A hearing last month about the future of the National Bison Range illustrated the role that racism and anti-Indian sentiment have played in opposing efforts to return the Range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). For 25 years, CSKT has sought a more just partnership with the U.S. government by having management of the Bison Range returned to the Tribes from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. While various steps toward that goal have happened at different points in time, the Trump Administration says a return is off the table.

CSKT is interested in re-acquiring the National Bison Range for numerous reasons. The Range is surrounded by the Flathead Reservation, and the land was taken by the federal government as part of 1908 legislation whereby the government parceled out land on reservations to non-tribal members. Essentially, this amounted to the United States government giving away the land of another sovereign nation. CSKT maintains the land was taken unconstitutionally and without the Tribes’ consent.

Ever since CSKT started its efforts supporting the return of the Bison Range and establishing a more just partnership with the U.S. government, opponents have used racist rhetoric based on derogatory stereotypes of American Indians. During 2016, CSKT took public comment on draft legislation to implement the Range’s return. The written comments received included overt racism directed at American Indians, including:
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