top of page

Intertribal Signing, Jackson, WY, Oct 2nd, 2016

2pm, Jackson Lake Lodge, Explorer Room, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Photos are free for press use only with full attribution given to Please email a link to the final article. Contact us direct for  larger files.

Speech given by Chief Stan Grier of the Piikani Nation

Within self-definition there is empowerment, and within empowerment there is a collective voice – our voice ­– and the voices of our brothers and sisters who in the coming days and weeks will sign this treaty with us. To date, non-Native historians, ethnographers, and archaeologists have laid claim to having “written the book” on our histories and cultures – but they have not written our books, or made our documentaries, or spoken our words, or sung our songs. This weekend, with the signing of this treaty, we begin to reclaim the past so that there will be a future – a future we define - not a future we adhere to - or are told to believe in. We know what belief is, and we know where our belief began – in the original dreams of our ancestors, in the realm of the sacred.


In the ties that unite us in the universal knowledge of Earth and our ancestors’ original dreams is, at the beginning and at their heart, the Boksakouie, the Great Bear, the sacred one the Europeans first called “grizzly”. When these strangers came into this land and first saw the Great Bear, our ancestors had known this sacred one for millennia – she walked in the highest realm of spirit, she was painted in the stars, and she was born and reborn with the call of Thunder from the womb of Earth. We know the Great Bear’s many blessings - the teachings, the healing qualities, the medicines, and the powers of regeneration and renewal - but the strangers who came knew nothing but fear, and with that fear was the urge to kill, not to understand. And so it continues. Delisting and trophy hunting? How about an alternative: creating linkage zones between these fragmented, isolated populations; returning the Great Bear to sovereign tribal lands; and committing to a future day when the grizzly on the flag will not be the only one you can see in California. Established upon cultural foundations, this treaty proposes a future for the Great Bear that reflects our beliefs in the miracle of life, not a cult of death.


This treaty is an articulation of our prayers - that the Great Bear, the Ancient One – a being so sacred that our ancestors would not even say her name – will not be “managed” by led and bloodlust to satiate the inadequacies of trophy killers, who like their ancestors who bloodied the land and defiled the Earth, still carry the killing gene in the absence of the sacred. This will be the consequence if we do not act. The US government, through its Fish and Wildlife Service, is poised to remove Endangered Species Act protections from the Great Bear, and hand our sacred relative’s destiny to the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, all of which place trophy hunting at the center of their so-called “management plans.”


Management? How do you manage the sacred? One does not manage the sacred; one seeks, reveres, and stands humbled by the presence of the sacred. The People of the Land, me and you, our nation and our relatives, your nations and your relatives, we must reclaim that which was stolen, and once more take the responsibility for true ecological stewardship. This concept of “grizzly bear management” devised and imposed by the federal government and the states, is as foreign as the tongue that so recently claimed and colonized. They tell us that what they do is in the name of the “best available science,” but what we do is in the name and honor of our Creator, and in balance with our Mother, the Earth.


They use their definition of this so-called “best available” science as their forefathers used language, as a weapon against us and our identity. They forbade us to speak our languages and imposed theirs upon us, foreign as it was. Now this “best available science” is used as a language to alienate us from this process. Officials who sit on these government and state committees are on record claiming that we - all of us sitting up here - don’t understand “science.” Yet all of us sitting up here are descended from those who lived within this environment when it was complete; when the biomass was at its fullest. We have a term for the “best available science” – and that term is “balance” – our ancestors did not just talk about it or theorize upon it, they lived it.


We must recognize that this struggle for the protection and preservation of the Great Bear is a struggle for the very spirit of the land – a struggle for the soul of all we have ever been - or will ever become. Within this struggle to protect the grizzly and to see the Great Bear reintroduced to Tribal Nations from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, in areas where biologically suitable habitat exists in the sacred one’s historic range - we find many of our struggles: The struggle to defend our sovereignty; the struggle to defend our treaty rights; the struggle to preserve and enforce consultation mandates; the struggle to defend and strengthen our spiritual and religious freedoms - The struggle to make the government uphold its trust responsibility to tribal nations. Government to government consultation is not an email, a phone call, a stock letter, or a meeting at a motel where the government summarizes what it and the states intend to do, and how they plan to do it. That is a dictate, not adherence to consultation mandates. It is lip service at its cynical worst.


Should we lose this fight over for the Great Bear, we may lose any part of those at any time, for if the US government can ignore us, and in fact, ignore some fifty federally recognized tribal nations, and ignore the Assembly of First Nations , then the precedent will be set - a precedent that will threaten all that our people have fought through and endured to retain.


If protections are removed from the grizzly bear through delisting, what protections exist for the land will be relaxed or removed. Greater Yellowstone contains innumerable sacred and historic sites to some 26 nations the government categorizes as “Associated Tribes of Yellowstone.” Many Tribal Nations have emphasized in their respective resolutions opposing  delisting that Tribal Historic Preservation Offices must be engaged to survey, determine, and catalog these many sacred and historic sites before grizzly delisting is implemented, for if they are not, these sites will be subject to desecration and ultimately lost, resulting in irreparable injury to a multitude of tribes.


We do not need to elaborate upon the impact that the trophy killing of a being we consider to be fundamental to our cultures and spiritual well-being will have on our people and their ability to practice their spirituality, or how that will be exacerbated if that killing is committed on sacred land in proximity to sacred sites, but we do need to raise the specter of the destruction of these sacred sites if, as appears inevitable from information we have received through documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, corporate energy development is initiated on the lands the grizzly presently protects through its ESA status.


In its delisting rule, the US Fish and Wildlife Service references 28 mining claims with operating plans in Yellowstone. Those mines are in core grizzly bear habitat, and it remains unclear how many such claims exist throughout Greater Yellowstone – but it is very clear that the 1872 General Mining Act holds primacy over any theoretic notion the Fish and Wildlife Service and States may write in an MOU. Those prospective mines threaten environmental harms to Tribal Nations’ sacred and historic sites, and therefore the US Fish and Wildlife Service must adhere to the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. We are fully aware that the plague of corporate greed that will be visited upon Yellowstone with the opening of these sacred lands, will be visited upon the Crown of the Continent next.


We cannot stand by and watch our ancestors’ legacy pass into oblivion with the delisting and trophy hunting of the sacred grizzly bear, and see our children and future generations robbed once more of a vital part of their culture – that which is represented by the sacred and spiritual power of the Great Bear. We remain the stewards of the land - and our ancestors and spiritual practices will forever be the conscience of the lands that were taken from us. Our brothers and sisters gathered at Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline have been reminding the world that water is life - How lost many are in this modern day that they need such a reminder - Truly, water is the lifeblood of our Mother Earth, and the grizzly bear is the guardian of both.


Here is where we make our stand.

bottom of page