Today, Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at the highest rate per capita of any ethnic or cultural population, and Montana is home to more than 6,000 tribal veterans, many of them Blackfeet. As a Pikuni (or Blackfeet) warrior and veteran of the United States Marines, it is my duty and obligation to protect my country and lands, as well as to uphold the tribe’s traditions and culture while safeguarding its natural resources for future generations.
Recently a Washington, D.C. District Court reversed the government’s decision to cancel decades-old leases in the Badger-Two Medicine, an area sacred to the Blackfeet and the source of clean water for our Tribe. Once again, we find ourselves fighting against the threat of oil and gas development. As Veterans Day approaches, I am joined by the Blackfeet men and women of the Armed Forces in asking Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to defend the Badger-Two Medicine.
The Department of the Interior has only until Nov. 23 to notify the court that it will appeal the District Court decision. To date, Zinke has been a leader in upholding the lease cancellations. We thank him for standing alongside us in our fight to protect the Badger-Two Medicine area and profoundly appreciate his support and recommendation that the Badger is deserving of National Monument status complete with permanent protections.
Blackfeet veterans have served this great country to protect our rights as Americans; including our sacred rights to pray, gather medicine, gather foods, and heal from trauma and PTSD in an undisturbed and undeveloped place like the Badger-Two Medicine. In keeping with our tribal sovereignty, Blackfeet want to permanently keep oil and gas exploration out of the Badger-Two Medicine and we have repeatedly asked Zinke to champion the veterans’ voice in defending the lease cancellations as he has in the past. This is a defining moment for the Badger-Two Medicine, and the Department of the Interior cannot afford to miss this upcoming appeal deadline. We sincerely hope that Zinke is committed to joining us in protecting our homeland and has our back in this epic fight.