On July 22, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke announced that grizzly bears within the Greater Yellowstone area would be delisted from the endangered species list (ESL). This announcement came two hours after Zinke, who under oath, testified that he would consult with tribal nations about the impact that the delisting would have on tribal sovereignty, lands, and religion. Zinke responded to questions about consulting with tribes saying, “I think it’s not only a right, it’s the law.”
In reaction to Zinke’s dishonesty, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman, Harold Frazier, stated, “It’s typical that Zinke would make this decision without consulting tribal leaders. They have lied to us before. They continue to lie to us and I don’t expect that behavior to change.”
Grizzly bears within in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem have been on the endangered species list since 1975, when there were estimated to be only 136 grizzlies left, down from a population of 50,000. It is now estimated that here are 700 grizzly bears living within the Greater Yellowstone area. Protection of the grizzly bear under the ESL meant strict regulations for the oil, gas, and logging industries. Now that the grizzly bear is delisted, tribes fear what it means for their unceded treaty lands.
“The decision to delist the grizzly bear was not made for the benefit of our land, the grizzly bear, our people, or our country. This decision was made for corporate greed, so that they can continue to attack our planet for their own wealth,” said Chairman Frazier.
The Yellowstone National Park is a matrix of sacred tribal sites, traditional hunting grounds, and ancestral homelands. 26 tribes, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, are among the Yellowstone’s associated tribes. The grizzly bear, who lived under the protection of the ESL within the Greater Yellowstone Area, has religious importance to these
associated with places of great religious significance to the Lakota people. It is a symbol of the power of Mother Nature and a teacher to our people. The bear has taught us to survive. Where the land is healthy, you will find bears,” said Chairman Frazier.
Proponents of the delisting have argued that the increased population of grizzly bears means the population would be self-sustaining. Property owners around the Yellowstone National Park also argue that grizzly bear encounters have increased throughout the years. The delisting, they contend, would mean states would have sole management of nuisance bears, and the possibility of allowing trophy hunting.
On July 4, in response to the delisting, Chairman Frazier, was among several Great Sioux Nation leaders to sign the treaty, “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration”. Chairman Frazier stated, “Delisting of the grizzly bear symbolizes the open season of our culture. To protect the grizzly bear is to protect ourselves. They have no voice, but we do.”