Master’s Thesis

My master’s thesis uses a framework of political ecology, the politics of setter-colonialism, and critical border studies to analyze the 49th parallel as a site of geographic containment and contestation.

I was a student researcher, under the supervision of Dr. Libby Lunstrum, with the Canadian Conservation in a Global Context project at York University. I successfully defended my thesis on December 17, 2019.

My thesis won the York University 2020 Paul Simpson-Housley Award. The award is given to a master’s student, nominated by their examination committee, for an outstanding thesis written and successfully defended during the previous academic year. The award recognizes high quality, original research and writing.


The international US-Canada border divides and dissects the ancestral territory of the Siksikaitsitapi Indigenous nations. This thesis examines Siksikaitsitapi experiences of the border as a settler-colonial method of containment and their resistance to these processes through the re-introduction of the buffalo. The re-introduction of the buffalo to Siksikaitsitapi territory represents Siksikaitsitapi worldviews and relationship to the lands which extend across and beyond the imposed border. The buffalo are powerful within Siksikaitsitapi ways of knowing, and their return signifies a resilience in a host of sacred, social, cultural, and traditional principles that underpin Siksikaitsitapi life. This study shows that through the cross-border movement of the free-roaming buffalo, the Siksikaitsitapi are asserting their ongoing presence, relationship to the land, and sovereignty by using Indigenous-led conservation to challenge the divisive nature of the border. This research highlights how Siksikaitsitapi thought and worldviews are continuous and offer a sustainable and meaningful practice for conservation governance.

Thesis Statement

The Iinnii Initiative and the return of the buffalo represents the ongoing survivance and resistance of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It substantively and symbolically challenges colonial spatial logics of containment and instead reasserts Blackfoot territory and sacred social relationships to ancestral land which spans across and beyond the border.