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Blackfeet Tribal Business Council victory

| September 13, 2023 2:00 AM

The Blackfeet Nation has, since time immemorial, remained committed to protecting our sacred cultural lands in the Badger-Two Medicine. This area has forever been Blackfeet traditional territory, a place of refuge for our people. For decades, we have opposed plans to industrialize our cultural homeland. We want to acknowledge our many Blackfeet elders at the forefront of this struggle, who no longer are with us and who did not live to see the Badger-Two Medicine protected from development. We are grateful for their leadership.

After these many years of struggle, our people are relieved that agreement finally has been reached between the U.S. government, tribal and conservation partner organizations, and the leaseholder—Solenex, LLC—to retire the last Badger-Two Medicine oil and gas lease. The Blackfeet Nation did not create this controversy; we had no hand in the dealings between the American government and private industry that established these leases in the first place. Our Tribal leadership was not consulted, and our community’s welfare was not considered.

And yet it fell to us to defend our sovereign treaty rights, our traditional lands and waters, and our cultural survival. This has long been the case, as governments and private interests have repeatedly sought to profit at the expense of our traditional territories and cultural practices.

This agreement to retire the final lease brings to a close a long and painful chapter in the history of our people. We thank our leaders and our many partners who toiled for decades to safeguard our sacred mountains. We are particularly grateful to Hansjörg Wyss, who met with Blackfeet Tribal members and spent time in Badger-Two Medicine. The support of Mr. Wyss and the Wyss Foundation was critical to securing the agreement that permanently ends the threat of drilling on our sacred lands.

The settlement agreement rights a fundamental wrong by removing industry’s hold on one of our Nation’s most significant areas. The Badger-Two Medicine is our last refuge. It is a sacred place, a cultural touchstone, a repository of heritage, a living cultural landscape, a hunting ground and a sanctuary for wild nature. It is vital to the people who rely upon it, critical to the wildlife that depends upon it, and has an inherent value and power of its own.

We acknowledge the many other corporate holders of Badger-Two Medicine oil and gas leases who, over many years, worked with us in good-faith partnership to voluntarily relinquish their claims from our traditional territory. And we appreciate the strong majority of our fellow Montanans who have long supported us in this fight, and who support a stronger role for tribes in public land management decisions affecting tribes’ sacred or other important lands so that these types of protracted battles can better avoided in the future.

This settlement represents the latest action in a decades-long string of protective measures taken to protect the Badger-Two Medicine: the area has been designated a Traditional Cultural District; it is closed to recreational motorized use; and it is permanently off-limits to all new mining and leasing.

We are proud of these victories. Moving forward we will continue our unrelenting commitment to safeguard traditional Blackfeet lands, culture and practices by remaining vigilant for any proposals that would undermine our sovereignty and treaty rights in the Badger-Two Medicine or elsewhere.

Blackfeet Tribal

Business Council. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council consists of nine members elected from four districts of the Blackfeet Reservation.