Blackfeet Federation Seeks Permanent Protection For Badger Two Medicine

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Above photo: Badger Creek in the Badger-Two Medicine. Tony Bynum/tonybynum.com.

Recently, the Blackfeet Tribal Council, MT announced its goal of securing permanent Federal government for the Badger Two Medicine area, sacred site to them. Specifically, they are seeking a new type of federal legislation that would authorize and establish a Cultural Heritage Area, the Badger Two Medicine, 130,000 acres within the Lewis-Clark National Forest area, to be co-managed by the Tribe and USFS.

“Badger Two Medicine is a heart and soul spiritual place to the Blackfeet people. It is where we still come together to help one another,” explained Earl Person. “Without it, our people will be weakened.” Old Person, now 91 a nationally recognized Tribal Leader spent more than 60 years in Tribal politics, most often serving as Tribal Chairman. But more important, Cold Winds (his tribal name) has served as the hereditary and principal Chief of the Blackfeet Federation since 1978, giving him great standing among those Tribal people. The Blackfeet Confederation comprises the Pikuni in Montana; the Pikuni in Canada; Bloods and North Blackfeet of Canada. “We are the same people and come together once a year or so, to discuss common concerns and help each other,” Old Person noted.

The Badger Two Medicine comprises sprawling and pristine 130,000 acres, one edge adjacent to the Blackfeet Reservation abuts Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Helena-Lewis National Forest, all nationally pristine and protected areas.  Old Person explained that the area got its name for two reasons: the Badger River runs through it and was where the Blackfeet traditional convened an annual ceremony, erecting two ceremonial lodges near a large lake.

Since 1908, the area has enjoyed some protection from the 1908 Antiquities Act. At one point, Old Person recalled, the Federal Government wanted to make the Badger Two Medicine part of Glacier National Park, but buckled under the objection of the Blackfeet, who feared they would then lose and influence over the area and be severely limited in usage.

While a safeguard of sort, the Antiquities Act has been interpreted differently by various Federal administrations. Frequently, corporate America has turned its eye to Badger Two Medicine, seeking leases for oil and gas and gold exploration and logging. Thus far, the Tribe, with considerable support from sympathetic wilderness and other organizations and the Montana Congressional delegation (of late Senators Tester and Dane have so far beat back corporate interests of plunder and profit through federal leasing).  The Montana Congressional delegation for years has supported tribal efforts regarding the Badger Two Medicine and continue to express support. For example, Senator Jon Tester, D, MT recently stated in a press release: Celebrating the court cancelation of the last oil and gas lease in the area, I will keep pushing until the Badger Two Medicine is permanently protected.  Other Montana members of Congress promised careful review of the proposed legislation and to continue working with the Tribe.

Currently, the Badger Two Medicine enjoys a status similar to a Wilderness designation; oil and gas and other leasing is currently prohibited, though leases for cattle grazing are allowed, acceptable to the Tribe, are allowed. The area is off-limits to motorized vehicles, including four-wheelers, accessible only by foot or horseback, thus also utilized by licensed outfitters. There are no roads or marked designated trails or food vendors. It is also a rich wildlife sanctuary, prime hunting and fishing resource, supported by clean water all greatly appealing to the hardier and more adventurous – one of America’s great outdoor adventure lands.

But the Blackfeet have learned through bitter experience that Federal policy can quickly change, like the ebb and flow and current of a river. “That is why we must solve this problem now – seeking permanent protection. We cannot leave this problem to our children and grandchildren,” stressed John Murray, Tribal Historic Preservation, public relations person for the Tribe on the new initiative.

Specifically, the Tribe has, in great detail, provided draft legislation to establish the Badger Two Medicine Cultural Heritage Area a novel and responsible inclusive approach towards management of western Federal land. See more detail to be provided in Part 11.

Contact Clara Caufield at acheyennevoice@gmail.com.