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Bison Deaths Raise Tensions on Crow Reservation

Three bison bulls belonging to ranchers George and Nelvette Siemion were shot dead by BIA officers around Jan. 20, the Billings Gazette reported.

The couple has operated the White Buffalo Ranch on the Crow Reservation since 1969. Nelvette Siemion is an enrolled member of the tribe.

The bison were found four days later by the couple’s youngest son, Brandon Siemion, who found the carcasses when he noticed birds in the distance swooping down into the snow. The bisons’ heads, hides and limbs were removed.

“The only things left were the rib cages and the backbones,” Brandon Siemion told ICTMN.

William Lecompte, assistant special agent in charge for the BIA Office of Justice Services in Billings, confirmed that the investigation showed members of the Crow Fish & Game Department killed the buffalo, according to the Gazette report. But with the case now in the hands of the Crow tribal prosecutor Diane Cabrera, Lecompte could release no other details.

Brandon Siemion told ICTMN that the game wardens had been told by a BIA agent that the bison didn't belong to anyone. The men thought they could shoot the bison with impunity, Brandon Siemion said.

Siemion said the underlying problem began in 2006 when leases his parents had held for decades on tribally owned grazing lands weren't renewed, but were leased instead to non Indian ranchers. The Siemions have a lawsuit pending in Crow Tribal Court over the matter.