The Blackfeet Nation wants to create a space for refuge and healing this winter. Dylan DesRosier photo.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an especially challenging time for many Indigenous communities. For example, the Blackfeet Nation in Montana currently leads the highest per capita infection rates of COVID-19 for any ethnicity in the state. As we move into a long winter—with no definite end to the pandemic in sight—the Blackfeet Nation wants to provide their community with a space for refuge and healing amidst all these challenges. Their goal is to create a winter wellness program called Ssto'ipapoki Tsimaan, which will provide cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and traditional indigenous games experiences for all 11,000 residents of the Tribal Nation in the winter of 2020-2021.
Even though the Amskapi Piikani (Blackfeet) people have a deep connection and history with their traditional homelands—now known as the Crown of the Continent and Glacier National Park—it’s rare to find many from the community out skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, or experiencing the land firsthand. The goal of the Ssto'ipapoki Tsimaan project is that the local community can become reconnected with their ancestral land while using the mountains as a healthy means to improve their wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, a Blackfeet founded NGO and a group of local families, teachers and leaders are trying to raise money to bring the project to life. Contributions will be used to cover the purchase of additional skis, gear, snowshoes, winter clothing for youth and adults, grooming operations, site maintenance materials, instruction, project support, documentation, and core operational costs (and maybe some hot chocolate!). Check out their GoFundme page to learn more and support their cause!
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