Brooklyn Baptiste
Nez Perce tribal member
Former Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee 2005-2015

As a former elected member of the governing body for the Nez Perce tribe I was heavily involved in the environment and natural resource fields pertaining to our tribe's treaty reserved rights.

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I worked with many organizations, one being the IBMP (Interagency Bison Management Plan) and the many other grassroots organizations pertaining to bison in the Yellowstone region. So I have had much experience with bison on the landscape and efforts to help manage them with many federal, state, tribal, and grassroots organizations in efforts to help sustain healthy herd numbers.

Throughout this time I have also utilized our tribe's treaty right to harvest bison as they cross Yellowstone National Park to public land on the Gallatin National Forest. It has been our tribe's custom and practice to hunt bison in Montana for thousands of years. Since the reintroduction of the hunt/harvest of these bison herds, I've been involved in many successful harvest efforts in order to feed our communities and ceremonies. I have also experienced numerous trips from Idaho to Montana without success. Each opportunity we take has had many outcomes and each year the harvest depends on many factors surrounding the landscape. Harvest opportunities also change from day to day and week to week.

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The bison are not only an essential part of our diet, they were, and still are, a crucial part of our spirituality and ceremonies. Every part of the sacred bison was utilized in our culture and many continue to be used to this day. I myself use the hides and skulls throughout the year in our ceremonies. The meat from the harvest is given throughout our community and to several organizations as well. So a successful harvest is very important to our people.

In 2023 we took four youth over to Gardiner to provide each one of them their first opportunity to take a bison. Because of the high numbers of bison on the landscape, they were all successful. They not only learned the history of our presence there but the modern effort it took to travel so far from their homes, harvest, field dress, and bring back their bounty. We were very successful and so were many other hunters, tribal and non-tribal alike.

With so many bison being harvested last year I knew the 2024 season would be bleak. The warmer climate and the previous years' take proved to make this season very difficult, and it did not look like there would be any bison harvested at all by our tribal members. There were no herds close to the Northern park boundaries until late March.

I received word that a small herd moved close to the park boundary and looked to be moving North into National Forest lands where they could be harvested. We had to make a quick decision to pool our resources in order to make a much needed attempt at a possible harvest. So the following day we secured the proper permits required by the Nez Perce Tribe and started the 9 hour trip to the Gardiner basin.

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We arrived on March 21st and a small herd of about 40 were close to the park boundary but moved South a mile and half away that evening. That night it snowed and the herd moved North and came out of the park and into an area we would have an opportunity to take one. A few moments later we were blessed and took 3 bison.

We were extremely grateful for the blessings and gave thanks to the buffalo nation for their body and spirit. Knowing we would honor their sacrifice to us by feeding as many as we can and continually using them in our ceremonies for years to come. The hides will be made into robes and utilized by many. I feel this year was a true blessing since we didn't expect to harvest any at all. We were the only Nez Perce to harvest bison this year in that specific area. So this year was crucial for our ceremonies and so many families in our communities. I pray we will have future harvests but more importantly it is my true hope the bison herds will continue to move throughout the landscape and thrive.