India Study Abroad
The Indian Himalaya Field Course is an exciting study abroad opportunity, which has been exploring the wonders of the Indian subcontinent and local mountain cultures for over a decade. The program is run in conjuncture with the University of Montana and introduces students to the Garhwal region of the Indian Himalaya. The study abroad spends time trekking and living in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve experiencing the area’s unique physical and cultural landscapes. Student learn through extensive readings, class discussions, direct field experience (including living in a remote mountain village), meetings with development officials, sustainability activists and stakeholders in the region. Students can earn six (6) University of Montana credits by taking two complementary courses – Himalayan Environment and Development and Tourism and Livelihoods and Sustainability in the Himalaya.
“Trekking in the Indian Himalaya was truly life changing. Not only did it introduce me to a beautiful culture, but it helped foster an understanding of human-environment interactions while experiencing it first-hand! I was humbled in the Himalayas in an eye opening adventure.” — Julie Jezierski (2010)
“It is impossible to go on this trip and come back the same person. I sat in a fire-lit dirt-floor kitchen in a village hut with a Indo-Tibetan family and learned about life as a herder in the high Himalayas. It was certainly not on our itinerary, but it was one of the greatest learning experiences I have ever had.” — David Cogswell (2009)
Mountain 2 Mountain:
Mountain 2 mountain is the overarching program which connects the Missoula and surrounding community with the Garhwal region of India. In the past this program has worked with Indian guides to help them obtain the skills and training needed to compete for international tourists within the global market place by helping organize wilderness medical training (Wilderness First Responders – WFR’s) and recertification for guides in the Garhwal. Ongoing projects include:
Gear for the Garhwal
This program has been an ongoing project. It collects used and donated outdoor, survival and medical supplies from the local US based community and delivering it to the Mountain Shepherds organization in the Garhwal. This program has been incredibly well supported helping to stock the community owned eco-tourism guides in India with the needed goods. The last campaign focused on climbing and skiing equipment – some of which helped save lives in the recent floods in the Garhwal.
Womens Handicraft Project
The Handicraft Project focuses on developing a retail outlet for Garhwali rungs in the United States. This is a money generating opportunity for village women. Village women stated in a study that for them empowerment meant getting their hand woven rungs to market, and sold for cash. The handicraft project is an attempt to work with these women to achieve their empowerment goals. So far we have focused on developing the markets to appeal to a western audience through the help of a woolen handicraft expert and doing rug sales in Missoula. Geoff Sutton has been and continues to be instrumental in this effort.
Cross cultural capacity building: Landscape conservation and climate change adaptation with the Blackfeet Nation
The purpose of the project is to increase the “cross cultural capacity” (Craig et al. 2012:241) of indigenous and non-indigenous groups to collaborate on climate adaptation in the Crown of the Continent (CoC). In order to achieve this purpose, the objectives of this project are to conduct a pilot study 1) to identify the necessary protocols for collaboration between the Blackfeet Nation and government and non-government agencies active in the CoC, and 2) to identify the priorities of the Blackfeet Nation in climate change adaptation. The outcomes of this project will include both written and presented material on the priorities of, and protocols for working with the Blackfeet Nation, including a widely distributed public brochure, local community presentations, and national academic presentations. This project has been heavily supported by the Crown of the Continent Roundtable and the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Initiating Community Tourism from within the Amskapi Pikuni Nation
This venture is focused on developing community owned and directed ecotourism. A group of community members form the Amskapi Pikuni (the southernmost band of the Blackfeet) are interested in helping guide tourists on Blackfeet land. This project is well underway after a member of the Mountain Shepherds, a community owned and operated ecotourism company from Northern India, came to Blackfeet country in the spring of 2015 to share tips and lessons learned from their experiences.