Little Shell Tribe seeks greater access to bison from Yellowstone

Bison in Yellowstone National Park. Photo from Daniel Mayer / Wikipedia

The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana wants to hunt more bison that leave Yellowstone National Park.

State law allows the tribe to hunt up to two bison under licenses issued by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Chairman Gerald Gray said the allocation isn't enough to meet the needs of his people.

"This meat's used for the homeless, the needy, the elderly, our diabetes program," Gray told Gov. Steve Bullock (D), the Associated Press reported. "It's not just a free-for-all."

The state law expires July 1 but Bullock's staff will research potential ways to expand the hunt, the AP reported. The tribe is also considering invoking an 1855 treaty to assert its rights independent of the state, the AP said.

Chief Little Shell was a leader of the Little Shell Tribe in the late 1800s. Photo from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center

The state recognizes the tribe but the federal government does not. The tribe filed one of the first federal recognition petition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs but it was denied by the Obama administration, a decision that's being reconsidered.

In the meantime, the tribe continues to pursue recognition through Congress. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.35, the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act, at a business meeting March but the bill has not come up for consideration on the Senate floor.

Get the Story:
Tribe tells Montana gov it's entitled to more than 2 Yellowstone bison, seeks hunting access (AP 6/16)

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