Environment | National

Native Sun News: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fights bear delisting

The following story was written and reported by Richie Richards, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. Photo from National Park Service

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls for Fish and Wildlife Service to honor Obama's pledge
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Correspondent

FORT YATES, N.D. –– When President Obama addressed the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in his internationally publicized visit to the reservation last June, he acknowledged that historically “the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved,” but pledged: “I promised when I ran to be a President who’d change that -- a President who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty.”

Today, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is testing the Obama Administration’s resolve.

In a three-page letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman, Dave Archambault II, details the Tribal Nation’s opposition to delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear, and calls attention to the fact that the affected Tribal Nations have so far been ignored in the process.

“This lack of consultation by FWS stands in direct contrast to the policy directives of the Obama Administration. President Obama has attempted to strengthen consultation with tribes when federal policies and actions have the potential to affect tribes and have tribal implications,” writes Chairman Archambault. “Clearly, removing the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the ESA and permitting states to proceed with high-dollar trophy hunts on our historic cultural landscape fits the criteria.”

While at Standing Rock, President Obama told Chairman Archambault and the tribal membership, “My administration is determined to partner with tribes, and it’s not something that just happens once in a while. It takes place every day, on just about every issue that touches your lives. And that’s what real nation-to-nation partnerships look like.”

Delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear does not just touch the lives of the Standing Rock Sioux people, but also the other 25 Tribal Nations the federal government has acknowledged hold an ancestral connection to Yellowstone, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to hand over the future of the grizzly to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, all of which intend to sell high-dollar trophy tags and open seasons on the Great Bear.

“To date, there has been no discussion in this process related to the impact delisting the grizzly bear, and the subsequent trophy hunting of the grizzly, will have on Native American spirituality, namely the religious practices of traditional tribal people, protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (PL 95-341–1978/PL 103-344 –1994),” Chairman Archambault states.

In addition to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Chairman Archambault cites Executive Orders from the Clinton and Obama administrations that require federal departments and agencies to consult with Tribal Nations.

“Executive Order 13647 (June 2013) states, ‘Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations.’ The proposed delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear affects the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people of the Great Sioux Nation,” the Standing Rock Sioux leader emphasizes.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s letter joins the other official declarations and resolutions opposing the removal of the Yellowstone grizzly bear from Endangered Species Act protections issued by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Nation, the Crow Nation, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho.

As the joint federal and state Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) abruptly concluded its annual winter meeting in Missoula, Montana (12/10/14), Chairman Robert Shepherd of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate furnished Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and Assistant Secretary Washburn, with copies of the Tribal Nations’ declarations and resolutions in opposition to delisting the grizzly. Secretary Jewell acknowledged that she was in receipt of Chairman Shepherd’s communication.

“Our ancestors told that the Sacred Hoop of Life was broken when our people were massacred at Wounded Knee. This was the period when those that massacred our people also wiped out the Wámakaškaŋ; they wiped out the buffalo, the grizzlies and the wolves, and today that mindset is still there, that 'disease of the mind.' They had no place for grizzly bears then, and they have no place for them now," says Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe for the Great Sioux Nation.

GOAL (Guardians of Our Ancestors’ Legacy) Tribal Coalition has liaised with the affected Tribal Nations on the grizzly delisting issue.

When asked if he had a message for FWS’s Chris Servheen and the IGBC, GOAL co-founder, R. Bear Stands Last, said “Nobody can articulate a more powerful message on behalf of the grizzly and traditional people than Chief Arvol Looking Horse."

Bear Stands Last pointed to the concluding thought of Chief Looking Horse’s recent statement opposing removing the grizzly bear from Endangered Species Act protections.

“The birth of the white ones among the Wámakaškaŋ, the grizzly bear with a white coat, is a message that is loud and clear for us. We are at that crossroads. Our message to those in authority needs to be equally clear and direct: stop the abuse and the massacre of these living beings of the earth. The Wámakaškaŋ have a message for the world: the grizzly bear, Mato, is a living spirit that is sacred,” said Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

(Contact Richie Richards at staffwriter@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation