and plain. Our oral history demonstrates this.

Increasingly rapid ice and snowmelt in Glacier National Park creates a critical cultural resource issue that must be addressed in a timely and comprehensive manner. Protection of irreplaceable cultural resources is essential for sustaining the living cultures.
Blackfeet Nation
In 2010, the Blackfeet Tribe joined the Ice Patch Project with funding from the National Park Service Climate Change initiative. The project involves anthropological and ecological perspectives and seeks to investigate long-term human use of stable ice and snow patches that formed millennia ago and became permanent on mountain slopes. Humans are known to have used these patches during hunting expeditions. The Ice Patch Project aims to monitor the effects of climate change on the ecological conditions and human use of these features along the eastern and western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park. The project will also locate, document, and if needed, recover, any perishable cultural artifacts and paleo-biological items from ice patches if agreed upon in consultation with the Blackfeet Tribe and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai. Both tribes are full partners in the project.

The eastern slopes of the northern Rocky Mountains are within the aboriginal territory of the Blackfoot-speaking groups of Canada and the United States. Glacier National Park shares a boundary with the Blackfeet Tribe. The tribe has a deep-time history of association with the landscape, which is most clearly reflected in origin stories as well as traditions associated with certain peaks and lakes, ceremonial bundles, and tipis. The mountains are the homes of powerful beings that continue to interact with the people. Although the majority of activities in traditional Blackfoot life are associated with the prairie and its resources, the Blackfeet utilize the Rocky Mountains for fasting, hunting, and collecting of medicinal plants and animals for their bundles. Traditionally, the eastern front was also the locale of temporary camping and staging of travel across the mountain passes. Thus, the Blackfeet have much to contribute to the anthropological goals of the Ice Patch Project. Climate change has affected our landscape, so we are happy to contribute to this project that address common scientific and tribal concerns for our valuable and irreplaceable resources.

Learn about Es-to-ne-a-pesta (Wind Maker—Maker of Storms and Blizzards)
Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille) and Séliš (Salish or "Flathead")
For thousands of years, our people, the Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille) and the Séliš (Salish or "Flathead"), have held a deeply spiritual relationship with this place. Here we have fished and hunted; gathered bitterroot, camas, berries of all kinds, and other food and medicinal plants. Here we have been born, raised, and buried.

The elders have always taught us that we must honor the land and waters, the plants and animals, the fish and birds. We must keep them clean and abundant. We must never waste. We must always do our best to take care of them for the generations yet to come.

In recent times, however, a very different way of life has come into the world. It is a way of life that we have long expressed concern about. In 1876, Sɫm̓x̣e Q̓͏ʷox̣qeys (Claw of the Little Grizzly—Chief Charlo) said its "course is destruction. [It] spoils what the Spirit who gave us this country made beautiful and clean." Now that way of life is beginning to threaten the well-being of life everywhere on our planet.

We call the Rocky Mountains as a whole
Sntx̣͏͏ʷeyčn̓—the Backbone. The highest peaks, the ones that are only rock, are called X͏͏ʷc̓x͏͏ʷc̓ut. The elders say they should be respected and kept pristine. Now we see how even these purest of places are being affected by the changes in our world. With the vanishing of the glaciers, we also see the exposure of ancient cultural materials and sites. As the natural world that has sustained us is being endangered, so too is the material record of the cultures that have always taken care of that world.

Ql̓ispé and Séliš people are grateful for the efforts to take care of this imperiled natural and cultural heritage, and will serve as enthusiastic partners in that work.

Top photo is of Felicite McDonald and Josephine Paul Quequesah at Logan Pass in 2010. Bottom photo is (l to r) Eneas Vanderburg, Noel Pichette, Felicite McDonald, and Louis Adams at Two Medicine overlook in 2009. Photos courtesy of Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.

The song playing in the background is by the Pistol Creek Drum Group, recorded July 26, 1989.