GREAT FALLS — A non-profit plans to launch an app that will help Indigenous Tribes learn more about their culture and land.
Souta Calling Last was raised in Heart Butte and has relatives on the Blackfeet Reservation and in Canada. She started Indigenous Vision four years ago with the goal of bringing hard-to-access information and resources together for tribal leaders and members, but says she has collected stories her entire life.
“I realized that my Canadian brothers and sisters were kind of disconnected from places here in Montana and then the same thing on the other side- all of my cousins there on that side didn’t know where Badger Two Medicine was or how important the Sweet Grass Hills were to us,” she said.
The organization currently operates in four states and Canada. Their website has grown to include more than 40,000 different data entries from local officials and government bodies with maps that look into tribal areas' social and economic impacts.
“When we talk about environmental management from an indigenous perspective- we can’t remove the people,” she said. “When settlers first came to the U.S., every tribe had well informed, observed, heavy handed management practices that really did create these mutually beneficial relationships with deer and bison and birds and fish, so we were scientists.”
Souta believes it was key to include environmental impacts and projects with historical data so tribal leaders can see the whole picture when considering environmental or economic developments. “This map puts us back into the environmental management and that we can’t exclude an indigenous person, that we had as much role in a healthy ecosystem as any other animal does.”
Calling Last also says the maps provide data that’s never been compared before when it comes to social justice and discrimination. “It could really help the planners and task forces to visualize where missing and murdered people are going missing, compared to where we’re experiencing police fatalities and then compare that to self-reported acts of discrimination and violence,” she said.
She says IV Maps is also uncovering thousands of years’ worth of tribal history, including migration patterns and stories shared by Native peoples during historical events.
"We have archaeological origin sites that are carbon dating 8,000-10,000 years and that's in all four directions,” she said. “And they match up with how our origin stories are told- like the Napi origin of coming from the mountains into the plains.”