By Shawn Davis & JoVonne Wagner, Climate Change Interns, Blackfeet Environmental Office
In the first week of the internship, we underwent a two-day orientation to allow us a chance to gain some background knowledge on what this program was about and the work we would be doing over the course of the summer. We were given multiple presentations on climate change.
Kim Paul is the Climate Change Coordinator for the Blackfeet Environmental Office and the organizer of the internship orientation. She planned a trip up to Glacier National Park and up to one of the most sacred locations for the Blackfeet People: Chief Mountain (Ninna-Stako). Kim shared with us her traditional wisdom and knowledge, and she explained how she has noticed the changing climate in Glacier National Park throughout her lifetime. She mentioned the snow pack is becoming greatly reduced and that while traveling through the park you would see wildlife everywhere you were. Now that has changed because the impact climate change is having in Glacier.
Ms. Paul had showed us some of the native plants that she would collect with her grandmother and shared with us many great stories. She showed us the wild strawberry and places where we could collect sweetgrass. Kim says, “I share this knowledge with you today because that’s what my grandmother did, and that’s what our ancestors did, and I want you to share this knowledge with your kids and their kids, so that we may always keep our Blackfeet way of life.”
While visiting Chief Mountain, the students felt a spiritual connection to the land. As this is a place where there ancestors had fasted and prayed for millenia. Kim made sure that each and every one of us understood the cultural and spiritual significance this mountain has for our people. She made it clear that we are and have always been entitled to this land and that this mountain will always be here for our people and our future generations so that protecting it is essential to keeping our culture alive.
Kim’s experience and knowledge she has gained in her life, especially in her higher educational career, had played out to be a great and significant asset to this summer’s internship program. She understands the struggles that native youth face when traveling down the path to graduation. Her work she has accomplished and the advice she shared during the summer widened our perspective. We will keep what we have learned from Kim in our hearts and mind, so we can share it with our children and grandchildren.