Montana American Indian Caucus
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) held their Bison Range Restoration Celebration May 20-22, a monumental day that represented the righting of a terrible time in our American history by restoring and honoring a broken treaty and the land and the bison. return it back to the CSKT. This monumental day was a day of healing, but it also represented the continuing need for healing among all our Montana tribes and the need to mend and keep many of the broken promises once made. And while this special day celebrated an important piece that was missing for the people of Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille, a huge void still remains with the lack of Big Medicine at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.
Born in 1933 and living in the National Bison Range in the Flathead Indian Reservation, Big Medicine was a true white bison, not an albino bison, who lived to be 26. He was one in a million born and a physical representation of the the spiritual significance of the bison herd to the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille, as he was considered a special gift from the creator and the centralization of the spiritual power of the buffalo represented. the terrible eras of American removal and assimilation policies and still suffer the effects of the Great Depression. Big Medicine gave people hope and brought much-needed healing.
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It’s only fitting to bring this healing cycle full now by bringing Big Medicine back to its people, its herd, and its home. CSKT members had the vision to bring bison across the canyon to help save them from extinction, the ancestors from which Big Medicine was born. Bison gave birth to our indigenous people and they are woven into our DNA. We understand the importance of bison, which hold special significance among all of our Montana tribes.
Pend d’Oreille Tribal Elder, Steven Small Salmon, said it bluntly in his interview with KPAX, where he recalled seeing Big Medicine as a kid. He said, “[T]hey said he’s in Helena now. And that kind of drove me crazy. Today I’ve been asking them to bring it back here for 20 years. I’d say, hey, we need The White Buffalo here.” The Montana Historical Society and the State of Montana now have a unique opportunity to enable another major round of healing by bringing Big Medicine back home.
Members of the Montana American Indian Caucus: Sen. Shane A. Morigeau, Sen. Susan Webber, Sen. Jason Small, Sen. Mike Fox, Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, Rep. Frank Smith, Rep. Tyson Running Wolf, Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy, Representative Marvin Weatherwax, Representative Donavon Hawk, Representative Rynalea Whiteman Pena