The Navajo Nation's latest declaration on delisting, again petitioning the Department of the Interior to institute a moratorium on grizzly delisting to facilitate 'meaningful consultation' with all impacted tribes.
We can see how our Mother Earth is out of balance when we look at the grizzly bear. Today the grizzly bear doesn’t even know when to hibernate and when to wake up, and that is a powerful sign that everything is off balance."
The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho continue to oppose the proposed delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear. There has been no meaningful consultation with us on this issue by our trustees, the federal government. Under Executive Order 13175 that was implemented by President Clinton, and which has been reaffirmed by President Barack Obama in a memorandum and an additional executive order, a “meaningful” consultation process is supposed to be followed by all federal agencies when decisions are being made that affect Indian tribes. This is a fiduciary trust responsibility, which has been disregarded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service in its attempts to delist the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act.
The consultation process should be initiated at the beginning of any type of proposal or project that may impact and concern us as sovereign nations and treaty tribes. What is occurring here in this push to delist the grizzly bear without thorough and meaningful consultation with tribes should never happen again. We don’t want to hear about the rule to delist the grizzly bear after the fact. Too many times in our relationship with the federal government we have surprises, and then we have to defend our rights and sovereignty and go through a lengthy struggle to secure what is right. We have no treaty with the states; our treaty is with the United States government, and federal law has long established that as tribes we are above the states. Our treaty, the 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty, was prior to the foundation of the states, but today states are implementing and forcing authority without asking, or following the proper channels. We are aware that it is the states that are driving the delisting and the trophy hunting of the grizzly bear, and that the federal government is bowing to the states. The states need to cease and desist.
The Department of the Interior needs to institute a moratorium on the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear until proper consultation is addressed with each affected tribal nation respectively, so we can get better solutions for the future of the grizzly bear and for our people. The grizzly bear is sacred to us. We want the grizzly bear to remain protected. We do not want the states trophy hunting the grizzly bear. Article IV of the Fort Bridger Treaty states that the Shoshone-Bannock want to make sure that our lands are protected, along with our ancestral lands that are unoccupied, but are presently classified as federal lands. Grizzlies inhabited those lands, and grizzly bears could still inhabit those lands, as that biologically suitable habitat is in our ancestral homeland. We want the grizzly bear protected with those lands, and the grizzly bear returned to those areas where we can co-manage them with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These are our treaty lands, our ancestral homelands.
The environment where the grizzly presently exists needs to be protected for the future. Everybody can see that the grizzly is being crowded out of Greater Yellowstone, which will accelerate if the grizzly is delisted and their current habitat is vulnerable to energy leases, timber and livestock leases. There are areas where the Shoshone-Bannock can manage them, and areas where other tribes can manage them. Habitat needs to be found for the grizzly. There are a few wilderness areas left, like the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, areas on our reservations, and where our treaty lands are. Returning the grizzly to tribal lands, and tribes being partners in managing grizzlies and formulating their own grizzly bear management plans that reflect our cultural values is an issue that needs to be addressed. This will move us towards returning to a balance.
There must be a balance, but right now there is no balance, and our Mother Earth is sick. Our Mother Earth is suffering from so much contamination, and the effects of climate change. We can see how our Mother Earth is out of balance when we look at the grizzly bear. Today the grizzly bear doesn’t even know when to hibernate and when to wake up, and that is a powerful sign that everything is off balance. We need to think of this in the context of our bodies: if we are off balance, we become sick. That is what our Mother Earth is going through. The grizzly bear is sacred, and has its place in balance with all species of life here on Mother Earth, in the sacred circle of life. Water is the gift of life, but many of the waters are so contaminated we can’t even eat the fish. We can’t even find ceremonial drinking water. This contamination needs to stop. We cannot allow leaching into the rivers and aquifers to continue. People need to realize that there is not much fresh water left, and what sources there are continue to be over used.
The grizzly bear is key to returning the balance, and so we must find habitat for them. We, as tribal nations, truly need to bring the grizzly bear back, return the balance, and help save this earth from a small scale to a large scale. If everybody becomes educated on this our future generations won’t have to confront this crisis, so as tribal leaders and tribes we must deal with this now, and educate our young so they too can be prepared. We, as tribal nations, know ways that could help, support, and bring positive change, and the federal government needs to partner with us, listen to us, and abandon its paternalistic approach toward us. All federal agencies can work together as a team; they can support each other, and with tribes, we can partner to get something accomplished. It is about time that the federal agencies woke up. The EPA, BLM, FWS, DOA, the BIA – all federal agencies need to wake up.
On the issue of delisting the grizzly bear, the immediate priority is to make sure that the federal government consults with the tribes, and if we can establish that meaningful consultation framework, we can partner in this work and move forward. There needs to be true justice. Our environment, our Mother Earth, does not have justice. Our grizzly bear needs justice, not trophy hunting. We must stand together to protect our relative, the grizzly bear, and by doing so protect our cultures, our ceremonies, our lands, and our sovereignty. Without that, our Mother Earth will have nobody to protect her.
Lee Juan Tyler, Sergeant at Arms, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho
Vice President Nez and President Begaye