Tribes from US, Canada sign bison treaty.

Tribes from US, Canada sign bison treaty.

By Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.

Leaders of 11 tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.

It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.

The long-term aim of Tuesday’s “Buffalo Treaty” is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international border and restore the bison’s central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many American Indian tribes and First Nations — a Canadian synonym for native tribes.

Such a sweeping vision could take many years to realize, particularly in the face of potential opposition from the livestock industry. But supporters said they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.

“The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you,” said Leroy Little Bear, a member of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony.

“Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs — those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo,” said Little Bear, a professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge.

Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before the West was settled. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions.

There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.

Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison due to concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved — the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations — were among those signing Tuesday’s treaty.

Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes.

“They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way,” Aune said. “We’re recreating history, but this time on (the tribes’) terms.”

The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the U.S. and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune’s group.

Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.

“I can’t say how many years. It’s going to be a while and of course there’s such big resistance in Montana against buffalo,” said Ervin Carlson a Blackfeet member and president of the 56-tribe InterTribal buffalo council. “But within our territory, hopefully, someday.”

Source: sfgate

Native tribes from Canada, U.S. sign treaty to restore bison to Great Plains

Native-tribes-from-Canada-U.S.-sign-treaty-to-restore-bison-to-Great-Plains

Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mon. — Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.

Leaders of about a dozen tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.

It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.

The long-term aim of Tuesday’s “Buffalo Treaty” is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international border and restore the bison’s central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many American Indian tribes and First Nations — a Canadian synonym for native tribes.

Such a sweeping vision could take many years to realize, particularly in the face of potential opposition from the livestock industry. But supporters said they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.

“The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you,” said Leroy Little Bear, a member of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony.

“Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs — those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo,” said Little Bear, a professor emeritus of Native American studies at the University of Lethbridge.

Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before the West was settled. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions.

There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.

Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison due to concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved — the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations — were among those signing Tuesday’s treaty.

Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes.

“They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way,” Aune said. “We’re recreating history, but this time on (the tribes’) terms.”

The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the U.S. and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune’s group.

Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.

Interior Releases New Bison Management Report Reaffirming Tribal Commitment

 The U.S. Department of the Interior has released a plan to preserve and restore bison populations to the wild.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has released a plan to preserve and restore bison populations to the wild.

 

The Department of the Interior has reaffirmed its commitment to restore bison to “appropriate and well-managed levels on public and tribal lands” by working with states, tribes and other partners.

“The Interior Department has more than a century-long legacy of conserving the North American bison, and we will continue to pursue the ecological and cultural restoration of the species on behalf of the American public and American Indian tribes who have a special connection to this iconic animal,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a June 30 statement announcing the release of a report, DOI Bison Report: Looking Forward, which outlines plans to work with tribes, states, landowners, conservation groups, commercial bison producers and agricultural interests to restore the bison population to a “proper ecological and cultural role on appropriate landscapes within its historical range,” the DOI statement said.

“This report reaffirms our commitment to work with many partners to ensure healthy, ranging bison contribute not only to the conservation of the species, but also to sustainable local and regional economies and communities,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson in the statement.

A key component of the report addresses recent developments regarding brucellosis quarantine that could allow for the relocation of Yellowstone bison outside the Greater outside the Greater Yellowstone Area, if they are quarantined and determined to be brucellosis-free. A new protocol developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and introduced in February strongly suggests that this is indeed possible.

“The results of this study indicate that under the right conditions, there is an opportunity to produce live brucellosis-free bison from even a herd with a large number of infected animals like the one in Yellowstone National Park,” said Dr. Jack Rhyan, APHIS Veterinary Officer, in a WCS statement in February. “Additionally, this study was a great example of the benefits to be gained from several agencies pooling resources and expertise to research the critical issue of brucellosis in wildlife.”

RELATED: Yellowstone Bison Slaughter Over, Controversy Remains

The new information “raises the potential that for the first time in over a half century, Yellowstone bison could once again contribute to the broader conservation of the species beyond the Greater Yellowstone Area without spreading brucellosis,” the DOI said in its statement. “When evaluating whether to implement a brucellosis quarantine program in the future, Interior will follow all necessary processes to ensure full involvement by states, tribes, and the public.”

As such, the department said it was unwaveringly committed to working with tribes to restore bison on public and tribal lands “because of its cultural, religious, nutritional, and economic importance to many tribes.”

The American buffalo, which numbered an estimated 40 million when Europeans first arrived on Turtle Island, had been reduced to 25 by the late 19th century, Interior noted. Since then many parties have worked hard to bring them back from the brink of extinction and reintroduce them to tribal lands.

“Interior lands now support 17 bison herds in 12 states for a total of approximately 10,000 bison over 4.6 million acres of Interior and adjacent lands, accounting for one third of all bison managed for conservation in North America,” the department said.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/07/03/interior-releases-new-bison-management-report-reaffirming-tribal-commitment-155615

Senators want bison declared national mammal

Enlarge PhotoFILE - This Sept. 23, 2012 file photo shows buffalo in Custer State Park in western South Dakota. U.S. senators from the Dakotas and other areas are making another attempt at having the bison declared the national mammal. Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are among those introducing the National Bison Legacy Act on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Amber Hunt, File)

Enlarge Photo
FILE – This Sept. 23, 2012 file photo shows buffalo in Custer State Park in western South Dakota. U.S. senators from the Dakotas and other areas are making another attempt at having the bison declared the national mammal. Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are among those introducing the National Bison Legacy Act on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Amber Hunt, File)

 

By DIRK LAMMERS, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Senators from the Dakotas are among those making another attempt to have the bison declared the national mammal, citing the animal’s historical significance and importance to Native Americans.

South Dakota’s Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson said the goal is to recognize its cultural, ecological and economic impact.

“The bison has played an important role in our nation’s history, holds spiritual significance to Native American cultures, and remains one of our most iconic and enduring symbols,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson, along with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., are among the co-sponsors of the National Bison Legacy Act set to be introduced Wednesday. The bill is backed by the Rapid City-based Intertribal Buffalo Council, which includes 57 tribes, and the National Bison Association.

If passed, the largely ceremonial designation would give the animal more recognition but not any added protection. Similar legislation introduced in 2012 stalled in Congress.

Tens of millions of bison once roamed most of North America but overhunting reduced the population to about 1,000 animals by the turn of the 20th century. Conservationists including President Theodore Roosevelt created the American Bison Society in 1905 to save the species from extinction, re-establishing herds in Oklahoma, Montana and South Dakota.

About 400,000 bison now roam pastures and rangelands across North America. Johnson also noted that bison production has become an important agricultural endeavor as demand for the meat rises.

Keith Aune, bison program director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said buffalo helped shape the vegetation and landscape when they dominated the prairie grasslands. Bison were also important to many American Indian tribes, who killed the animals for food and materials to make clothing and shelter.

“They were a force of nature,” Aune said. “They weren’t animals just wandering around eating grass. Bison are woven into the fabric of our society in many, many ways.”

Hoeven said North Dakota’s history is closely associated with the bison, largely because of Roosevelt’s influence.

“His efforts to protect these majestic animals helped to retrieve them from the brink of extinction and established them as one of the most powerful and inspiring symbols of the American spirit, for Native Americans and settlers alike,” Hoeven said in a statement.

A resolution co-sponsored by Johnson designating November 2, 2013, as “National Bison Day” passed the Senate last year.

17 more bison shipped to slaughter

 

Billings Gazette Feb 19, 2014  •  By Brett French

BRETT FRENCH/Gazette Staff Bison wander back toward Yellowstone National Park from outside the park’s northern border in the Gardiner Basin recently. The park continues to ship bison to slaughter to reduce the number of animals in the park.

BRETT FRENCH/Gazette Staff
Bison wander back toward Yellowstone National Park from outside the park’s northern border in the Gardiner Basin recently. The park continues to ship bison to slaughter to reduce the number of animals in the park.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes trucked 17 more Yellowstone National Park bison from the park’s Stephens Creek bison capture facility to a slaughter facility in Ronan on Wednesday.

The tribes pay a game warden to ride along with the shipment of animals to shoot them if there is an accident and the bison escape from the trailer, a requirement of the Montana Department of Livestock.

That requirement was unknown to the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, which had agreed to take any bison not wanted by Yellowstone treaty tribes. Initially, the DOL offered to provide one of its employees to ride along at a cost of $350 a trip. When the council balked at the cost, Yellowstone on Wednesday agreed to pay, said Christian Mackay, executive officer for the DOL.

“It’s not an insurmountable problem by any means,” Mackay said. “We have some loads scheduled this week to go out.”

Jim Stone, executive director of the buffalo council, said such “annoying” issues are roadblocks to fulfilling agreements under the Interagency Bison Management Plan and he called into question the DOL’s role in the process.

To date, tribal and state hunters have killed 162 bison, said Tom McDonald of the confederated tribes’ natural resources office. The Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Umatilla tribes are still conducting hunts. Montana-licensed hunters took 29 bison this season.

Last week, the confederated tribes transported another 20 bison from Yellowstone to slaughter and five were transferred to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for research. According to a Park Service spokesman, about 70 to 75 bison are now in the Stephens Creek corral. The bison were not hazed into the facility. Another 50 to 70 bison have moved past the park’s northern boundary in the Gardiner Basin while about 400 have gathered in the park roughly between the towns of Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo.

Yellowstone officials want to remove 300 to 600 bison in consecutive years to reduce the size of the park’s herds to meet the terms of an agreement with the state of Montana. Bison advocacy groups have decried the move, saying a target population of 3,000 to 3,500 bison in the park is not based on the carrying capacity of the range. This summer the park’s bison herd was estimated at 4,600 animals.

Bison advocates would like to see the animals given more room to roam outside Yellowstone and a quarantine process enacted to transfer live animals to existing tribal bison herds. Those efforts have been fought by the livestock industry since many of the bison carry brucellosis, which can cause pregnant cattle to abort.

Defenders of Wildlife said 56,000 people had emailed Gov. Steve Bullock asking him to intervene and halt the slaughter.

McDonald said confederated tribes are taking bison to slaughter for hunters who were unsuccessful in filling their bison hunting tags. The hunters pay for the cost of shipping, slaughtering and butchering of the bison.

“When it’s all said and done, people love bison meat and are willing to pay a premium,” McDonald said. “Ninety-seven percent of the people who return to eating bison find it exceptional.”

He added that the hunts have been “self-esteem builders” for the parties of hunters that travel to Yellowstone’s borders.

“It’s almost a healing kind of thing,” McDonald said.

Yellowstone bison slaughter begins

By Matthew Brown, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Yellowstone National Park transferred 20 bison to a Montana Indian tribe for slaughter on Wednesday, marking the first such action this winter under a plan to drastically reduce the size of the largest genetically pure bison population in the U.S.

The transfer was first disclosed by the Buffalo Field Campaign, a wildlife advocacy group, and confirmed by park officials.

Five more bison that had been captured were to be turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday for use in an experimental animal contraception program, said park spokesman Al Nash.

Yellowstone administrators plan to slaughter up to 600 bison this winter if harsh weather conditions inside the 2.2-million-acre park spur a large migration of the animals to lower elevations in Montana. It’s part of a multiyear plan to reduce the population from an estimated 4,600 animals to about 3,000, under an agreement between federal and state officials signed in 2000.

Tens of millions of bison once roamed the North American Plains before overhunting drove them to near extinction by the early 1900s. Yellowstone is one of the few places where they survive in the wild.

James Holt, a member of Idaho’s Nez Perce tribe and board member for the Buffalo Field Campaign, said the park’s population target was an arbitrary number that threatens to infringe on treaty hunting rights held by his and other tribes. Members of those tribes travel hundreds of miles every winter for the chance to harvest bison.

Holt said many tribes have a sacred, spiritual connection with the animals because American Indians historically depended on them for food and clothing.

“We’re talking about the last free-roaming herd here,” he said. “It does them a disservice and is a disrespect to them that they are being treated in this manner.”

But Montana’s livestock industry has little tolerance for bison because of concerns over disease and competition with cattle for grass.

Steps taken by former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to give bison more room to roam outside the park have yielded mixed results, with ranchers and local officials pushing back.

The last major bison slaughter occurred in the winter of 2008, when 1,600 were killed. Schweitzer later placed a temporary moratorium on the practice that has since expired.

The latest group of bison destined for slaughter was transferred to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Nash said hundreds more bison remain clustered near the park’s northern boundary, where the 25 animals were captured Friday after they wandered into a holding facility. That sets the stage for potentially more shipments to slaughter in coming days and weeks if more bison start to move into Montana.

“We’re set up and ready to go should we see bison come down in significant numbers,” Nash said.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/02/12/2980929/yellowstone-bison-slaughter-begins.html#storylink=cpy

Prehistoric bison slaughter site uncovered in MT

Source: The Buffalo Post

Crews working to build a new dormitory for a boarding school on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana have unearthed a prehistoric bison slaughter site.

An excavation team from the Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Office works on unearthing a bison processing site at the foot of a buffalo jump on the Blackfeet Boarding School campus in August. / (Photo by Rion Sanders, Great Falls Tribune)

An excavation team from the Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Office works on unearthing a bison processing site at the foot of a buffalo jump on the Blackfeet Boarding School campus in August. / (Photo by Rion Sanders, Great Falls Tribune)
The discovery prompted the tribal government there to issue a resolution ordering the BIA to stop construction.

David Murray, of the Great Falls Tribune, has the full story:

      Blackfeet tribal officials allege the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to conduct a proper environmental assessment of the site before initiating the project or to consult with the tribe regarding their plans to build a new dormitory at the Cut Bank Boarding School. If true, the BIA would be in violation of both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The construction project sits immediately adjacent to a well-known prehistoric bison jump that was extensively excavated in the 1950s

“It’s kind of a big thing because the BIA never really consulted at all with us,” said Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. “There’s been a stop order placed on all work and for people not to enter the site. They’ve halted everything down there and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office has secured the site because people were trying to steal some of the artifacts.”

Hundreds of pounds of bison bones have been discovered at the site.

      One Blackfeet archaeologist called the Boarding School site a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery.

Sharp said construction work at the site has been halted for a minimum of two weeks while tribal officials attempt to sort out how to proceed. The tribal council is hoping Department of Interior officials from Washington, D.C., will travel to the Blackfeet Reservation to view the excavation and consult with tribal officials.

34 wild bison released on Montana Indian reservation

34 genetically pure bison were released into a 1,000 acre pasture Aug. 22, 2013, on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana.(Photo: Rion Sanders, Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune)

34 genetically pure bison were released into a 1,000 acre pasture Aug. 22, 2013, on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana.(Photo: Rion Sanders, Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune)

 

 

 

 

These bison have no cattle genes, are closest to ones that used to roam the Great Plains.

Karl Puckett, Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune  August 23, 2013

FORT BELKNAP AGENCY, Mont. — Genetically pure bison are back at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation after a century’s absence.

Tribal officials released 34 wild bison Thursday that were free of cattle genes.

“It’s a great day for Indians and Indian Country,” said Mark Azure, who heads the bison program for the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes that call the 1,055-square-mile reservation home.

Soon, animals in the herd were just brown specks on the horizon.

The bison were transported from Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Last year, officials from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks transplanted 70 bison from Yellowstone National Park to Fort Peck, ultimately planning to transport half of those to Fort Belknap. The Yellowstone animals are remnants of pure bison that once roamed the entire state.

Legal action from ranching and property-rights interests held up the transfer to Fort Belknap. But earlier this summer, the Montana Supreme Court said the transfers were legal, setting up Thursday’s bison return.

“It helped us, our ancestors, survive out here on the prairie,” Azure said of the bison. “So to be able to take that next step and return the favor, so to speak, it feels good.”

Of the 34 bison released in a 1,000-acre pasture with an 8-foot fence, all but two were hauled in a semi-trailer. Two big bulls were separated from the herd and transported separately. One cow was injured and was not released.

Tribal officials see the animals as a way to help manage bison that leave Yellowstone Park each year and are hazed or killed. They also hope to perpetuate long-term survival of the species in Montana.

Fort Belknap will manage a herd of about 150 of the wild bison and use them as seed stock for other agencies or tribes looking to reintroduce bison, said Mike Fox, a tribal councilman for the northern Montana reservation that has about 7,000 enrolled members.

“On the cultural side, they took care of us at one time, and now it’s time for us to take care of them,” he said.

Blood tests were taken Tuesday and Wednesday, and results came back Thursday with all of the animals negative for disease. When the results arrived, the bison drive from Fort Peck to Fort Belknap ensued.

Rows of pickup trucks and cars lined up Thursday as if they were at a drive-in movie to watch the animals charge out of the trailers through a chute and then to freedom. Some of the animals snorted and stomped inside the trailers while a few had to be prodded to escape. A pipe ceremony was conducted to welcome the animals.

“I wouldn’t miss this, gosh,” said Patty Quisno, a tribal council member.

Warren Bell, driver of the semi-trailer that hauled most of the bison, said he departed Fort Peck Indian Reservation 30 miles north of Wolf Point, Mont., for the 180-mile journey west to Fort Belknap. Azure, driving a pickup truck hauling a trailer with the two large bulls, was following about an hour behind.

“Well, they’re pure buffalo. They’re not mixed with anything,” Bell said of the high interest in the animals as kids and adults peered through slits in the trailer to get look at the big beasts at Horse Capture Community Park.

The bison were trucked first to a community gathering at the park, then on to the horse pasture, which is 16 miles south of Fort Belknap Agency. A police vehicle with a flashing light led the semi-trailer down the highway followed by a long line of vehicles.

The tribe has a commercial herd of 500 bison, but they have cattle genes. They’re kept in a separate pasture.

Fox said the last few bison that remained in the area disappeared around 1910.

“It’s a homecoming for the animals,” Fox said.

Genetically Pure Bison Returned to Fort Belknap After a Century Away

Rion Sanders/Great Falls TribuneThirty-four genetically pure bison were released onto a 1,000-acre pasture on the Fort Belknap Reservation on Thursday, August 22.

Rion Sanders/Great Falls Tribune
Thirty-four genetically pure bison were released onto a 1,000-acre pasture on the Fort Belknap Reservation on Thursday, August 22.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Onlookers hooted, hollered and cheered as bison were coaxed off the trailer and went racing off onto the plain of the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. On Thursday, 34 genetically pure animals were set loose. It marks the first time in a century the animals have roamed the area.

“It’s a great day for Indians and Indian country,” Mark Azure, who heads the tribe’s bison program, told the Great Falls Tribune moments after the final two big bulls rumbled out of a trailer and trotted away onto the prairie. The bulls were kept in a trailer separate from the others.

The animals had traveled the 190 miles from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation where Fish, Wildlife and Parks had put 70 of them last year from Yellowstone National Park. Fort Peck already had a herd of some 200 animals, but the Yellowstone bison are the only remaining genetically pure and free ranging wild bison in the United States, the same animals that covered the western plains 200 years ago and numbered in the millions.

RELATED: Pure Strain Bison Returning to Fort Peck

The intention was to move half of the Yellowstone bison to Fort Belknap, but the move was stalled by legal actions. Until the Montana Supreme Court finally ruled that it was legal earlier this summer, paving the way for the bison’s return.

“The fact that we’re assisting in preserving the genetically pure buffalo out of Yellowstone is significant—the fact that we’re ensuring the long-term survival of the species,” Mike Fox, tribal councilman, said in a Great Falls Tribune video report about the bison release. “But, on the cultural side… they took care of us and now it’s time for us to take care of them.”

The bison were released into a 1,000-acre pasture with an 8-foot fence, reported the Tribune, and just one of the animals was not released due to an injury.

Before being released all the animals were tested and found to be disease-free.

Fox told the Tribune that Fort Belknap will manage a herd and use it as seed stock for other places looking to reintroduce bison.

The release meant a lot to those gathered to watch. There was a pipe ceremony to welcome the bison back.

Fox told the Tribune the last few bison disappeared from Fort Belknap around 1910. “It’s a homecoming for the animals.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/08/23/bison-return-fort-belknap-after-century-151007

Vice chair of Spokane Tribe resigns under pressure

Associated Press

SPOKANE — The vice chairman of the Spokane Tribe has resigned under pressure from tribal members.

The Spokesman-Review reported that Rodney W. Abrahamson resigned Thursday.

Abrahamson had been convicted of five misdemeanors after he illegally killed two bison north of Yellowstone National Park in February. Montana wildlife agents say he lied about his identity and claimed to be a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, which has treaty rights to hunt bison.

The Spokane Tribe’s constitution said council members cannot remain in office if convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving dishonesty. Abrahamson was convicted of obstruction as a result of providing a false identity.

After he refused to resign, some tribal members launched a recall effort.

A special election will be held in June to select his replacement.