Citing the importance of the Yellowstone grizzly to traditional culture, ceremony and spirituality, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan to take the sacred animal off the endangered species list—especially since the move would make the bears vulnerable to trophy hunting.
“It is undeniable that the grizzly bear holds a unique position in the traditional culture and ceremonial life-ways of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, in common with many of the other tribes associated with the Yellowstone region that will be deeply affected and detrimentally impacted if the grizzly is delisted and subsequently trophy hunted,” the tribes said in a statement last month. “The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ connection to the landscape now known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where the grizzly now survives on less than two percent of its historic range, has existed from time immemorial.”
The tribes’ Fort Hall Business Council “not only renounces the federal government’s desire to delist the grizzly bear but also is unambiguous in rejecting Idaho Fish and Game’s proposed trophy hunts for the grizzly if the Great Bear is shorn of Endangered Species Act protections,” said the council in its November 4 declaration. “No grizzly bears will be hunted on Shoshone-Bannock lands, and the Shoshone-Bannock will oppose any attempts to hunt grizzlies in their recognized ancestral homelands.”
The declaration “countermands any previous votes casted by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in favor of delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear,” the tribes said. “Following the grizzly bear management plans of the federal and tri-state governments of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana –all of which advocate trophy hunts for grizzlies—would not only represent a threat to tribal sovereignty but also contravene the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.”
The grizzly bear was listed as threatened in 1975 in the lower 48 states because its numbers had dropped to two percent of its peak range south of Canada, according to the National Park Service. They were put back on the list in 2009, according to the Associated Press.
“The connection of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to the land now known as Yellowstone and to the grizzly bear is arterial, and the declaration issued by the Fort Hall Business Council puts the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the IGBC and the tri-states on notice that they can no longer use the tribes’ name in association with delisting the grizzly bear,” said Northern Cheyenne Spiritual Leader and Sun Dance leader Don Shoulderblade, co-founder of the Guardians of Our Ancestors’ Legacy Tribal Coalition, in the Shoshone-Bannock statement. “ ‘Not in our name’ is the unequivocal message—the grizzly will not be delisted and trophy hunted in the name of the Shoshone-Bannock.”