The Siksika Nation Partners with the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo

By Emil Tiedemann

On February 22, the Siksika Nation Tribal Administration and the WilderInstitute/Calgary Zoo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that seeks to develop a respectful and equitable relationship related to supporting reconciliation and creating opportunities for the Siksika people.

Photo by Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo.


“We are proud to partner with the Siksika Nation to integrate recognition of their long presence on these precious lands into our interpretive programs, particularly in the Canadian Wilds, and to create opportunities to advance understanding and reconciliation,” stated Clément Lanthier, the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo’s President and CEO.

The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo is the rebranded Calgary Zoo Foundation and is focused on all conservation aspects of the zoo, which dates back to 1929. “Together, we will continue to be a force of nature for making the world a wilder place,” stated the Office of Chief and Council Government of Siksika Nation.

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo has acknowledged that the zoo’s location is close to the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers on the historical lands of the Blackfoot.

For hundreds of years, this area – known as Moh-kíns-tsis in Blackfoot – was a traditional meeting place of the First Nations people, before the arrival of European settlers. The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo hopes to build upon this historic tradition and build a strong partnership with the Siksika Nation.

“By working together,” Lanthier continued, “we hope to honour the history of stewardship of the Siksika Nation, a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy.”

One of the ways that this historic agreement is expected to help build this new partnership is through an annual meeting to hear updates from the zoo about its conservation programs. Access to jobs, as well as training and education opportunities, would also be discussed at the meetings.

The goal is to not only to educate but also to engage the youth of the Siksika Nation in discussions around conservation of their land, as well as inspiring Indigenous youths to possibly explore a career in animal welfare and conservation.

“We look forward to building a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding,” stated Chief Ouray Crowfoot of the Siksika Nation. “There is a lot we can learn from an organization such as the Calgary Zoo, and there is much traditional knowledge we can share with the Calgary Zoo, especially as it pertains to the lands and animals native to the area the Calgary Zoo now calls home.

“As we continue to build strong partnerships, it creates an atmosphere of growth and opportunities for our People. We are excited to see this partnership grow, for the betterment of the Siksika, Calgary Zoo, Calgarians, and all Albertans.”

The Siksika Nation has a population of around 7,800 and is part of the Siksikaitsitapi-Blackfoot Confederacy. It is located approximately 95 km east of Calgary. 

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