Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chair Brandon Sazue, second from left, was among leaders from native nations of the United States and Canada who took part in a July 4, 2017, Rapid City ceremony adding signatures to the more than 125 on an intertribal treaty to protect the grizzly bear. Photo by Talli Nauman

Native Sun News Today: Tribes continue fight to protect grizzly bears

Tribes object to grizzly trophy hunting

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

FT. THOMPSON - Referring to tribes’ lawsuit to protect the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears, Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chair Brandon Sazue on April 7 noted that a ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee has weighed in on their side of the cause.

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva sent a letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department “protesting the planned trophy slaughter of the sacred grizzly in Yellowstone this fall,” Sazue alerted the Native Sun News Today.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse, are the Oceti Sakowin plaintiffs among more than a dozen representatives of the Associated Tribes of the Yellowstone who filed a lawsuit June 30 against the U.S. Interior Department for giving notice that day about removing the grizzly from the list of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Interior Department “ignored the best available science and failed to consult with tribal nations, therefore, FWS should never have created a rule to delist the grizzly bear from the ESA in the first place,” Grijalva said in the letter dated March 26.

Brandon Sazue, center, serves as chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. Courtesy photo

Grijalva introduced a federal bill on October 2, entitled the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act. Referred to his committee and the Agriculture Committee, it requires tribal consultation on any permits for the delisted grizzly population or any further federal action regarding the bear.

The bill contains language to require consultation be meaningful and be conducted within a framework developed with the free, prior, and informed consent of the tribes, through cooperative management agreements between the Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, and the tribe.

The consultation “may, at the option of the Indian tribe, be entered into under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act,” the language states.

It also calls for the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, in consultation with each federally recognized Indian tribe with land located in the historical range of the grizzly bear to conduct a study to identify and report on areas suitable to support grizzly bear populations.

It makes provisions governing any reintroduction of bear populations in view of public safety considerations.


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More than 125 tribal leaders have signed on to an intertribal treaty to protect the bear, which they call an umbrella species. “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration” declares: “We will do everything within our means so that with grizzly, we will once again live in the sacred cycle of reciprocity to nurture each other culturally and spiritually.”

The treaty also states: “It is our collective intention to recognize the grizzly as an umbrella species, central to the ecological system; and to provide a safe space and environment across our historic homelands we once shared with the grizzly where biologically suitable habitat still exists in the United States and Canada, so together we can have our grandparent, the grizzly, guide us in nurturing our land, plants and the other two-legged, four-legged and winged beings to once again realize the grizzly medicine ways for our future generations and recognize that our drumbeat is the heartbeat of the grizzly.”

Signers agree that continued protection of the grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at the headwaters of the Missouri, Mississippi, Columbia and Colorado rivers is crucial to habitat recovery, conservation, and prevention of oil pipeline spills.

A grizzly bear. Photo: Scott Taylor

However, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, like his predecessors in the department, views delisting as a landmark achievement that “stands as one of America’s great conservation successes; the culmination of decades of hard work and dedication on the part of the state, tribal, federal and private partners” to bring back the bear from its designated status of “threatened.”

The department claims it has properly consulted with tribes about the decision, noting: “We have sent letters, emails and placed phone calls to federally recognized tribal nations that have expressed interest on this topic or are listed on the Guardians of Our Ancestors Legacy (GOAL) website as opposing a delisting, to offer government-to-government (G2G) consultation.”

Sazue says he was not consulted.

The lawsuit in which his tribe and others are plaintiffs states that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service action to remove federal ESA protections for the Greater Yellowstone grizzly “threatens severe consequences for the region’s iconic bear population, including enabling state-sponsored trophy hunting of grizzly bears even though existing human-caused grizzly mortality levels have reached record highs in recent years.”

A draft of a new regulation for grizzly bear hunting seasons is open for comment at public meetings across Wyoming, and a final recommendation will be presented to the state Game and Fish Commission at a public meeting on May 23, in Lander. Comments also are being taken through the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website where all meetings and hunting season regulation proposals are posted. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. April 30, 2018.

They can be mailed to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department at 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604

For more information, go to

Contact Talli Nauman at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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