Faculty Profile

Rosalyn La Pier

Rosalyn La Pier

Associate Professor

Office: Jeannette Rankin Hall 017
Email: rosalyn.lapier@mso.umt.edu
Office Hours:

Fall 2017: Tues & Thurs, 8am to 9:20am, or by appointment.

Personal Website

Current Position

Permanent Appointment:

  • Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, University of Montana

Visiting Appointments:

  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Women's Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion, Harvard Divinity School, 2016-2017
  • Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2015-2018

Personal Summary

Botanical Samples

Rosalyn is an award winning Indigenous writer and ethnobotanist with a BA in physics and a PhD in environmental history. Dr. LaPier studies the intersection of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) learned from elders and the academic study of environmental and religious history. As an activist, her longtime passions include environmental justice on Indigenous lands and the revitalization of Indigenous languages. This year, as a National Steering Committee member, she was one of the organizers of the March for Science, the largest day of science advocacy in history, with over one million participants in 600 cities worldwide. She is working on her third book "Plants That Purify: The Natural and Supernatural History of Smudging." Dr. LaPier is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and Métis.


  • Ph.D., History, University of Montana
  • M.A., Liberal Studies (Religious Studies), DePaul University
  • Graduate Certificate, Public Policy, DePaul University
  • B.A., Physics, Colorado College

Research Interests

  • Natural ScienceBitterroot
  • Ethnobotany
  • Environmental History


Collaborator, "Willow Partnership for Success," to increase the number of Native American women STEM faculty, NSF-APEG-T grant, 2017-2021.

Principal Investigator, "Itapissko: Blackfeet Belief and Botany," National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2015-2018.

Collaborator, "Living Landscapes: Culture, Climate Science and Education on the Flathead Reservation," Salish Kootenai College and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, NASA’s Innovations in Climate Education – Tribal (NICE-T) grant, 2014-2017.

Selected Publications

BOOKS:Book cover of Invisible Reality

"Plants that Purify: The Natural and Supernatural History of Smudging." (In Progress).

Invisible Reality: Storytellers, Storytakers and the Supernatural World of the Blackfeet, (University of Nebraska Press, 2017). Selected for “New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies Series" edited by Margaret Jacobs and Robert Miller, a joint publication, University of Nebraska Press and the American Philosophical Society.

City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934Rosalyn LaPier and David R.M. Beck, University of Nebraska Press, 2015. Winner of the 2016 Robert G. Athearn Book Award, for best book on history of the 20th century American West.

Blackfeet Vocabulary Terms for Items of Material Culture, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2004.



Chapter, "The American West as Native Space," "Bull Lodge's Life" and the Gros Ventre Narrative Tradition: The Collected Writings of Fred P. Gone ("Many Plumes"), Edited by Joseph P. Gone, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (In-Progress).

Introduction, Blackfoot Country, by Walter Hildebrandt, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, British Columbia, 2107.

Chapter, "American Indian Moving to Cities,” Why You Can't Teach U.S. History Without American Indians, David R.M. Beck and Rosalyn LaPier, Edited by Susan Sleeper-Smith, Juliana Barr, Jean M. O’Brien, Nancy Shoemaker, and Scott Stevens, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Journal Article, "‘One Man Relocation Team:’ Scott Henry Peters and American Indian Migration in the 1930's," Rosalyn LaPier and David R.M. Beck, Western Historical Quarterly, Spring 2014.

Journal Article, "Crossroads for a Culture: American Indians in Progressive Era Chicago," Rosalyn LaPier and David R.M. Beck, Chicago History, Spring 2012.

Section Introduction, "Buffalo Jumps," American Indian Places, edited by Frances H. Kennedy, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Chapter, "Métis Life Along Montana's Front Range," Beyond ... The Shadows of the Rockies: History of the Augusta Area, Augusta MT: Augusta Historical Society, 2007.

Journal article, “An Important Gift: Blackfeet Language and History,” with William Farr, Journal of American Indian Education, 45:2, Fall 2006.

Chapter, “Between Hay and Grass: A Brief History of Two Métis Communities is Central Montana,” in William Furdell, ed., Proceedings of the International Conference of Metis History and Culture. Great Falls: University of Great Falls, 1997.

ARTICLES & COMMENTARY (General Audience):Bitterroot

Commentary, "For Native Americans, A River is More Than a 'Person,' It is Also a Sacred Place," The Conversation, October 8, 2017.

Commentary, "Will Global Warming Change Native Americans Religious Practices," The Conversation, July 6, 2017. (High Country News & Indian Country Media).

Article, "Montana Mussels: Mythology and Ecology," Montana Naturalist, Spring/Summer 2017.

Commentary, "Why Native Americans do not Separate Religion from Science," The Conversation, April 20, 2017. (Indianz.com & Lee Newspapers).

Interview, From Standing Rock to the March For Science with Rosalyn LaPierWild Lens, April 19, 2017.

Interview, March for Science: Interview with Rosalyn LaPier, Harvard Political Review, April 6, 2017.

Commentary, "What makes a mountain, hill or prairie a ‘sacred’ place for Native Americans?The Conversation, February 16, 2017. (Reprinted in Lee Newspapers).

Commentary, "How Standing Rock Became a Site of Pilgrimage," The Conversation, December 6,  2016. (Reprinted in Univision, December 9, 2016 as "Como el Standing Rock se Convirtio en un Lugar de Peregrinacion").

Commentary, "Why Understanding Native American Religion is Important for Resolving the Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis," The Conversation, November 2,  2016. (Reprinted in the Washington Post, November 4, 2016 and Newsweek,  November 6, 2016).

Article, "Smudging: Plants, Purification and Prayer," Montana Naturalist, Spring/Summer 2016.

Article, "What's in a Name?," Montana Naturalist, Spring/Summer 2015.

Article, "Silent, Sacred and Wild," Crown of the Continent Magazine, Spring 2015.

Article, "Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge to Adapt to Climate Change," Environmental Justice in Action, July 1, 2014.

Interview, The Truth About Trees: A Natural and Human History, Film Series and Community Story Project, Spring 2014.

Guest Opinion Column, "Thoughts on What Makes A Place Holy," The Great Falls Tribune, October 24, 2013.

Article, "Montana's Metis People," Montana Naturalist, Winter 2013/2014.

Article, "From the Natural to the Supernatural: Discovering the Piegan People's World View," Montana Naturalist, Winter 2009/2010.

Internet, “Relationship with the Land – Seasonal Round,” Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, www.glenbow.org/blackfoot/teacher_toolkit/pdf/Land_SeasonalRound.pdf, Spring 2006

Article, “Blackfeet Botanist: Annie Mad Plume Wall,” Montana Naturalist, Fall 2005.

Carol Dodge

IN MEDIA (selected):

"Clash Over Bears Ears Tests Years of Progress on Native Spirituality, " The Christian Science Monitor, April 28, 2017.

"For the March for Science Leaders, the Work is Just Beginning," The Chronicles of Higher Education, April 25, 2017. 

"These Native American Scholars Marched for Indigenous Science," Buzzfeed News, April 22, 2017.

"The New Gods: Reforging Harvard Divinity School," Harvard Crimson, February 16, 2017.

"The Dakota Access Pipeline Isn't Just About the Environment. It is About Religion," Washington Post, December 5, 2016.

"Would You Tear Up St. Peter's in Rome? Voices From the Dakota Pipeline Protest," Interfaith Voices Radio, November 25, 2016.

"Saving the Sacred: Standing Rock Sioux Began Protest to Fight for Respect of Culture, Water," Williston Herald, November 11, 2016.


  • Research Associate and Visting Assistant Professor, Women's Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School, 2016-2017
  • Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2015-2018
  • NEH Summer Institute on World Religions, Macalester College, 2017
  • Service Award, Montana Historical Society, 2015
  • University Research Grant, University of Montana, 2014-2015
  • Faculty Professional Enhancement Grant, University of Montana, 2014
  • Humanities Montana Grant, 2014
  • Travel Award, National Science Foundation, STEM Women of Color Conclave, Spring 2012 & Spring 2014
  • Professional Fellow, U.S. Department of State, Economic Empowerment Program for Southeast Asia, Spring 2014
  • International Research Grant, International Studies, University of Montana, Summer 2013

Teaching Experience

Harvard Divinity School

  • HDS 2122 Nature and Native Americans (Spring 2017)

University of Montana

  • ENST 510 Environmental Issues of Native American Communities (Spring)
  • ENST 410 Traditional Environmental Knowledge of Native Americans (Spring, even years)
  • ENST 310 Environment Montana: From Anaconda to Zortman (Spring, odd years)
  • ENST 396/590 Supervised Internship - Native Plant Stewardship & Ethnobotany (Fall)
  • ENST 201 Environmental Information Resources (Fall)

Faculty Advisor, Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Native Peoples Focus Area

Professional Experience

Rosalyn's career has been devoted to creating positive change in Native American communities.

Red Thunder

  • She worked with Piegan Institute and the late Darrell Robes Kipp (Apiniokio Peta) from 1999 to 2013, during that time she raised $4,000,000.00 for Piegan Institute programs to revitalize the Blackfeet language.
  • She is the founder of Saokio Heritage, a community based organization, that works to revitalize traditional knowledge and ethnobotany of northern Great Plains Indigenous peoples.
  • She is a founding member of the National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs, seeks to educate and advocate for the use of Native languages in schools. 

International Experience

Rosalyn has been an invited guest and speaker on community development, ethnobotany or indigenous languages in numerous Indigenous communities in North and South America, including Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezula and Bolivia.


Rosalyn is one of four Native American professors nationally at a research university in an Environmental Studies or Sciences department. She is the first and only Blackfeet tribal member with a tenure track position at the University of Montana.