Environmental Studies Faculty

Rosalyn La Pier

Rosalyn La Pier

Associate Professor

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

Fall 2018: Tuesdays 10am to 12noon, or by appointment.

Personal Website

Current Position

Permanent Appointment:

  • Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, University of Montana

Visiting Appointments:

  • Visiting Scholar, East West Center, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 2018-2019
  • Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 2015-2018
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Women's Studies Program, Harvard Divinity School, 2016-2017

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 environmental history. She is also a science communicator. She writes for non-experts about natural science and Indigenous world view. As a longtime activist, her passions include the revitalization of Indigenous languages and Indigenous knowledge. Dr. LaPier is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana and Métis. Hear her story on Spark Science.


  • Ph.D., History, University of Montana
  • B.A., Physics, Colorado College

Research Interests

  • BitterrootEthnobotany & Botany
  • Natural History & Science
  • Social Movements & Activism


Fellow, "Willow AGEP Alliance," to increase success of Native American 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, 2014-2018.

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. Finalist for the High Plains Book Award.

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, "Protest as Pilgrimage: From Idle No More to Standing Rock," Grappling with the Global Ethic: Multi-Religious Perspectives on Global Issues, Edited by Myriam Renaud, (In-Progress). 

Cover of the book Blackfoot CountryChapter, "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

"How the Loss of Native American Languages Affects Our Understanding of the Natural World," The Conversation, October 5, 2018.

"Why Native Americans Struggle to Protect Their Sacred Places," The Conversation, August 1, 2018.

Interview, “Indigenous People’s Religion is Forced to Adapt,” Top of Mind with Julie Rose, BYU Radio, July 2, 2018. 

"How Native American Food is Tied to Important Sacred Stories," The Conversation, June 15, 2018. (Also in Yes! Magazine.)

Interview, Ethnobotanist - Dr. Rosalyn LaPier, Spark Science Podcast, April 15, 2018.

Public Service Announcement, Women's History Month: Rosalyn LaPier, Olivia Hallisey and Rumman Chowdhury, #SeeHer Campaign, CBS Corporation, March 2, 2018.

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

Why is Water Sacred to Native Americans?Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, No. 8, Fall 2017. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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").

"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).

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

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

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

"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.

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

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

On-line curriculum, “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

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

Carol Dodge

IN MEDIA (selected):

"Five Questions for Rosalyn LaPier about Native Americans in Science," UnDark, March 9, 2018.

"How Indigenous Knowledge Is Transforming the March for Science," Yes!, April 13, 2018.

"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 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.


  • George M. Dennison Presidential Faculty Award for Distinguished Accomplishment, University of Montana, 2018
  • 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

Teaching Experience

University of Montana

  • ENST 510 Environmental Issues of Native American Communities (Spring, even years)
  • ENST 594 Environmental Health in Indigenous Communities (Spring, odd years)
  • 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 & Spring)
  • ENST 201 Environmental Information Resources (Fall)

Harvard Divinity School

  • HDS 2122 Nature and Native Americans (Spring 2017)

Rosalyn has 16 years of teaching experience, including 8 years at a tribal college and 2 years with UM's Native American Studies. She joined UM's Environmental Studies in 2012.

Professional Experience

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

Red Thunder

  • She is the founder of Saokio Heritage, a community based organization that works to revitalize Indigenous knowledge, language and food systems of northern Plains Indigenous peoples.
  • She is a founding member of the National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs, a national organization that seeks to advocate for Native language medium schools.
  • She worked with Piegan Institute and the late Darrell Robes Kipp (Apiniokio Peta) from 1999 to 2014, during that time she raised $4,000,000.00 for Piegan Institute programs to revitalize the Blackfeet language. 

International Experience

Rosalyn has been an invited guest and speaker 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 enrolled Blackfeet tribal member with a tenure track position at the University of Montana.