We celebrated Heart of the Rockies 20th anniversary in October 2022. Below are the opening remarks (slightly edited for clarity) for the celebration, which were given by Bray Beltrán
“We were fortunate to have Tom McDonald, Chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, accept our invitation to open our 20th anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, Chairman McDonald needed to cancel his attendance to take care of his family. In absence of Chairman McDonald, as Heart of the Rockies staff, we still wanted to channel his teachings and convey his message.This we have learned from Chairman MacDonald:
As we all know, we sit on Indigenous lands. These lands have been occupied and managed by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. Indigenous peoples ceded some of the land but maintained the right to access the landscape to fish, hunt, gather, and hold ceremony. The treaties were broken by the US government, and as the West was settled and fences were put in place,Indigenous people were not allowed access to lands they have the right to.
We at Heart of the Rockies Initiative see great opportunity within the private land protection movement to contribute to restoring the rights on the land to Indigenous peoples. Our movement has the opportunity to ask private landowners to restore access in perpetuity every time we work on a conservation easement. It is not easy work, but it is work centered on justice. We celebrated 20 years of a dream for collaborative conservation that only came true through our partners and supporters’ work and dedication. We invite you to join us for the next 20 years with a dream to make private land protection a place where history is acknowledged and where we contribute to Indigenous rights restoration through the same work and dedication that has gotten us this far.”