The Wild Rockies Field Institute’s mission is to offer field courses that “develop engaged, informed citizens and strong leaders capable of addressing complex social and environmental issues.” In order to achieve this mission and truly engage in critical thinking about the world we inhabit, we MUST acknowledge that we are participants in an industry—outdoor, environmental education—that has historically served an overwhelmingly privileged—white, straight, cisgender, male—population.
We are fierce advocates of place-based learning. Outdoor exploration helps students cultivate meaningful connections between people and places and empower them to become informed, compassionate leaders. Though there is more work to be done, WRFI is striving to ensure that these experiences are equally accessible to students of all ages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and cultural identities.
Students deserve to see themselves reflected in both their peers and leaders. They deserve representation in their fellow students and instructors. WRFI is dedicated to hiring and training a staff and instructor team composed of individuals that reflect our country’s diversity. We are committed to continuously improving strategies to encourage participation by students from diverse backgrounds, and to closing the equity gap in access to outdoor, environmental education opportunities at the college level.
Public lands belong to everyone, and our explorations of the rural West should be accessible to all people. WRFI acknowledges that our courses are incomplete without a diversity of perspectives on the issues we study. We must encourage and celebrate diversity in our students, instructors, guest speakers, and authors of course readings. We must encourage and highlight diversity in the voices that join our conversations and participate in the activities we pursue.
WRFI recognizes that people do not live with equal access and opportunity to the types of experiences our organization offers. We commit to actions that proactively remove barriers that prevent individuals of diverse backgrounds from participating in WRFI experiences. We pledge to continue learning, and doing what we can to close the equity gap in outdoor education.
WRFI will strive for better representation of diverse perspectives, particularly at the leadership level. We endeavor to implement policies that cultivate safe, healthy, and inclusive learning environments for people of all ages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, races, and cultural identities to participate in our courses and organizational management.
The University of Montana is an equal opportunity education provider and will provide reasonable modifications for any student taking this course for academic credit. Students with disabilities, who are taking courses through the Wild Rockies Field Institute, may request reasonable modifications by contacting our office at least one month in advance of their course start date.
WRFI is an equal opportunity provider and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify or expression, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability unrelated to employment or admission requirements.
WRFI warmly welcomes and encourages participation on our courses from members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are committed to LGBTQIA+ equality through education, support, awareness and representation.
Our staff and board receive Ally Training from the University of Montana to learn how to take an active role in upholding and fostering a culture of safety and inclusion.
Bigotry and discrimination of any kind is not tolerated on a WRFI course. We also know and understand that language matters. Check out these guides from myprounouns.org and GLESEN regarding gender inclusive language.
WRFI explores complex conservation and rural development issues in the American West. For more than twenty-five years we’ve visited with indigenous families, organizations, and government leaders to hear and value their perspectives on these issues. To maintain these relationships, we:
• Practice respect
• Practice humility and acknowledge the limits of our understanding
• Highlight the diversity among Indigenous perspectives
• Value Indigenous Knowledge and its Holders
• Reciprocate with gifts, honorariums, and service
• Focus on present-day issues, with appropriate historical context
• Support Indigenous-owned businesses
• Ask about and abide by cultural norms with regards to taking photos, sharing stories and locations, visiting or avoiding certain places, etc.
WRFI students and instructors DO NOT “play Indian,” overly romanticize the experience, parachute-in with our own agenda, nor do we frame Native Americans and their issues as happening only in the past. WRFI instructors who are not Indigenous will not directly teach Traditional Knowledge—that is for Indigenous Knowledge Holders to do at their own discretion.
With guidance from WRFI’s Native American Studies Advisor, we work with Indigenous community leaders to update reading materials and focus on issues important to the communities we visit. We also work to maintain connections with guest speakers throughout the year and develop MOUs with American Indian Nations. WRFI currently holds a Partnership Agreement with the Fort Belknap Indian Community, which our students visit on the Montana Afoot and Afloat course.
The Wild Rockies Field Institute acknowledges that our headquarters is located on the aboriginal land of the Selis Qlispe (Salish). Our courses visit traditional territories of many indigenous peoples including the Ktunaxa (Kootenai); Shuswap; Siksika, Piikani, Kaiani, and Blackfeet Nation (Blackfoot Confederacy); Nakota & Aaniiih (Fort Belknap Indian Community); Tsis tsis’tas (Northern Cheyenne Nation); Apsáalooke (Crow Nation); Anishinaabe & Metis (Little Shell Chippewa); Tukudeka (Shoshone-Bannock); Hopi; Dine (Navajo); Ashiwi (Zuni); Havasu ‘Baaja (Havasupi); Hualapai; Ute; Apache; Southern Paiute; and others that we may be ignorant of.