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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland 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 on May 21, 2022.

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

Speaking to a crowd of several hundred people gathered inside the Salish Kootenai College’s basketball gym on Saturday, Haaland said 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," she said. "And that’s something to celebrate."

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.
Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Freddy Monares
Freddy Monares is a reporter and Morning Edition host at Montana Public Radio. He previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, covered the 2017 Legislature for UM Legislative News Service and interned with the station as a student. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2017.