The Blackfeet people have utilized the Badger-Two Medicine region for more than 10,000 years. Adjacent to Glacier National Park, this sacred area is threatened by oil and gas leases that were granted illegally in the 1980s.
For the past 30 years, the Blackfeet Nation has called for the cancellation of these leases. In 2015 the tribe renewed its effort by launching a public campaign, and we were honored to help.
Building the campaign
To kick off the campaign, we developed visually compelling materials to build partnerships with tribes and tribal organizations, unlikely allies, and elected officials. The materials, including a billboard, web page, and brochure, described Blackfeet’s cultural and spiritual connections to the land and what would be lost were drilling allowed.
Then, we helped bring together an alliance of tribes, Native organizations (e.g., the National Congress of American Indians), local business owners, and faith leaders. We also engaged conservation groups and some unexpected allies (hello, Pearl Jam!), and brought the issue to Montana’s congressional leadership, which led to the eventual support of Senator Jon Tester.
Taking the story public, we organized a teleconference with media reporters, which led to more than 50 media stories and 50 million media impressions. As a result of this work, the tribe’s Change.org petition attracted more than 7,000 supporters.
Leveraging national partnerships
The work to create partnerships paid off. Tribal allies rallied their own communities and followers to garner national attention, off and online. Pearl Jam alone spread the word to its 13 million Facebook and Twitter followers. Meanwhile, Senator Tester’s support led to meetings with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.
Shortly after, the U.S. Department of the Interior canceled the Solenex oil and gas drilling lease.
In November 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior cancelled 15 more leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, followed by the final two being cancelled in January 2017.
Cancellation of the final oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine is a long-awaited and hard-fought victory, and it ensures the area’s protection for future generations of Blackfeet people.