PABLO - The federal government seized the land of the Bison Range in 1908, and Saturday, 114 years later, federal dignitaries, and from the tribe got together to celebrate a restoration that tribal leaders say has been coming for a long time.
It was a festive atmosphere at the Salish Kootenai College as members of the tribal community gathered to celebrate the return of the Bison Range. Elders spoke of a multi-generational struggle to reclaim the land, stating that the bison are culturally symbolic of the tribe… strong, wise, and resilient.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — the first Native American to hold the position — spoke at the ceremony, saying the federal government can learn valuable lessons on how to address climate change and wildlife management from native practices.
“The return of the bison range to these tribes is a triumph and a testament to what can happen when we collaboratively work together to restore balance to ecosystems that were injured by greed and disrespect.”
The Bison Range's story starts in the 1800s when Tribal members started a free-ranging Reservation herd when plains bison were near extinction. Then, in 1908, the federal government established the National Bison Range in the middle of the Flathead Indian Reservation on land taken without their consent.
Over a century later — and through the Montana Water Rights Protection Act signed in 2020 — the Bison Range land was restored to the tribes.