Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Jennifer Thomsen

Commitee Members

Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Rosalyn La Pier, Jeremy Sage


Blackfeet, Native American, indigenous conservation, Tribal Park, tribal land-use, cultural tourism


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Other Social and Behavioral Sciences


The Tribal Park model is an emerging tool being used by indigenous groups in the United States and Canada for the management of unique and sacred natural areas, in some cases setting aside existing indigenous owned land, and in others regaining control of land management decisions in traditional territory. Currently in North America there are several sites that have self-identified as Tribal Parks. There is a lack of research regarding Tribal Park development in North America, which creates challenges for indigenous groups interested in pursuing a conservation designation of this type. Using an analysis of five Tribal Park case studies this thesis identifies the key components of these Tribal Parks. Specifically focusing on the economic, cultural, and ecological aspects of each case study. This research then uses interviews with members of the Blackfeet Nation, to explore the potential interest in a Tribal Park on Blackfeet Nation lands. This study finds that though the Tribal Park concept varies across case studies based on the needs of the specific community, there are some important common aspects across cases. These aspects include: a bottom-up community driven planning process with programs in place to increase capacity of community members, exercising sovereignty over land-use decisions in traditional territory, and connectivity of landscapes and habitat protection. Some of the themes identified by Blackfeet Nation respondents were potential benefits from capturing visitor overflow from neighboring Glacier National Park, increased access to land by community members, and concerns regarding land-use conflicts between different user groups.



© Copyright 2019 Iree Schmautz Wheeler