Special Event Calls to All Who Can Hear to Help Honor the Sacred Bison

For Immediate Release
February 16, 2016

Jimmy St. Goddard, Sacred Paint Gatherer, Blackfeet Confederacy, 406-564-0504, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Nikos Pastos, Confederated Salish, Kootenai, & Pend O'Reille Tribes, 406-459-1829, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mike Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign: 970-390-2380, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On Thursday, February 18, from 1:00-4:00pm, in the Capitol Rotunda, Native American leaders, spiritual peoples, and legislators representing various buffalo culture tribes will join with Buffalo Field Campaign in a special community event to build solidarity for the sacred buffalo, and honor Montana Governor Steve Bullock for his courageous decision to open year-round habitat for wild buffalo on Horse Butte, urging him to expand the lands where wild buffalo roam and work to repeal MCA 81-2-120, the state law which gives the Montana Department of Livestock authority over wild bison when they migrate into Montana.

Governor Bullock’s natural resources advisor, Tim Baker, will join the event to receive gifts and gratitude on behalf of Governor Bullock, who is unable to make it in person.

The wild buffalo of Yellowstone country have been under constant attack for decades due to the intolerance and unfounded fears of Montana’s livestock industry. Since the year 2000, when the Interagency Bison Management Plan took effect, more than 6,000 of the country’s last wild buffalo have been killed. Fewer than 4,500 wild, migratory buffalo exist today, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. This vulnerable population is about to suffer further harm: this week, Yellowstone has initiated capture-for-slaughter operations, and is calling for a fifty-year quarantine plan, actions aimed at appeasing Montana’s cattle industry and which disrespect the sacred relationships and treaty rights that indigenous buffalo people hold with wild, free-born buffalo.

Elder member with the Confederated Salish, Kootenai, and Pend O'ReilleTribes of the Flathead Nation, Carol Dubay, proclaims, "I am speaking for the Bison mothers and fathers who are crying for the unnecessary wanton destruction of their families. There exists serious controversies regarding the proceeding of Yellowstone National Park bison slaughter, and proposed quarantine and ship-to-slaughter schemes. The trust obligations of the United States of America to careful, responsible management of the sacred bison must be made real in practice to protect the genetic integrity of the last wild bison.”

Blackfeet Confederacy Sacred Holy Paint Gatherer, Jimmy St. Goddard announces, “I welcome all tribes to attend this wonderful event to celebrate Governor Steve Bullock allowing the eeneewah (buffalo) to roam outside of Yellowstone National Park.” St.Goddard continued, “As Indian peoples, we see the eeneewah as sacred beings and ask all government agencies and decision-makers to let the Yellowstone herds roam free, and we ask all tribal leaders to attend and to honor Governor Bullock for wanting to work with our sacred eeneewah.”

Members of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu), White Clay (Aaniiih), Nakoda, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Lakota, and Confederated Salish & Kootenai tribes will be present. Speakers include Chief Earl Old Person, Montana Senator Leah Whitford, educator Don Wentzel, Jr., and Sacred Holy Paint Gatherer Jimmy St. Goddard of the Blackfeet Confederacy; Brooklyn Baptiste, former Nez Perce Tribal Council Member; Nikos Pastos of the Confederated Salish & Kootenati Tribes; Goodshield Aguilar, Lakota Nation and nephew of Rosalie Little Thunder; George Horse Capture, Jr. of the White Clay (Aaniiih) peoples, and Mike Mease, co-founder of Buffalo Field Campaign.

"Our Tribal peoples and communities assert, maintain, and retain all of our rights to live and hunt, fish and gather in 'accustomed and usual places,’” said Nikos Pastos of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, "The United States has a sacred trust duty to protect historic traditional cultural properties, resources and landscapes. The Yellowstone bison herd is the last of the free roaming, wild herd that belongs to all Americans, and is significant to the natural heritage of the world. We all must strive to protect and celebrate wild bison and indigenous cultures, as natural heritage and cultural legacies that we pass on to all the children of mother earth. Many communities and cultures need to work together right now to support wild, free roaming buffalo to maintain a balance within the inter-relation of the entire vibrant healthy ecosystem of grasslands and prairies and all that is living therein. To traditional American Indians, respect for the bison as protector and provider for the sustenance and well being of families and all living things are of the highest order of significance. The wild bison means being in right relation and balance with all that lives.”

Montana’s livestock interests and the government agencies who serve them, such as Yellowstone National Park, have been manipulating tribes and their treaty rights into facilitating the destruction of wild, migratory buffalo. The IBMP’s politically-driven population objective of 3,000 wild buffalo will never allow bison to recover as a wildlife species on their native habitat, nor sustain the subsistence needs of the many tribes who hold treaty rights to hunt buffalo and other wildlife in this region. Yellowstone’s fifty-year quarantine proposal aims to drive a deeper wedge between buffalo cultures and allies by setting up a livestock model of domestication and control, which further disrespects treaty rights and the integrity of wild, migratory buffalo. At the community gathering in Helena we will call on the government to fulfill their treaty obligations by honoring the migratory nature of native buffalo so they may restore themselves naturally, reclaim their ecological role, renew their relationship with indigenous buffalo cultures, and offer their gift to healthy grassland and prairie communities.

"The Interagency Bison Management Plan, which governs the mismanagement of wild, migratory bison around Yellowstone, has been using tactics in an attempt to divide and conquer natural allies, a strategy that has been used by the colonial mindset for hundreds of years,” said Buffalo Field Campaign co-founder Mike Mease. “Today we come together to demonstrate that we will not be divided and to show that we stand in solidarity with each other for wild, free-born buffalo.”

Following this event, we will gather for a community meal, from 4:30-7:00pm, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 80 E. Lawrence Street, Helena.