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Community Members.


Dr. Ada Smith

I am an environmental social scientist with a research focus on resilience, climate adaptation, and food sovereignty in rangeland social-ecological systems (SESs). My work has largely been community-oriented, centering on the themes of justice, equity, inclusion and relationship-building; and the ways in which the process of scientific research itself can facilitate desirable social-ecological transformation. I recently completed my PhD research at the University of Montana, where I used a mixed-methods approach to examine factors influencing ranchers’ adaptation to drought and climate change. I also have a background in community-based participatory research focused on the intersection of Indigenous knowledge, education, and food sovereignty from my MA research at the University of British Columbia. I am grateful to have been welcomed into the IKC as an ally and for the opportunity to continue working in solidarity with Indigenous communities to advance our collective understanding and stewardship of grassland and rangeland systems. 


Aimee Roberson

Halito! I am a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and also of Chickasaw descent. I am a lifelong student of Earth’s wisdom, and hold degrees in geology and conservation biology. Committed to reciprocity, community, and responsible stewardship, I collaborate with nature and people to ensure that native grasses grow and rivers continue to flow. I provide leadership to partnerships in co-creating a vision, integrating cultural values and ecological knowledge with science for meaningful decision-making, and implementing shared strategies for stewardship of wildlife, water, and ecosystems. My family and I enjoy growing Indigenous foods, such as Chikashsha tanchi homma (Chickasaw red corn) and isito (Choctaw sweet potato squash).


Brady Highway

My name is Brady Highway and I grew up in Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan. I have been involved in wildland fire management from the outset of my career, and branched into public safety, environmental monitoring and human wildlife conflict, to aid in national park resource management in various locations across western Canada. Over the course of my career I was fortunate to have been involved in various conservation initiatives, including two grasslands restoration projects and the rematriation of Buffalo to lands they historically gathered on. I enjoy sharing my experiences, and have been working with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative to train and equip Indigenous Guardians with the aim of revitalizing cultural burning practices, and increasing capacity for emergency management in First Nations communities. 


Cheyenne Ironman

Han mitakuyapi, Cheyenne Ironman emakiyapi ye. Damakota han ish Wipazoka Wakpa hed watiye / Hello my relatives, my name is Cheyenne Ironman. I am Dakota and I am from Wipazoka Wakpa (Sioux Valley Dakota Nation). I’ve been working as a project manager/ coordinator for several years within my community and working with other First Nations to increase capacity for grassland conservation, climate change adaptation, food security, and more. I love getting people outside to learn about the environment and reconnect with nature through our culture and fun activities.

I’m grateful to have met so many people through the Indigenous Kinship Circle and Central Grasslands Roadmap who I’m continuously inspired by and learn from. I’ve witnessed and experienced so much positivity and real changes happening because of the IKC and CGR’s efforts and the support I received from others in these groups made a difference in my community and has helped me grow. Pidamiyapi ye/ I thank you all.


Dr. Christian Artuso

I am a conservationist and ornithologist, working for the Canadian Wildlife Service (Migratory Birds, Conservation Unit). I am a settler and ally, with a passion for Indigenous languages. In particular, I have devoted many years to learning Anishinaabemowin. I partner with many First Nations, Indigenous and international collaborators to support Traditional Knowledge, Indigenous Sovereignty, and to assist with funding for Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.  I am proud to support the Indigenous Kinship Circle and am learning from all the members. I also love watching wildlife, wildlife photography, travel (especially to remote areas) published many articles and photographs and am committed to public outreach, giving public presentations on natural history and conservation to a wide variety of audiences


Dr. Diana Doan-Crider

I am Diana Doan-Crider, and am the Director of Animo Partnership in Natural Resources, the coordinator for the Native American Rangelands Partnership, and the Principal Investigator for Salish Kootenai College on a National Science Foundation project called AGEP Willow that addresses Native American faculty recruitment and retention in STEM fields. I am a wildlife, range and landscape ecologist who has studied black bears (Ursus americanus) for more than 30 years in my family’s homeland of Northern México to see how food production and weather patterns influence bear movements across large, arid landscapes. In my studies, I learned that westernized scientific approaches fell short in answering large-scale conservation questions without the local knowledge of people who live with bears in the mountain range, and without the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of my ancestors and their relationship with acorns (Quercus spp.). Acorns are sacred to the Tepehuanes (Odam), and are a critical food source for bears. My interest in the IWG is connected to my interest in supporting indigenous communities in the development of place and culture-based conservation education, a passion which I obtained through my grandfather who was a native Tepehuáno.  


Ela Vermette-Furst

Ela Vermette-Furst (she/her) is a Red River Métis (Michif) undergraduate student & researcher at McGill university. She is currently working on completing her B.A. in environment and research projects centered around the relationship between nature and marginalized communities using ecosystem accounting and ecological resilience science. Her interests are rooted in social accessibility to nature, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Indigenous food sovereignty. To her, being a part of the IWG means remaining connected to her homeland and learning how to walk in two worlds: Indigenous Knowledge and Western science.


Emily Boyd-Valandra

Mitakuyepi, Emily Boyd-Valandra, emaciyapi ksto. Greetings relatives, my name is Emily Boyd-Valandra. I am a dual citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe in south central South Dakota) and the USA. I am a biologist/ecologist and work for my Tribe in areas of grassland conservation and natural resources management. I am thankful for our Indigenous Working group and for the Central Grasslands Roadmap effort as a whole because it approaches grasslands through a broad, realistic lens that is that much more complete because it also includes and elevates the voices of our Indigenous communities.


Francisco Muñoz-Arriola

Francisco Muñoz-Arriola is a member of the Indigenous Working Group. Francisco has active ties with the community of Charo (formed by indigenous, mixed, and white population) in Michoacan, México, and its diaspora in California. Francisco works at the intersection of traditional knowledge and western science and engineering, and graduated from Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and Duke University. Francisco is faculty in the School of Natural Resources and the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He develops and implements digital technologies for the management of climate-resilient natural systems.


Dr. Jennifer Folsom

Jennifer “Jamie” Folsom, Ph. D., is an educator and researcher who has devoted her professional life to cross-cultural and science communication, and journalistic storytelling, particularly working with individuals and organizations in Indigenous communities. She is an assistant professor of American Indian & Indigenous Studies at the South Dakota State University School of American & Global Studies. She is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and a member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, the Indigenous Inquiries Circle, CSU Center for Science Communication Advisory Council, and the Intercontinental American Indigenous Research Association. For the last 30 years, she has made her home on the Front Range of Colorado and now tall grass prairie of eastern South Dakota. 


Katia Pilar Carranza

Katia Pilar Carranza is a mestiza sustainability researcher and organizer focused on improving the reciprocal interconnections between people and nature while increasing equity for underserved and Indigenous people. Katia is pursuing a Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences because she wants to better prepare for advancing the vision of her communities in sustainability planning. She collaborated with Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance to plan research that supports the socioecological resilience of Indigenous people, and she is conducting surveys and interviews for the IKC to center the priorities of Indigenous people in grasslands for their social and ecosystem services. Katia also  helped the IKC in compiling their priorities into strategy and implementing equitable engagement across North America as a Conservation and Justice Fellow with the American Bird Conservancy. Katia is committed to  continue collaborating with her underserved, migrant, and Indigenous communities to advance their vision for equitable sustainability that heals our social and environmental relationships. She is grateful to be a member of the IKC as we are all committed to supporting Indigenous people, relatives, and grasslands.


Dr. Lyla June Johnston

Dr. Lyla June Johnston is a Diné shepherd, scholar, and community organizer. Her multi-genre presentation style has engaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective, and ecological healing. She blends her study of Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives and solutions. She recently finished her PhD on the ways in which pre-colonial Indigenous Nations shaped large regions of Turtle Island (aka the Americas) to produce abundant food systems for humans and non-humans. Her hope within IWG and Indigenous people and grasslands is to restore Indigenous management science to the land, and restore lands to Indigenous care.


Monica Rattling-Hawk

Monica is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation, an aspiring Unci (grandmother), and resides on Quiver Hill, the northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where she happily toils in the soil, harvesting medicines, and enjoying the challenges of walking in two worlds. Monica, who is walking a journey of discovery of traditional knowledge and ecosystem relationships from an Indigenous perspective, joined the WWF-Northern Great Plains program in 2017. In her role, she leads outreach efforts on Pine Ridge regarding the future of the South Unit of Badlands National Park (locally known as the Strong Hold). Monica is a founding and board member of the Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance (BNGA)—a non-profit organization that is working to ensure the sustainability of Native-led grasslands and wildlife conservation, ensuring that this important ecosystem and its wildlife will continue to exist for generations to come.


Tammy VerCauteren 

Tammy VerCauteren believes it is relationships with people that will make a positive difference for conservation now and in the future. As Executive Director of Bird Conservancy of the Rockies — a nonprofit that works to conserve birds and their habitats through science, education and land stewardship — she enjoys working with many different partners to encourage proactive voluntary bird conservation efforts. A Michigan native, Tammy earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied Sandhill Cranes. She began working for Bird Conservancy (then Colorado Bird Observatory) first as a specialist in GIS and landowner outreach for the Prairie Partners program, then as the program’s coordinator and outreach director. She has served as executive director since 2008. Tammy is also the NABCI Human Dimensions Subcommittee Chair and NGO representative for the Executive Council, as well as Co-Chair of the Northern Great Plains Joint Venture.


William Snow

William (Bill) Snow is a member of the Stoney Nakoda Nation, Wesley First Nation, as well as a Dual Citizen of Canada / United States of America, and is of Stoney Nakoda / Yuma Quechan descent. Since 2012, Bill has been the Consultation Manager for Stoney Nakoda First Nation. This work involves the assessment of industrial resources projects within Stoney Nakoda Traditional Lands, that involve many consultations with industry, the provincial and federal governments, in the Southern Alberta. Bill is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge, Business Administration program, and in 2016, assisted in coordinating ceremonies for Stoney Nakoda Nation for the Bison Reintroduction at Banff National Park & Elk Island National Park, as well as for the proposed renaming of Tunnel Mountain. Also, Stoney Nakoda Nation completed a Traditional Knowledge Study of Grizzly Bears in the Kananaskis Provincial Park for Environment Canada.

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