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Interior secretary celebrates the return of the Bison Range with the CSKT

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks inside the Salish Kootenai College's basketball gym for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes celebration of the Bison Range restoration, May 21, 2022.
Freddy Monares
/
Montana Public Radio
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks inside the Salish Kootenai College's basketball gym for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes celebration of the Bison Range restoration, May 21, 2022.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland over the weekend joined the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in celebrating the return of a western Montana bison range to tribal hands.

“Please let us give a big round of applause for my hero, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland,” Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Chairman Tom McDonald says.

McDonald introduced Haaland to a crowd of several hundred people gathered inside the Salish Kootenai College’s basketball gym on Saturday.

Haaland says with the loss of tribal homelands and depletion of bison herds, tribes lost traditional connections to bison.

“But in spite of that tragedy and loss, we are still here. You are still here. And that’s something to celebrate,” she says.

In late 2020, Congress passed, and former President Donald Trump signed, a bill returning management of the bison range to the tribes. The federal government unlawfully took in the land in the 1900s.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland stands alongside Montana Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes celebration of the Bison Range restoration, May 21, 2022.
Freddy Monares
/
Montana Public Radio
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland stands alongside Montana Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes celebration of the Bison Range restoration, May 21, 2022.

Haaland says returning management of the land to the tribes is a culmination of Native peoples’ resilience, conservation guided by Indigenous knowledge and the Biden administration’s commitment to honor treaty obligations.

Montana’s Lt. Governor Kristen Juras, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams and members of CSKT’s tribal council joined Haaland onstage for the celebration. After the ceremony the tribes presented Haaland with a shawl, a beaded pendant and a necklace.

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