Published May 23, 2017
NEW YORK – Two influential voices, one that resonates through the halls of authority on Capitol Hill and beyond, the other, to legions of readers and viewers across the globe, placed tribal nations at the forefront of the escalating struggle to protect sacred beings and sacred lands.
To coincide with the launch of National Geographic’s #SaveTogether campaign that ignited in New York’s Times Square with digital billboards featuring images from Nat Geo photographer Joel Sartore’s “Photo Ark,” the internationally renowned Society published an article, Inside the Effort to Kill Protections for Endangered Animals, that focused heavily on the actions of tribal nations to preserve Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the grizzly bear.
“The U.S. Endangered Species Act has saved more than 200 species from extinction—but business and political interests want to scuttle it,” reads the article’s subheading. Among the tribes recognized, author Chris Ketcham devotes most time to the Crow and Piikani Nations, and Chairman AJ Not Afraid and Chief Stanley Grier respectively. Not Afraid’s recent testimony to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in which he introduced what is now the most signed treaty in history, The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, and Grier’s submission to the United Nations, which summarizes all the issues and potentially devastating consequences delisting the grizzly from the ESA will have on tribes’ rights, are highlighted.
Central to the article is a video of the late Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, the legendary Crow tribal historian, who was considered by many to be “the last Plains Indian War Chief.” In that interview, Dr. Medicine Crow’s last, which was first reported in Native News Online, he appeals for the grizzly to be kept on the ESA and protected, due to the sacred nature of the being and its relationship with the Crow and myriad other tribes.
As National Geographic launched its campaign, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member on the House Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to remove ESA protections for the grizzly in Greater Yellowstone.
“Delisting the species would put it back on the chopping block for extinction in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Decisions to delist endangered wildlife should be informed by the best available science, not based on political expediency. In the case of the grizzly, Secretary Zinke has a separate obligation to consult with Tribal Nations that revere the bear as a sacred symbol,” said Congressman Grijalva.
In the letter, Rep. Grijalva, calls on Zinke to scrap the grizzly delisting proposal, and to open meaningful, government-to-government consultation with impacted tribes:
“Several Tribal Nations – including the Navajo, Osage, Oglala Sioux, Crow Nation and Piikani Blackfoot, among others – have formally requested that the Service consult with impacted Tribal Nations prior to making any decision on delisting. In the historic The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, and through multiple resolutions and letters, Tribal Nations have raised concerns over the science being presented by the Service and the irreparable harm to Tribal sovereignty, sacred site protections, treaty rights, consultation mandates, and spiritual and religious freedoms should the delisting process continue as it is presently constituted. The Service must initiate a formal consultation process on this delisting before a decision is made, and impacted Tribal Nations should be included in the formulation of all grizzly bear management plans. Proceeding with this premature, piecemeal and politically driven approach would violate the ESA and grievously undermine tribal rights.”
In an accompanying press release, Congressman Grijalva noted how The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration “offers management practices if the states were to take control of GYE grizzly bears.”
Now signed by 126 Tribal Nations, Chief Grier initiated the treaty. Grier, who is serving his first term leading the Piikani Nation, has quickly risen to prominence in Indian Country for his principled stand in defending treaty rights and traditional culture, irrespective of corporate or political pressure to do otherwise.
“Chief Stan Grier is a true leader who leads with his heart,” explained Chairman Brandon Sazue of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. “The compassion he has for our people and the sacred, demonstrated by the Grizzly Treaty, is above all measure. The Sacred Hoop will be made whole again. True vision comes from those who lead by example, like Chief Grier,” said Sazue.
Alongside Chief Grier, Councilwoman Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca Nation) and Chief Judy Wilson (Union of BC Indian Chiefs), Chairman Sazue signed a declaration in Calgary, Alberta, last week opposing the construction of the Keystone-XL Pipeline, which generated international headlines. The KXL declaration, part of the “Remaking of the Sacred Hoop” between the Blackfoot Confederacy and Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation), will be presented in the US at a reciprocal signing in Great Sioux Nation territory in July.
Rep. Grijalva’s full letter: http://bit.ly/2rvz4eH
Latest on the treaty: www.piikaninationtreaty.com
Joe Medicine Crow video featured in National Geographic: https://www.facebook.com/HeyBear.GOAL/videos/1044117762328258/
This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.