Update from the Field: The Killing Begins; Blackfeet Spiritual Leader Appeals to First Nations
Earlier in the season than we would have imagined, the blood of the buffalo has begun to spill. Since our last writing, at least fourteen of America's last wild buffalo were killed by treaty hunters with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
This particular migration from Yellowstone into Montana is unusual in how early it is. Rather than the buffalo's early arrival being a source for celebration, this particular journey was met with fatal consequence. Years ago this killing would have been done by the Montana Department of Livestock (DOL). Instead they sit back and smile as the most unlikely ones -- the relatives of the buffalo -- do their dirty deeds for them, in the name of sovereignty. To complicate matters, Montana passed a law earlier this year that allows officials to reveal the locations of buffalo to state and treaty hunters. Tribes hunting under treaty rights set their own quotas and seasons, which span from September to April. The Montana state hunt begins next Friday, November 15, and will last three months, until February 15, 2014. Wild buffalo will be under the gun for six full months.
The day before the first-ever National Bison Day (see below) was to be celebrated, one relative spoke out strongly against these killings and for the protection of his buffalo kin, appealing to all First Nations. Here is the letter from Blackfeet Confederacy Spiritual Leader and Holy Paint Gatherer, Jimmy St. Goddard:
To All Chairs and Presidents of Indian Nations, Indian Leaders, And Government Officials:
The buffalo EE-NEE-WAH have asked me to convey this message. We know you respect the buffalo. We know you have the right to hunt the buffalo. But the ancient buffalo in Yellowstone have been decimated and have not recovered.
In the Hayden and Pelican valleys in the Central Interior of Yellowstone National Park, the buffalo have felt the brunt of this slaughter. Their population is well under half of what it was just a few winters ago.
We need to send a message to the whites, we need to send a message to the white Governments: to let this ancient buffalo herd regenerate itself.
Your own Tribal policies and laws allow you to step back and reassess the situation. We have to get away from the thinking that if we don't do anything we will lose our Treaty rights.
Done properly, a resolution by the Tribes to place a moratorium on hunting the buffalo will strengthen our Treaty and cultural rights.
In a sacred way, we ask that you adopt a one or two year moratorium on hunting the buffalo to be set by your cultural leadership, specifically to your Tribal government.
This year and next year our cultures will grow, the buffalo will recover, and our children will learn that there is a way to bring the EE-NEE-WAH back.
Your treaty rights will always be in place to hunt on public lands.
To see and let our sacred animal grow again, multiply for the future generations, I ask this in the Blackfeet NA-SIST-AA-PEE -- real people -- way.
I want to share this message with the Tribal leaders that will accept this moratorium on the Yellowstone buffalo herd.
In February of 2012 I met with Senator Daniel Inouye in Washington DC. Daniel asked me what the Tribes could do to stay stronger. And he said just one thing that the Tribes could do, that no one could ever break not even the U.S. government, is for the Tribes to stand together with their traditions. I just wanted to share his message with you, Tribal leader, the late Senator Daniel Inouye said for us to stand together with our traditions.
There is also a sacred 8 or 9-year old bull in the herd that must be protected.
I ask you as the former culture chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe, and ongoing spiritual leader of the Eloise Cobell case.
I also want to reintroduce myself to your honorable Council, that I am one of the spiritual leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy that encompasses the U.S. and Canada.
I am in no way influenced by the U.S. government or any other entity that has not understood our ancient traditional ways. I have been through most or all of the Eloise Cobell case. I have survived the Bush administration. I carry on our ancient traditions for my people.
I ask that your brilliant cultural minds implement this moratorium to save our sacred buffalo, and pray that this resolution or moratorium be implemented as soon as possible.
~ James St. Goddard EE-SUK-YA Holy Paint Gatherer, one of the ancient Blackfeet.
Wild is the Way ~ Roam Free!
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758