Bison, © Annie Griffiths Belt

A Rally for Bison

Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains Representative 

As I wrote last week, there are a number of anti-bison bills sailing through the Montana state legislature this year. These bills pose all kinds of threats to wild bison, including stopping restoration of wild Yellowstone bison to other parts of the state and allowing landowners to kill all bison that set hoof on private land. We have been working hard with Native American tribes, sportsmen’s groups and other conservation organizations to stop these bills.

On Tuesday, we all held a rally inside the Montana capitol building in Helena. Bison supporters from across the state were there to show legislators that the people of Montana want wild bison. Native American tribes from across Montana ran the event, and the crowd was predominantly from Montana’s seven Indian reservations. Dr. Ken Ryan, tribal elder from the Fort Peck Reservation Assiniboine tribe, held what we think is the first-ever pipe ceremony in the capitol building. Senator Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a member of the Crow tribe, gave a talk that brought the crowd to their feet. A performance from Fort Belknap Reservation’s Wahkpa Nakoda Drum Group reverberated throughout the building. The message was clear: Kill the bills, not the bison.

News of the rally appeared in the Great Falls Tribune with a nice video of the event, the Bozeman Chronicle, Montana Public Radio, and local television stations. With so many Montanans speaking out in support of bison and against these harmful bills, we hope these attacks on Montana’s wild bison will soon come to a close.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress. In the meantime, check out these photos from the rally:


Montana Capitol, © Defenders of Wildlife

The rally took place at the Montana state legislature in Helena.

Bison, © David Shepard

All 10 of the anti-bison bills present serious threats to wild bison, and could put an end to all efforts to restore these iconic animals to the Great Plains.

Bison rally, © Defenders of Wildlife

"We're here to help you understand the significance of the buffalo in our culture." - Thomas Christian, member of the Fork Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribal Council, emceed the rally in Helena.

Drums in the Capitol

Wahkpa Nakoda Drum Group from Fort Belknap Reservation performed for the crowd, a rare event inside the Montana capitol building.

Looking Up

Even the artwork on the dome of the capitol building reflects the variety of people and cultures that form Montana.

Bison rally, © Defenders of Wildlife

Ervin Carlson, President, Intertribal Buffalo Council, discussed the unanimous tribal opposition to these anti-bison bills.

Bison hearing, © Jonathan Proctor/Defenders

Thomas Anketell, Council Member, Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board, spoke to the crowd about the importance of the new Yellowstone bison herd at Fort Peck Reservation.

Tracy King, Fort Belknap Tribal Council President, told the legislators about the importance of wild bison to the tribes.

"The buffalo are one with the people of the state of Montana." - Senator Sharon Stewart-Peregoy (D, Crow Agency), a member of the Crow tribe, brought the crowd to its feet with a rousing speech.

Working Together

Jonathan Proctor, Defenders' Rockies and Plains Representative, talks with Defenders' allies Mike Fox, member of the Fort Belknap Tribal Council, and Mark Azure, Director of the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department, about our collective strategies to kill the bills.

Bison, © Jim Peaco/NPS

Intolerance is the greatest threat to bison today. Together with our allies in the northern Great Plains, we're working to spread acceptance of wild bison and find more places for them to roam, so that we can continue the effort to bring these beautiful animals back to their historic range.

2 Responses to “A Rally for Bison”

  1. Rob Gatian

    Thank you on behalf of all wildlife especially the bison right now. Those of you that have dedicated your time to protecting wildlife are at the top of the chain as far as I’m concerned. I hope one day I can do more.

  2. diane smart

    i may be thick, but i don’t understand what the landowners have against the bison, except that the bison may take away some land that they want to grab. they want to have some bison labeled as livestock, does any of this make sense? no more than the way they have gone after the wolves, i read the bozeman chronicle tonite, and they ran a survey that said that homeowners were in favor of the wolf, the landowner was not in favor of the wolf. we’ve gotten to alot of people with our outcry and with all the wonderful people and websites that are dedicated to the wolf and the bison, but we need to keep working harder, to keep the wolf and the bison roaming free. the thing i can’t see is, if the hunters would stay out of the wolves forest, thrashing around, then the wolves wouldn’t be driven towards towns, etc…. or is there a method to their madness??


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