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Montana Indian Tribes and the Bison Hunt

Bison photo.

In 2005, the Montana Legislature enacted a law that directs FWP to award two bison hunting licenses to each of Montana's Indian tribes whenever 40 or more bison hunting licenses are issued in any year.

FWP will issue two bison hunting licenses to individuals designated by tribal diabetic programs. Hunting licenses will be distributed among the following tribes: Assiniboine and Sioux, Blackfeet, Chippewa Cree, Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Crow, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, and Little Shell band of Chippewa.

The law was established to honor Montana's tribes and their long association with bison. State legislators reasoned that Montana's Indian ancestors followed bison in their migration for hundreds of years and they relied on bison for food, shelter, and clothing. Legislators also acknowledged that bison are revered among Indian Tribes as a gift from the Creator and thus were hunted with respect and appreciation around traditional ceremonies and practices. The intent is to ensure that bison are harvested by tribal members in accordance with traditional ceremonies, that the harvested animal is used in the manner the tribes see fit, and that bison meat is made available for the treatment of tribal members who suffer from diabetes.

In late 1880s, poaching and market hunting reduced the region's wild bison herds. By 1901, only 25 bison inhabited Yellowstone National Park. In 1902, 21 bison from tribal captive herds supplemented the dwindling Yellowstone herd, thereby keeping the gift alive for future generations of Americans.