Congressman Grijalva: Yellowstone Grizzly Delisting Ignores Science, Disrespects Tribes

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with a trophy grizzly. President Trump says trophy hunting is on a par with golf.

Published June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON– House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and several tribal leaders spoke out today against the Trump Administration’s announcement that it plans to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“Like a bear snatching salmon from a stream, Trump’s Interior Department has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by delisting Yellowstone grizzlies prematurely and without adequate tribal consultation or safeguards to ensure the bears’ long-term survival,” Grijalva said. “Delisting the grizzly ignores the objections of scientists and tribal leaders who were not even given the courtesy of a single meeting with top Interior officials to discuss this decision. Silencing tribal voices to benefit oil and mining companies is wrong and unconstitutional, and will ultimately end up in court.”

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva and National Geographic put Crow and Piikani front and center in fight to defend “sacred symbol” and lands

Last month, Grijalva wrote to Secretary Zinke asking that he not move forward with a final delisting rule for the Yellowstone grizzly population on the grounds that legally-required tribal consultation had not occurred, and that the public had not had an opportunity to review and comment on final scientific and conservation planning documents, draft versions of which were inadequate to ensure the long term viability of grizzly bears in the region.

In the coming weeks, Grijalva plans to introduce legislation that would offer protection to grizzly bears regardless of their status under the ESA, and give tribes a seat at the table when state and federal agencies are making decisions that impact grizzly populations.

Several prominent tribal leaders joined Grijalva in condemning the delisting of grizzly bears:

“The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is categorized by the federal government as one of the ‘Associated Tribes of Yellowstone’ and yet we were completely ignored in this delisting process, despite our declaration, our resolution, signing the Grizzly Treaty, and our petitions for inclusion. Denying us input is one more way that the government is attempting to sever us from our culture. They did it to our ancestors through boarding schools, and they are doing it to us today by failing to consult, hoping that if they ignore and deny us long enough we will forget vital parts of our culture, like our relationship with the grizzly bear,” said Chairman Brandon Sazue of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of the Great Sioux Nation.

“We have a symbiotic relationship with the grizzly. There was a higher concentration of grizzly bears in the sacred Black Hills than almost anywhere else. But then came Custer. When Custer illegally invaded the Black Hills in 1874 and opened the Thieves Road it began 140-years of dispossession and desecration for our people. The iconic photograph of Custer’s Black Hills expedition is of him with a dead grizzly. The St. Paul Daily Pioneer reported that it was ‘the first grizzly bear ever shot by a white man in the Black Hills.’ If we do not act, we will not be able to count the number of grizzlies killed by would-be Custers in Greater Yellowstone after delisting. For our people, that photo of Custer with the grizzly he trophy hunted represents the theft of the sacred, and our struggle for the Black Hills,” continued Chairman Sazue.

Several prominent tribal leaders joined Grijalva in condemning the delisting of grizzly bears:

“It has been part of our lifeways and religion to safeguard all life in this intricate balance the Creator set in motion on Mother Earth. Everything has its gift to offer. With so many species being eliminated by development and resulting climate change, we cannot allow one more ‘delisting’ of a Sacred Being, the grizzly bear. The same is true with the buffalo and the eagle; our lives are intertwined. We, the Indigenous People, have had our entire existence impacted by loss of land and misuse of all the Natural Laws. Maybe we should join the Sacred Ones on that list as Endangered Species.” – Councilwoman Casey Camp-Horinek, the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma

“To remove the Grizzly Bear from the Endangered Species list will open the sacred bear to trophy hunting and destroy its natural habitat. The grizzly bear, historically, is a religious icon to virtually all tribal nations in the United States. There is not one tribe that does not hold the grizzly in high regard and that does not include the bear in its ceremonies. The grizzly bear stands for many things to the tribes. To us at Hopi, the grizzly bear has the power to heal. It is a medicine man or a medicine bear. The Fish & Wildlife Service promised us that it would conduct full and meaningful consultation with us but it turns out, those were only empty promises. Many tribes have joined in partnership to oppose the delisting. As sovereign nations, they are all entitled to full and meaningful consultation.” – Chairman Ben Nuvamsa, Hopi Bear Clan and former chairman of the Hopi Tribe

“In addition to the 123 Tribal Nations that have signed ‘The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration,’ led by the Crow and Northern Cheyenne, approximately 50 tribes issued declarations and resolutions opposing the delisting of the grizzly bear and requesting that formal, government-to-government consultation be undertaken, and that Acts, Executive Orders, and Secretarial Orders pertinent to this issue be honored – which they have not been – a conclusion supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have serious concerns about the science being presented, and worry that ultimately this process will result in ostensibly zoo populations in two national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier.” – Chairman AJ Not Afraid, Crow Nation

“Our people have been separated from the grizzly since we were forced onto reservations, but we have not forgotten. Two of the most sacred sites in our culture, Mato Tipi (Bear’s Lodge/Devils Tower) and Mato Paha (Bear Butte) relate to the grizzly, and those narratives are fundamental to our spirituality. It is no coincidence that the spiritual reawakening of Native people on this continent has coincided with the modest recovery of the grizzly since the 1970s, a recovery that will end with delisting and trophy hunting in a return to the frontier mentality of the 1870s.” – Chairman Brandon Sazue, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of the Great Sioux Nation

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