Latrice Tatsey

Latrice Tatsey, a registered member of the Amskapiipkini (Blackfeet) Nation, first came to MSU as an undergraduate student, earning her BS in Natural Resources and Rangeland Ecology in 2012. Currently, she is a graduate student in Land Resources and Environmental Sciences studying how the reintroduction of in-nii (American Bison) contributes to changes in soil characteristics. After near extinction due to forages by cattle operations and settlement on the great plains, the in-nii (American Bison) are slowly returning to Native American tribes who have the resources to run reintroduction programs. The return of the in-nii (American Bison) for the Amskapiipkini (Blackfeet) means cultural healing. Researching how the return of the in-nii (American Bison) will influence soil, plant, water, energy, and mineral cycles shows the relationship the in-nii (American Bison) have to the land. After graduation, Latrice wants to continue to conduct research involving land and creating ways to be better land stewards so that we can protect Mother Earth for future generations. Recently, Latrice spoke to us about her research, her experience at MSU, and her love of her culture and the in-nii (American Bison).

Tell us a little bit about your experience at MSU.

I found that MSU provided a great support system with many opportunities for students’ success, which help me to stay focused and reach my goals. MSU is known for the research students do, and I’ve always felt supported by the many programs that offer Native American Students the opportunities to focus on research within their own Native Communities. When the opportunity arose for me to start at graduate program at MSU I couldn’t turn it down, as I knew it would open up many doors for my future.

Being a graduate student can be challenging, but the last few years while you have been working on your degree, Covid-19 has brought even greater challenge to the experience. What keeps you going?

I have faced many challenges while pursuing my degree but, I’ve never quit. My main reason for not giving up on my goals and aspirations is for my children Cassie, Terrance, and Baeley. They have been apart of my educational journey, and we made so many sacrifices together that it would be right if I didn’t give them credit.

If there was one thing that we needed to know in order to know Latrice Tatsey, what would it be?

That I love to be in Badger Creek with my family and spending time with them horseback riding and  looking at the teepee rings and buffalo jumps that surround our ranch. This would have not been possible if my grandparents and father had chosen to live a different lifestyle. Because of my upbringing, I was immersed in our Amskapikani cultural science while riding horse back with my father as a young child learning about our land and why our people where so connected to the land, animals, and all the blessing from Mother Earth. . . . When I feel lost I just go to my happy place on foot or preferred on horses and just sit and look at all the blessing that surround me.

Can you tell us about your research and how you see it making a difference in our world?

Long ago, In-nii (American Bison) migrated all over the North American great plains influencing soil health, landscapes, ecosystems and the Native American people who depended on the animals for their survival. The in-nii (American Bison) are slowly returning to Native American tribes who have the resources to run reintroduction programs like the Amskapiipkini (Blackfeet) after the animals had almost gone extinct due to forages by cattle operations and settlement on the great plains. The return of the in-nii (American Bison) for the Amskapiipkini (Blackfeet) also means cultural healing. Researching the return of the in-nii (American Bison) and what their influences will be to soil, plant, water, energy, and mineral cycles will show the relationship the in-nii (American Bison) have to the land.

My main research question is how the reintroduction of in-nii (American Bison) contributes to changes in soil characteristics. Historical movement of the in-nii (American Bison) on the landscapes influenced soil health, nutrient inputs and nutrient cycling. I will investigate specific factors such as the addition of organic materials to the soil, compacting of the soil by herd movement, and grazing habits. The research site locations are on the Blackfeet Reservation and consist of one in-nii (American Bison) pasture located on the Blackfeet Buffalo Ranch and one cattle pasture located on the RRJ ranch. The in-nii (American Bison) and cattle share boarding pastures in the winter and summer months at two different locations offering a unique understanding the relationship these animals have to the land and soil nutrient cycles. 

Because this is Native American History month, we would love to hear from you about what resources you would recommend to American Indian and Alaska Native students or to those who would like to learn more about American Indian culture in Montana.

I would encourage students to be open minded when learning about Native Americans cultures and traditions. We are in a time where the truth of our histories can be learned from and create opportunities for all to learn from and gain understanding. Students can take Native American Studies classes from MSU and partake in the annual pow-wow hosted by the American Indian Council. There is such a diversity of Native American Tribes represented at MSU; anyone who looks in different departments on campus will find Native American Students who are doing research and creating meaningful work that will benefit their communities when they graduate and return to help their people prosper. It must be noted that we are survivors of our ancestors who were in residential/boarding schools, where the theme was to kill the Indian to save the man. We must honor those who lost their lives and continue to bring healing to our Native American Communities while proving the strength gained from our ancestors. As Native Americans Students we have a role and responsibility to our children to ensure that we create a path that will allow them to flourish in all their aspirations and to listen to our elders as they are the gate keepers to the knowledge that keeps us connected to our cultures.

You are graduating very soon! What is your next step after graduation? 

I want to take the time after I graduate to appreciate how far I have come as it has been a journey that has helped me grow as a person mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I will then continue to work with organizations that want to bring opportunities to the Blackfeet Nation. I want to continue to do research that involves land and creating ways to be better land stewards so that we can protect Mother Earth for future generations so that they can prosper and enjoy a healthy ecosystem. I feel it is a part of my responsibility to ensure that I care for the lands as my ancestors have done before me so that I could have the life that I do. I wouldn’t be as far in my life if I wouldn’t have come to MSU for my academics and for that I will always be thankful and will continue to support this school.