Collaborative Conservation: Reconnecting People, Land, and Bison through the Iinnii Initiative

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Keyser, Erich
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University of Guelph

The Iinnii Initiative is a Blackfoot-led conservation effort to restore free-roaming bison to Blackfoot traditional territory around the Waterton-Glacier region in Alberta and Montana. It has brought together a collaborative network of stakeholders and rightsholders across various borders and presents itself as a unique example of Indigenous-led collaborative conservation. However, jurisdictional, cultural, and socio-political complexities create some challenges. Through practicing a decolonized methodology, this research explored factors that inform collaboration between actors, challenges to the Initiative, and ranchers’ attitudes towards bison reintroduction. Investigating and understanding these elements supports the active efforts of the Iinnii Initiative, offers lessons from which other conservation practitioners can learn, and may also assist in facilitating dialogue between various settler and Indigenous individuals and groups. Such dialogues can enhance relationships with ranchers to mitigate challenges of reintroducing bison, foster reconciliation among different social groups, and reinforce the Iinnii Initiative as a positive model for collaborative conservation.

Indigenous-led conservation, bison reintroduction, collaborative conservation governance, political ecology, decolonization, reconciliation, decolonizing methodology, Blackfoot Confederacy