Indigenous Women’s Knowledge: Prairies, Power, and Plants

Rosalyn LaPier, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Co-sponsored by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies as the Eleanor Carlson Lecture in Gender and Women’s Studies

Although many people think that bison and men hunting bison were central to the story of Indigenous peoples on the northern Great Plains, Rosalyn LaPier argues that plants and women harvesting plants were essential to Indigenous peoples livelihoods, their ecological understanding, and religious practice. She will explore the world of Amskapi Piikani or Blackfeet women and those who identified with womanhood from the 19th century to the present on the prairies of North America.   

In fall 2022, LaPier joined the faculty of the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; she also holds an appointment as a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Her work is within Indigenous communities to revitalize Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), to address environmental justice & the climate crisis, and to strengthen public policy for Indigenous languages. Dr. LaPier is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and M├ętis. She is one of eight Indigenous professors nationally in an Environmental Studies/Sciences/Sustainability department and the first and only Blackfeet tribal member to be in a tenure-track position and to receive tenure from the University of Montana.

LaPier also co-founded Saokio Heritage, a community-based organization which is led by Indigenous women and serves as a platform to amplify Indigenous women activists and writers. She is currently working on her third book, tentatively titled, Plants that Purify: Essays on the Ecology of Blackfeet Womanhood.

LaPier’s book, Invisible Reality: Storytellers, Storytakers, and the Supernatural World of the Blackfeet won the 2018 John C. Ewers Book Award for best book on ethnohistory of North America and the 2018 Donald Fixico Award for best book on American Indian and Canadian First Nations History.