DENVER — “Reintroduce the sacred grizzly bear to tribal homelands – not to trophy hunting,” implores actor Zahn McClarnon as he closes the just-released “Not in Our Name” short film with an appeal for public support for tribal nations in their ongoing struggle to get the Trump Administration to “honor the historic grizzly treaty signed by over 200 tribes.” Last seen in HBO’s “Westworld” starring as Akecheta opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins, McClarnon has become one of Native America’s most recognizable actors, with prominent roles in AMC’s “The Son,” “Longmire,” “Fargo” and Spielberg’s “Into the West.”
Westworld star Zahn McClarnon
“Hunting them is absolutely crazy. Why would you hunt a grizzly bear?” asks McClarnon, as Wyoming gears up to open its grizzly trophy hunt in Greater Yellowstone on September 1, over the objections of tribal nations that have been denied formal government-to-government consultation on the issue by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “I grew up in grizzly country and so my experiences with grizzlies are extremely personal because of growing up around them,” explains McClarnon, who is Hunkpapa Lakota from Standing Rock but spent his formative years on the Blackfeet Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. The Piikani Nation, sister tribe to the Blackfeet, introduced The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, which is now the most-signed tribal treaty in history. Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, who also appears in “Not in Our Name,” introduced The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act to the 115th Congress, which was inspired by the treaty.
Watch “Not in Our Name”:
Central to the treaty are the grizzly reintroduction articles. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which includes the plurality of Yellowstone treaty tribes, recently petitioned Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) with the tribal alternative to trophy hunting, writing: “Instead of trophy hunting the grizzly, tribal nation treaty signatories advocate relocating grizzlies from the GYE to sovereign tribal lands in the grizzly’s historic range where biologically suitable habitat exists among tribes that seek to explore and participate in such a program. The same quota of grizzlies that would be hunted per season by the states, could easily be trapped and relocated to lands under sovereign tribal authority and jurisdiction, removing any possible rationalization for reinstituting trophy hunts. This plan provides for cultural, environmental and economic revitalization for participating tribal nations, as the grizzly is sacred to a multitude of tribes.” Barrasso has yet to respond.
On June 22, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke committed to Congress to engage in full, meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes before making any delisting announcement. “I will commit to that. I think it’s not only a right, it’s the law,” Zinke told Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. But within two hours of his pledge, Zinke announced the delisting from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of the grizzly in Greater Yellowstone. Now the grizzly, which is fundamental to tribal religions, is in the gunsights of trophy hunters, and one of the last sacred landscapes the grizzly roams – Greater Yellowstone – is coveted by extractive industry in Zinke’s fossil-fuel friendly Interior Department.
Chumash Elder Mati Waiya
Created by Alter-Native Media, joining Zahn McClarnon in the stunningly beautiful “Not in Our Name” film are Maria Broom from HBO’s “The Wire” and luminaries from across Indian Country, including Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Miss Navajo Nation – Crystal Littleben, Chumash Elder and Center for Biological Diversity Director, Mati Waiya, former Hopi Chairman and Bear Clan Elder, Ben Nuvamsa, and Chief Stan Grier, Chief of the Piikani Nation and President of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs. The film comes across as an homage to the sacred and the diversity of people and lands in Indian Country, a visual embodiment of Mitakuye Oyasin, “All Our Relations.”
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation keeper of the white buffalo calf pipe
“We have to honor and respect Mato Oyate, the Grizzly Bear Nation, and secure a place in this world for them because the grizzly bears have an important place in our ceremonies,” says Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe. “We see this relationship with the grizzly bear and all living beings of the earth as being part of a healing process. We talk about harmony, balance, understanding and the sacred relationship between all things, while others talk about trophy hunting,” he continues.
“The mindset that led to the massacre our ancestors at places like Wounded Knee also resulted in the slaughter of the buffalo, the grizzlies and the wolves – and today that mindset is still there, that ‘disease of the mind,’” warns Chief Looking Horse, who is among the plaintiffs in Crow Tribe, et al v. Zinke, the lawsuit which could decide the fate of the grizzly in Yellowstone, that is being heard by Judge Dana L. Christensen, Chief US District Court Judge for Montana on August 30.