When the Biden administration pushed the COVID-19 relief package that helped to restart the American economy after the pandemic ground many industries to a screaming halt, there was no mention of a bit of language inside the bill related to 18,800 acres of Native American land still under U.S. government control. As it turns out, that relief package meant a great deal toward ending the fight over that land.
“We are such a place-based people. To have this land back, to be in control of it, is a fresh, new hope.” https://t.co/rODyXJfcxV
— High Country News (@highcountrynews) June 19, 2021
For the past 113 years, groups representing the Native American tribes who once populated the land in Montana currently known as the National Bison Range have fought to have that stolen land returned to its rightful owners. Energy and environmental news outlet GreenWire announced on Wednesday that:
‘The Interior Department today announced the transfer of nearly 19,000 acres of public lands that make up the National Bison Range, reverting ownership of the “crown jewel” of the National Wildlife Refuge System to two Montana tribes.’
— US Department of the Interior (@Interior) June 22, 2018
The land was taken from these tribes over a period of time beginning in the 1859, when a treaty agreement allowed the U.S. to seize the lands and began killing off the bison to drive Native American tribes away. The long history of the lands is well documented and show an ongoing battle for justice.
‘In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt, without consulting the tribe, snatched the 18,800 acres of the range’s forest and grasslands…Fifty years ago, in 1971, the confederated tribes sued, and the courts agreed the takings had been illegal. But the lands were not returned…in December 2020 it appeared that a congressional bill to transfer the land of the National Bison Range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes was headed for oblivion as the 116th Congress came to an end. But it was attached to the COVID-19 relief and federal spending bills, which passed.’
— US Department of the Interior (@Interior) July 13, 2018
The lands will belong now to a group known as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who represent those tribes who once populated the land. Indigenous groups celebrated the end of a long battle.
‘Finally, after 113 years, the 18,800 acres of grassland, woodland, and wildlife that comprise the National Bison Range, along with its resident bison herd, will be returned to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Today, the transfer has broad support from the community, conservation groups and politicians alike. But the long journey included three rounds of failed agreements between the U.S. and the tribe, numerous lawsuits, a federal investigation, and a massive public education campaign to quash racist rumors and stereotypes.’
The US Department of the Interior announced the transfer of the National Bison Range today: https://t.co/N0rNzDdCS0
— KRTV Great Falls MT (@KRTV) June 23, 2021