National Bison Range Returns To Indigenous Management
Listen to an audio documentary about the North American bison of the Flathead Reservation from Threshold.
Hundreds of years ago, tens of millions of bison roamed North America. They were an essential resource and cultural foundation for many Native American tribes. And by 1890, European colonists had hunted them nearly to extinction.
When President Theodore Roosevelt moved to conserve the remaining bison in 1908, he established the National Bison Range, an 18,800-acre reserve that the government took directly from the tribes of the Flathead Reservation—the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille. The tribes were not invited to help manage the recovery of a bison herd that they had helped save. At times, they were even excluded from the land entirely. For the past several decades, the tribes have been lobbying for the land—and management of its several hundred bison—to be returned.
Then, in December 2020, Congress included in its COVID-19 relief package an unrelated bill with bipartisan approval: returning that land to the tribes.
Ira talks to Montana journalist Amy Martin, who has been covering the National Bison Range for Threshold, a podcast about environmental change, about why the return of the land is meaningful in the context of U.S. colonization, and the relationship between the environment and justice. Listen to the full report on the National Bison Range on Threshold.
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Amy Martin is a journalist and executive producer of the podcast Threshold, based in Missoula, Montana.