Residents of Gardiner, Montana believe that Native Americans in the area are taking their hunting rights too far.
Four tribes, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana, the Nez Perce and Shoshone-Bannock tribes of Idaho, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, have hunting rights to the area north of Yellowstone National Park. These rights were granted in a treaty dating back to 1855.
However, residents feel that the Native Americans’ elk hunting practices are bad for the herd, and in some cases, dangerous for the community, with reports of hunters shooting across highways and towards people and buildings.
One Gardiner resident said, “We’re pretty upset with the Native Americans shooting elk right now. The Nez Perce just opened up on the elk.” According to Sam Sheppard of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department, at least 50 elk have been taken during this year’s tribal hunt. This is particularly hard to swallow for non-tribal hunters, who have seen license allocations lowered and season lengths shortened in an effort to protect the elk population in the Gardiner area.
Meetings between state and federal officials and tribal leaders have proven ineffectual to this point. Rep. Alan Redfield said that at the most recent meeting “the Salish-Kootenai had eight of 10 Tribal Council members there. They pretty much said, ‘Hey, it’s our treaty rights and were going to keep them.'”
What do you think? Should this longstanding tribal hunt continue or should tribal hunters be required to follow restrictions similar to their non-tribal counterparts?