Blackfeet Nation’s Ksik Stakii Project Receives Montana Watershed Stewardship Award
BROWNING, MT, May 13 – When Blackfeet community leaders were seeking ways to increase climate resiliency, they looked to one of their oldest relationships: with the beaver.
Known as Ksik Stakii in the language of the Blackfeet (Amskapi Piikani) people, beavers are an animal of deep cultural significance, playing a critical role in the creation of life and the protection of streams, rivers, and wetlands. From this knowledge arose the Ksik Stakii Project: a broad partnership aimed at protecting beaver, restoring rivers, and increasing natural water storage to reduce vulnerability to flooding and drought. Education and volunteer involvement were also major components.
“That really was the key was the community involvement,” said Termaine Edmo, Climate Change Coordinator for the Blackfeet Nation. “The Beaver actually gifted us this process, so we are passing on that traditional knowledge to sustain who we are as Blackfeet people.”
In recognition of the collaborative, innovative, and holistic nature of this work, the Montana Watershed Coordination Council (MWCC) has selected the Ksik Stakii Project as a 2021 Watershed Stewardship Award recipient. The biennial Wetland and Watershed Stewardship Awards are a joint project of MWCC and the Montana Wetland Council (MWC) to honor individuals and groups who embody excellence and commitment to wetland or watershed conservation, protection, and restoration. Award recipients will be honored at a ceremony during the Fall Watershed Tour to be co-hosted by MWCC and local conservation partners September 15-17, 2021 along the Rocky Mountain Front.
The Ksik Stakii Project is a partnership among the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department, Blackfeet Community College, Blackfeet Environmental Office, Blackfeet Agriculture Resource Management Planning Team, and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation. With the goal of serving both community and ecological needs, it encompasses numerous activities, including:
- Installing beaver dam analogues (BDAs) – wooden post structures woven with vegetation to mimic the effects of beaver dams in slowing and retaining water – in the Cut Bank Creek watershed to reduce streambank erosion and reconnect streams with the floodplain.
- Engaging Blackfeet youth to build the BDAs, through BCC’s Native Science Fellows program and the Montana Conservation Corps’ Piikani Lands Crew.
- Highlighting climate change, Piikani Lifeways, risk management, hydrology, wetland vegetation, data collection and monitoring techniques, water quality, and aquatic and terrestrial invasive species through a comprehensive community education program.
- Creating a Beaver Mimicry Guidebook.
- Decreasing conflicts between beavers and humans by responding to complaints from community members with non-lethal strategies and holding “Living with Beaver” workshops.
The 2021 Wetland and Watershed Stewardship Awards are made possible by funding from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.