Ceremonial Bison Hunt conducted on the National Elk Refuge
by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services
March 1, 2010
Approximately sixty members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes conducted a ceremonial bison hunt on the National Elk Refuge last month, making this the third year the Tribes have conducted the limited hunt.
Four bulls were harvested on February 4, eight days prior to the refuge’s initiation of this year’s supplemental feeding season.
The National Elk Refuge is located within the Tribes’ aboriginal lands. Traditionally, they have resided and hunted in the Yellowstone area. The Tribes can harvest up to five bison per year as part of a traditional ceremonial activity that is closely coordinated with National Elk Refuge staff.
Tribal opportunities for ceremonial harvest was approved in the 2007 Final Bison and Elk Management Plan because it was determined to be compatible and an appropriate use on the National Elk Refuge.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy encourages reasonable access to Service-managed lands for Native American ceremonial activities. However, the National Elk Refuge does require that the ceremonial activity cannot take place during the supplemental feeding season.
If the Tribes express an interest in harvesting a fifth bison later this season, the limited hunt will be delayed until spring when the feeding program has concluded for the winter.
The Tribes will use the robes from the harvested bison bulls for ceremonial use. "The hair on the bison is in its prime right now," explained Refuge Manager Steve Kallin, "since thick winter coats are one way bison adapt to the long, cold season." Claudeo M. Broncho, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Policy Representative for the Tribes said, "It was a good day to be here and take these buffalo. We take them in a good way and with good feelings. I know the Shoshone and Bannock people will use all what we harvested for ceremonial and subsistence needs."