Nínaiistáko / Photo by Ian Dyson
Miistakis is a Siksikaitsitapi word that translates to 'backbone of the world'. Piikani legend holds that Napi (Old Man) looked down upon a world of water from Nínaiistáko (near the Alberta/ Montana border). He created the prairie first, followed by a mountain backbone (miistakis) as places for his animals to dwell.
When Miistakis was first formed in 1997, the work of the institute focused on the Crown of the Continent ecosystem. The Crown of the Continent is a geographical area centered on the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and stretches along the axis of the Rocky Mountains spanning southwest Alberta, southeast British Columbia and northern Montana. Use of the word miistakis for our organization was discussed with Piikani members at that time.
Miistakis is committed to doing its part to address the legacy of broken promise and rebuild the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Miistakis has a role to play in the reconciliation of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada by seeking to understand past wrongs and co-create new pathways to sustainable conservation. Reconciliation requires a consideration and integration of Indigenous ways of knowing, that includes and respects Indigenous communities, rights, and knowledge leading to better scientific and community outcomes.
Miistakis's office is located in the traditional territories of the peoples of Treaty 7, which includes the Niitsitapi (Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, Kainai Nation), the Tsuut'ina Nation, the Îyârhe Nakoda (Bearspaw First Nation, Chiniki First Nation, Wesley First Nation) and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Our conservation work today takes place on many different traditional Indigenous territories. We acknowledge all the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit whose footsteps have marked these lands for centuries.