Oglala Nation makes historic address on grizzly bears in Lakota language
As published in NativeNewsOnline.com Nov 11, 2015
If members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee did not understand the sacred nature of the grizzly bear to native people, or the US government’s legal responsibility to consult with tribes regarding cultural and spiritual concerns, Reuben Fast Horse, speaking as an envoy for OST President John Yellow Bird Steele and Vice President Tom Poor Bear, made sure they understand now.
Addressing the latest IGBC/YES meeting, Fast Horse carried a strongly worded statement from Vice President Poor Bear in his Lakota language, and also read an unequivocal written message from President Steele, before presenting officials with statements and resolutions from the tribes of the Oceti Sakowin who stand united in opposition to the delisting and trophy hunting of sacred grizzly bears. The presentation made history as the first time an address was given in a Native language to this committee.
“I come to you today from the Tetonwan Oyate. I am speaking to you in my Lakota language, as our language was among the first Native languages heard upon this land,” said Fast Horse to those gathered to discuss the fate of the Yellowstone grizzly.
He continued, “Chief Arvol Looking, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of our people, explained to you last fall why the grizzly bear must be protected and not trophy hunted. The grizzly bear is sacred to our people. The grizzly bear is integral to our healing ceremonies, spirituality and the Lakota way of life. Some of our greatest leaders, like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, were blessed by the grizzly bear. The grizzly bear is our relative. The land you propose to allow the grizzly bear to be trophy hunted on is our land, and the land of other tribes the government admits hold ancestral connections and rights to.”
As members of the audience watched his passionate delivery, Fast Horse said “Your government admits that, yet you have not come to us to discuss this in an open, honest way. You have not shown good faith. You say you have sent letters to tribes, but many of our leaders have not received them. Your government says that all affected tribes must be consulted before any federal policy impacting them is enacted. President Obama reiterated this to Alaska Natives on his recent visit there. And yet, you do not even include our tribes in your Conservation Strategy for the Yellowstone grizzly bear, which is an insult.”
The message that tribes must be heard and included in the decision making process was clear to US Fish and Wildlife Service officials who, ironically, had just finished presentations explaining how their delisting process would be rolled out.
Offering some historical context, Fast Horse pointed out, “Your ancestors wanted the Black Hills for mining and ranching! Your states want Greater Yellowstone for mining and cattle leases. You want to make money from killing this sacred being on our sacred landscape. When your government offered our ancestors $6 million for the Black Hills, Chief Red Cloud told them that this word of $6 million was but a little spit in his mouth. You tell us there are 700 grizzly bears or more in Greater Yellowstone, but that is just a little spit in our mouths. Before your people came and killed them, there were some 100,000 grizzly bears on our lands.”
Asking members of the IGBC/YES to carefully consider their legal responsibility to tribes, and include tribes in the decision making process, Fast Horse then read President Steele’s statement in English, finishing with…
“The OST stands in solidarity with the other tribal nations that have called for the Department of the Interior to institute a moratorium on the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear so that a full, thorough, and meaningful tribal consultation process can take place, during which the points raised by each respective tribal nation in their official resolutions and declarations can be fully addressed and incorporated into future federal grizzly bear management plans and policy positions.”
President Steele also called for a moratorium which would also allow tribes to engage independent scientists to review the raw data the FWS is basing its decisions on, saying
“Transparency is essential for not only tribal members, but also the American people as a whole, to have any confidence in this process.”
GOAL Tribal Coalition, who facilitated the presentation at the meeting, is comprised of nearly 50 tribal nations advocating against the delisting and trophy hunting of endangered grizzly bears. GOAL is one of the largest tribal coalitions in the US.