Native American Views of the Bison Slaughter

"They are slaughtering our relative"Lakota elder and spiritual adviser Sidney Keith, about the slaughter of bison in Yellowstone National Park, quoted in Indian Country Today

From the Native American Discussion List: Or

iginal Sender: (J.D.K. Chipps ) Mailing List: NATIVE-L (

Date: Tuesday, 28-Jan-97 06:15 PM

From: InterTribal Bison Cooperative ( To: J.D.K. Chipps (


Dear Friend, I have been informed you are interested in stopping the Yellowstone buffalo slaughter. Please post this wherever you are able. Thanks, Mark Heckert, Exec. Dir.

Dear Friends,

The InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC)is a tribal organization of 40 American Indian Tribes dedicated to the restoration of buffalo (bison) to North America, to maintain the cultural and spiritual link between the people and the buffalo that was forged at the begining of time. We are appalled at the present actions occurring in Yellowstone National Park. The national Park Service and the State of Montana have killed over 2,000 (TWO THOUSAND!) bison in Yellowstone in the past 3 years, over 720 this year alone, and they plan to kill many, many more. This is an absolutely needless, senseless slaughter, conducted by the agencies which are supposed to protect these animals. The ITBC has proposed over and over that the bison leaving Yellowstone should be captured and quarantined until it can be determined that they do not harbor any disease, at which time they should be shipped to tribes to repopulate their reservations and to other public lands where they may be reintroduced. To this point, we have been ignored. If you could see these magnificant buffalo (bulls, cows, and newborn calves) kicking and twitching their lives away as their blood flows out onto those killing fields, you would know what incredibly bad Karma this is, on all of us. We are trying any way we can to get this stopped. We need all the help we can get. Please feel free to post this anywhere and everywhere you can. If anybody wants to help they can contact us at

InterTribal Bison Cooperative 2460 Deadwood Ave. Rapid City, SD 57702 605.493-9730 fax 605. 394-7742

In addition, we need people to contact the agencies listed below and express their outrage at this situation. Nothing else has gotten through. Only the force of public opinion will affect a change in the present policy. PLEASE WRITE.

Addresses, emails, ph#'s, faxes, etc. gleaned from FN-WK list & elsewhere re: Bison Slaughter


President Bill Clinton The White House Washington, D.C. fax: (202) 456-2461

First Lady Hillary Clinton

Vice President Al Gore

Congressional Email addressess are available at several Govt. and private websites. Go into the Yahoo search engine and type in "Government email addresses", and you will find a number of very useful resources there! I can email a file of the addresses to anyone who needs to receive it that way.


Bruce Babbitt 202-208-7351 (Dept. of the Interior) ph (202) 208-7351 fax (202) 208-6956 email Bruce_Babbitt@IOS.DOI.GOV Interior Bldg. 1849 C Street NW Washington, D.C. 20240 National Park Service 202-208-4621

Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman: phone 202-720-3631. FAX? 202 720 2166 EMAIL 200_A Whitten Bldg. 1400 Independence Ave., SW

Ass't. Sec. Wardell C. Townsend, Jr.

Dir., Office of Operations Ira L. Hobbs

Superintendent Mike Finley, YNP, (307) 344-2002

Continue calls to APHIS, they are the ones putting pressure on the State of Montana. APHIS director 202-720-3668

Dr. Bob Nervig- 303-784-6201 Stuart McDonnald 303-969-6560 (Animal Damage Control and Public Affairs)


Gov. Marc Racicot State Capitol Helena, MT 59620-0801 406-444-3111 (wk) 406-444-5543 (hm) Call anytime. Fax 406 444-5529

Travel Bureau of Montana, 1-800-847-4868

Montana Dept of Livestock Larry Peterson, Director P.O. Box 2020001 Helena, Montana 59620-2001 phone 406 444-2043 fax 406 444-1929

Secretary E.E. Mortensen, MDOL, (406) 444-2023

Mary Meagher - Mary's number is: 307-344-21

CONTACT: Jim Angell of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, 406-586-9699, or Bob Ekey of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, 406-586-1593, or Joan Moody, 202-682-9400, ext. 220, or Bob Ferris, 202-682-9400, ext. 229, both of Defenders of Wildlife

If you would like to be kept informed on this and other issues concerning wildlife management in the northern Rockies, please write: NWF, Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center, 2260 Baseline Road, #100, Boulder, CO 80302.

National Parks and Conservation Association 1776 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington DC 20036

E-mail: Phone: (202) 223-6722 or (800) NAT-PARK

CONTACT: Jerome Uher, (202) 223-6722, ext. 122 (Media) Mark Peterson, (970) 493-2545 (NPCA Rocky Mountain Regional Director)


Rescue 1 homepage

Memorandum of Understanding between NWF & ITCB re: Bison http://www.nwf. org/news/bishome.html

NPCA's Work in Behalf of YNP sop.html

National Parks and Conservation Association

The Buffalo is Coming Back: Defender's Magazine

The Center for Bison Studies: MSU-Bozeman

Bison Roundup: Newton's Apple PBS

Bison and Native Americans in North America-from NFW site

J.D.K. Chipps Homepage

National Wildlife Federation

U.S. Dept. of Interior

U.S. Superintendant of Documents Homepage

U.S. House of Representatives Homepage

U.S. Senate Homepage

Welcome to the Whitehouse

Supreme Court Decisions

Constitutions-Statutes & Codes

U.S. House of Representatives-Internet Law Library

Fedworld Information Net Homepage

The Federal Web Locator

APHIS Homepage

APHIS Web Phone Directory

USDA Homepage


My name is ________ and I live in __________. I am writing to you today to draw your attention to an issue that concerns me deeply. I believe that it is a concern shared by many fellow Americans.

Attached is a copy of a Memorandum of Understanding signed January 22, 1997 between the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). This MOU expresses the substantial mutual concern I share with the NWF regarding the senseless slaughter of buffalo which has occurred , and continues, in and around Yellowstone National Park.

I share the conviction with ITBC and NWF that the present policy and actions of the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture regarding this situation are resulting in the needless killing of a substantial segment of the Yellowstone National Park buffalo population and must be significantly altered. I also share the conviction that the most practical, humane, and beneficial solution to this problem is, as described in the MOU, the capture and quarantine of those animals exiting the park, with the animals passing quarantine being distributed to Native American tribes for repopulation of reservation herds.

With the tally of bison kills increasing daily, there is no longer the option of further delay. It is our request and expectation that DOI and DOA will initiate immediate and decisive action to stop the killing and initiate a process for the eventual live transfer of these animals.

The main reason cited for this indiscriminate slaughter is the issue of transmission of Brucellosis to domestic livestock by the Bison. This is a false issue and I have attached a position paper explaining why there is no significant risk of transmission of this disease to domestic livestock by Bison.

I am committing myself to the constructive resolution of this issue, as have many organizations, groups, and individuals all across America; Native and non-Native, formal and informal. I am looking forward to your reply.



This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) describes the areas of agreement between the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Member Tribes of the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) regarding re-populating tribal lands with North American Bison (Bison bison) and specifically regarding management of the bison population inhabiting the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and the ability of the member Tribes to acquire bison from the Yellowstone populations.

The ITBC is an organization of 40 Native American Tribes dedicated to the restoration of bison in a manner compatible with the spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices of Native American people. At the core of this belief is the knowledge that bison have provided for the needs of Native American peoples since the beginning of time and are to be treated with the utmost respect in all actions. Bison populations must be maintained and enhanced as wild and free-roaming and should be repopulated wherever possible to insure the continued viability of the species as well as continued and expanded access by native Americans for cultural and subsistence use.

The National Wildlife Federation is the nation's largest conservation organization. Founded in 1936, NWF works to educate, inspire, and assist individuals and organizations of diverse cultures to conserve wildlife and other natural resources and to protect the Earth's environment in order to achieve a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. The National Wildlife Federation's main goal regarding this MOU is to restore bison in those habitats that will support the long-term propagation and enhancement of bison as one of the pre-eminent wildlife species in North America. NWF is adamant that bison must be considered and managed as wildlife by wildlife agencies with all the authorities and respect associated therein.

The signatories understand the bison populating the greater Yellowstone ecosystem are exposed to Brucellosis abortus and some bison test positive for exposure to the disease. At the current time, bison migrating out of Yellowstone National Park are indiscriminately killed by the Montana Board of Livestock under the guise of brucellosis control. We abhor this present practice, and the underlying contention that bison, or any other wildlife species, should be managed under the jurisdiction of livestock interests.

The signatories are opposed to extreme and unnecessary control actions and believe there are many other alternative methods to manage the risk of disease transmission to domestic livestock. NWF supports and endorses the ITBC proposal for the capture and quarantine of bison under accepted disease management protocols. Bison that pass quarantine will then be made available to the tribes for reintroduction to tribal lands. This strategy, coupled with limited sport and subsistence hunting conducted on lands outside the park, and the adoption of a risk-management profile to delineate times and places of unacceptable risk of transmission to domestic livestock, will eliminate the reasons used to justify the present indiscriminate control actions by the Montana Board of Livestock.

NWF and ITBC recognize that bison was the central point of the culture, spirituality, and physical existence of Native Americans. This relationship continues to this day. NWF recognizes the special historical and cultural relationship Native Americans have with bison and believes that the Tribes should have special access to Greater Yellowstone Area bison, as a result of a millennium of inter-dependency, treaties made with the U.S. government, and the trust responsibilities of the U.S. government to Indian Tribes.

NWF agrees that appropriate bison from Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and any wild bison declared nuisance on private lands surrounding the YNP should be captured by the responsible agencies in coordination with ITBC for testing and possible quarantine. Those bison that pass the quarantine protocol should be released for transfer to tribal lands. Bison failing the quarantine should be slaughtered and distributed to Indian Tribes. ITBC and NWF agree to work together to develop and implement the quarantine procedures, the hunting options, and risk-assessment procedures. ITBC and NWF agree to jointly support each other in efforts to acquire the external funding resources necessary to accomplish these tasks.

The Tribes and the NWF support the re-population of public lands with bison. In order to support this effort the Tribes agree that a percentage of the bison which successfully complete the quarantine will be made available for release on appropriate lands, subject to mutual agreement with the appropriate land management agencies.

NWF and the tribes support ethical hunting of bison on public lands outside of National Parks. These hunts must be conducted according to the accepted rules of fair chase and sportsmanship and consistent with standard wildlife management techniques and goals of state or tribal wildlife management agencies. These hunts must not conflict with, or impinge upon in any manner, existing tribal subsistence buffalo hunting activities, and the general hunts will be designed taking this into account.

By their signatures below, the National Wildlife Federation and the InterTribal Bison Cooperative affirm the agreements set forth above.

This MOU may be withdrawn by any signatory 30 days after written notification by that signatory. Any individual member tribe may withdraw participation in this agreement with a 30-day written notice to ITBC but such notice will not affect participation by ITBC in this agreement.

Signed and Affirmed this 22nd day of January, 1997 _

____________________________ _____________________________

Fred DuBray Mark Van Putten President Chief Executive Officer InterTribal Bison Cooperative National Wildlife Federation ------------------------------------------------------------ -----------


Brucellosis is a contagious disease in domestic livestock caused by the bacteria Brucella abortus. The disease was originally transmitted to wildlife by cattle, and now is found in wild ungulates such as elk and bison of the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area are being slaughtered under the guise of reducing or eliminating exposure of domestic cattle to brucellosis from wildlife. However, the real issue is not risk of exposure, which is minimal. The real issue is: who manages America's wildlife on public lands? Wildlife biologists and other wildlife professionals, or state or federal agricultural managers, whose perspectives and experience have nothing to do with wildlife management and conservation?

This paper sets forth the most important features of this issue and recommends possible solutions for the consideration of the Secretary of the Interior. Two key points must be noted at the beginning:

1) The states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture have established the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee (GYIBC) to help resolve the brucellosis problem. State wildlife agencies, veterinarians, agriculture departments, and the appropriate federal agencies, such as the Animal- Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)) are members of the committee.

2) The GYIBC has failed to make any progress because only the National Park Service is willing to commit its share of the funding required to develop and implement a solution to the problem. APHIS is both unwilling to allocate funding to begin work on a solution and is attempting to promulgate new rules expanding its authority over wildlife. This directly violates the spirit and the specific requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding that established the GYIBC.

I believe that the conservation of wildlife resources must be vested in those state and federal departments and agencies whose primary mission is the protection, stewardship, and enhancement of wildlife resources. The brucellosis problem can be solved while assuring that our wildlife is conserved and managed by expert professionals under the overall authority of the Department of the Interior and state wildlife agencies.


Brucellosis is transmitted during reproductive events. Although there is a very small chance that bison bulls could transmit the bacteria to cattle females during mating, the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee stated: ". . . transmission from bison to cattle is almost certainly confined to contamination by a birth event by adult females." Therefore, non-pregnant females, calves and male bison pose virtually no risk of disease transmission.

The most prevalent method of transmission is likely associated with exposure to an aborted fetus, placenta and fetal fluids. Uninfected young can also be infected from ingesting infected milk, because the bacteria can be passed through the milk.

The Brucella organism has limited viability outside its host and is quickly killed by direct sunlight. The bacteria can remain viable for longer periods of time in cold weather.


Human beings historically have contracted the disease by ingesting non- pasteurized milk, or by slaughtering and handling infected carcasses. Meat from infected animals can be safely eaten as long as the meat is adequately cooked. The widespread pasteurization of milk and near- elimination of the disease from cattle has reduced the number of reported human cases from 6, 500 in 1940 to 70 in 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control no longer consider brucellosis a reportable disease. There is no evidence of humans becoming ill from ingestion of domestic American meats. The human incidence of brucellosis (called Undulant Fever) is currently restricted to consumption of unpasteurized goat milk and cheese from chronically infected Mexican goat herds.


There has never been a verified case of transmission of brucellosis from a free-ranging wildlife population to cattle. Transmission has been demonstrated only under experimental conditions with confined animals.

In 1989, 810 cattle from 18 different herds where Yellowstone bison ranged were tested twice for brucellosis infection. No cattle tested positive for exposure to brucellosis.

The Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee has recognized that bison bulls pose virtually no threat of infecting female cattle by mating.

Animals can be tested for brucellosis exposure by drawing a blood sample. The sample is then tested for the presence of immune reactors for brucellosis specifically. A positive test only means the animal has been exposed to brucellosis and its immune system has responded. It does not mean the animal is contagious. To determine if the animal is currently infected, the animal must be killed and appropriate tissue samples cultured for the Brucella organism.

A vaccine exists for cattle that is about 75% effective and a new vaccine has been developed that does not react positively to the brucellosis blood test (RB-51).

No safe and effective vaccine exists for bison.

Predators and scavengers reduce the likelihood of the disease spreading because they quickly find and consume aborted fetuses and birth products, thus removing them from the environment.

Bison usually do not co-mingle with cattle during the calving season and cattle could be controlled on public lands during the vulnerable period. Cattle and bison can be separated in both time and space.

There is some evidence that Yellowstone's bison have developed a tolerance for the disease and do not experience many abortions. In fact, the Yellowstone bison population continues to grow, proof that brucellosis does not limit population growth. Only a few abortions due to brucellosis by Yellowstone's bison have been documented.


The Animal-Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has spent over $3.5 billion since the 1930s to eradicate brucellosis. Today, only 57 cattle herds are left in the U.S. that test positive for brucellosis.

APHIS has committed to eradication of the disease by the end of 1998. The current annual budget for the brucellosis eradication program is $60 million . The elk and bison herds of Yellowstone stand in the way of that eradication goal.

Brucellosis eradication in domestic cattle is achieved by vaccination, test and slaughter and depopulation. If an animal or herd tests positive for exposure they are killed.

Nearly 2,000 bison have been killed in the Greater Yellowstone Area since 1984 for the perceived benefit of brucellosis control.

The prevalence of brucellosis is higher for the southern Yellowstone elk herds because elk are fed during winter on the National Elk Refuge and on 22 feedgrounds operated by the state of Wyoming. The Jackson bison herd also spends the winter on the National Elk Refuge.


If APHIS prevails in its current policy, total control over public lands and public wildlife management could be transferred to the agriculture community


This page last updated on April 21, 1997.