Recently, a panel of judges in Washington, D.C., ruled that the last industrial lease in the Badger-Two Medicine must be canceled. And while the Blackfeet Nation is grateful for the court’s ruling, we recognize that this company is not likely to give up. They will be back.
We also recognize that this is just the latest fight that has been brought to our cultural doorstep. There have been others, and until we permanently protect our homeland there will be more.
And we recognize that, despite the outcome, there were no Blackfeet judges on the court’s panel. There were no Indigenous attorneys in the room, no Blackfeet jurors. The fate of our traditional territory was, yet again, in the hands of people far away.
It is past time for that to change; it is time to make room for the voices of people who for too long have been silenced. It is time to permanently protect our sacred lands, in alignment with Blackfeet’s vision and tribal interests. That is why we have worked with so many of our friends and neighbors to draft a proposal that will protect the Badger-Two Medicine once and for all.
The Blackfeet have been granted a profound connection to the Badger-Two Medicine since time immemorial. It is our last cultural refuge, home to many of our cultural origin stories, a stronghold for our ceremonies and traditions. It is where we practiced our culture in safety after the federal government outlawed Blackfeet ceremony. It is where we still seek healing and solace, guidance and renewal.
Others besides Blackfeet also seek the power of the Badger-Two Medicine. They are our friends and neighbors, and they travel this beautiful area to hunt and fish, to hike and camp, to graze cattle and to pack horses. Others, like the grizzly bear and wolverine, the elk and mule deer, seek refuge in these mountains by settling in seasonally before following ancient migrations out onto the prairie or high into Glacier National Park. We want all these people – two-legged and four-legged, finned, furred and feathered – to be able to access the Badger-Two Medicine forever, and our vision for permanent protection does exactly that. It protects all of us, our traditions and our heritage, and leaves a legacy all can be proud of. This spring, a statewide poll showed 80 percent of Montanans stood with us in this shared effort to protect the best of what is left.
Many positive steps already have been taken. The illegal leases have been canceled. The entire area has been designated a Traditional Cultural District. The Badger-Two Medicine is off-limits to motorized access. And years ago Congress passed a law forever banning all future mineral leasing. These protections are limited, however, and do not provide Blackfeet a meaningful voice.
If our experience teaches us anything, it is that soon, someone will bring another fight to our doorstep. Someone always has another plan that will erode our cultural heritage. Our Blackfeet Traditional Knowledge System is intact – thanks in large part to the Badger-Two Medicine – but it is in fragile condition. It cannot withstand additional pressure. It cannot withstand another fight.
Today, we share an opportunity to protect the best of Blackfeet tradition and Montana heritage. The Badger-Two Medicine is, above all else, a place of healing, and our world needs it as much as it needs us. We and our neighbors have drafted a proposal for our future, but only Congress can make it a reality. We invite all of you, and specifically our congressional delegation, to work together and bring this vision to life.
Tim Davis, chairman, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council
John Murray, Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
Terry Tatsey, member, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council
Tyson Running Wolf, member, Pikuni Traditionalists Association
Darrell Hall, member, Blackfeet Brave Dog Society