Tribes Offer Stinging Rebuke of GOP Attempts to Overturn Grizzly Victory in Testimony to US Senate EPW Committee

GLC Chief Counselor Brandon Sazue, Chief Grier; former Hopi Chairman Ben Nuvamsa, and Sho-Ban Councilman LJ Tyler

Published October 11, 2018

WASHINGTON — Thirty-one tribal nations represented by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, and the Blackfoot Confederacy submitted testimony to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) that denounced the majority GOP led-efforts to overturn Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke and gut the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The recently decided Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke saw a coalition of tribal plaintiffs and environmental groups defeat the Trump Administration, the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the NRA and Safari Club International over returning the grizzly bear to Endangered Species Act protections. Since then, Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, led by Senator John Barrasso and Rep. Liz Cheney, have maneuvered to legislatively nullify the tribes’ victory and once more imperil treaty rights, religious and spiritual freedoms, and sacred lands occupied by the grizzly and therefore protected by the Great Bear’s ESA listing.

The coalition of tribes was invited to submit testimony by Senator Tom Carper, senior senator from Delaware and Ranking Member on the EPW Committee. The testimony was wide-ranging and detailed, and catalogued disturbing associations between the Trump Administration and extractive industry, violations of the federal-Indian trust responsibility which included Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lying to Congress about tribal consultation claims in testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) in June 2017, and a proposal for a Native American Endangered Species Act.

“Any attempt by the EPW Committee, its members, or individual senators who do not sit on the committee to legislatively nullify the Court’s ruling in Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke – to once again strip ESA protections from the grizzly bear – will, in addition to defying the Court, suborn the federal-Indian trust responsibility. Given that the Constitution states, ‘all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land,’ the rights of Indian tribes cannot be treated as ‘temporary and precarious,’ as would be the case if Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke was legislatively subverted. The deleterious consequences of such an action upon our religious and spiritual freedoms, treaty rights, ancestral lands and sovereignty would render such an act unconstitutional. What impact, we ask, would that course have in respect to the integrity of the Constitution?” the tribes asked in the testimony, which was signed by Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council Executive Director, Bill Snell, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association Chairman, Harold Frazier, and President of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs, Stanley Grier.

Cheyenne RIver Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier

Zinke’s perjured testimony to the HNRC, ignored by the mainstream press presumably because of the avalanche of provable falsehoods made by President Trump and catalogued by the Washington Post, has not stopped tribes attempting to broker a meeting with the Secretary to discuss implementing the historic grizzly treaty signed by over 200 tribes, The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration.

The tribes’ testimony included a March 20, 2018 letter from the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council (RMTLC) to EPW Committee Chairman Barrasso, in which the RMTLC offered the tribal alternative to trophy hunting the sacred bear, outlined in the treaty. “Central to the treaty are the grizzly reintroduction articles. 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.”

It is now widely accepted that the adoption of this plan from the Piikani Nation-initiated treaty would provide for “cultural and environmental revitalization for participating tribal nations” and “provide great economic potential to communities most at need for economic impetus and investment” through eco-tourism proposals and tribal grizzly management plans that would feature Traditional Ecological Knowledge and offer vocational opportunity for tribal members in the field of grizzly biology and management.

“It is clear from Chairman Barrasso’s proposed amendments to the ESA that a far greater emphasis would be placed upon the input of energy companies, with considerable influence being accorded extractive industry executives in ESA listing and delisting decisions. This approach is consistent with that enacted by Secretary Zinke at DOI, where vast swathes of public lands have now been opened to extractive industry, including large-portions of Bears Ears National Monument, which contains numerous sacred and historic sites to tribal nations in the Four Corners region,” stated the tribal alliance in its testimony.

In July 2016, the Oglala Sioux Tribe petitioned for a Congressional investigation into conflicts of interest involving USFWS officials who were central to grizzly delisting, including former Acting USFWS Director, Matt Hogan, who, contend tribes, “consistently refused to answer questions about his apparent association with Anadarko Petroleum Gas.” Anadarko made one of the largest settlements in history with the DOJ in 2014, including $1 billion for uranium spills that polluted water on the Navajo Nation. Anadarko describes itself as “one of the largest landowners and leaseholders in the state of Wyoming.”

Explaining the tribal alliances position on the influence of extractive industry multi-nationals on the ESA and the officials and politicians involved, Chief Grier explained, “We are trying to get to the bottom of this for transparency. At first there was only smoke, but now there is fire. These decisions should be free of political bias. Our culture, our sacred lands and these sacred beings, are not available to the highest bidder.”

Senator John Barrasso’s former campaign manager, Joe Milczewski, is “presently Government Relations Manager at Anadarko Petroleum, and Anadarko has supported Senator Barrasso through financial contributions to Political Action Committees.” Anadarko has actively supported Barrasso’s proposed Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018. The energy giant was among the first to tout Barrasso’s amendments in a letter dated June 8, 2018. Previously, USFWS engaged multinational oil and gas services group, Amec Foster Wheeler, for the peer review of its grizzly delisting rule that tribes and environmental groups dismantled in court. Amec Foster Wheeler appointed Halliburton executive Jonathan Lewis as CEO in the same timeframe as USFWS contracted the company. “The Cheney family’s connections to Halliburton hardly need elaborating upon,” said Chief Grier. The full testimony can be found at

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