UBCIC Statement of Solidarity for US Tribes Protection of the sacred Grizzly Bear

News Release
October 18, 2018

UBCIC Statement of Solidarity for US Tribes Protection of the sacred Grizzly Bear

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – Oct 18, 2018) The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stands in solidarity with the 31 Tribal Nations that recently submitted a joint testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), on the future of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and particularly the survival of the sacred grizzly bear.

The UBCIC supports the steadfast defense of Indigenous rights by the tribes of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Great Sioux Nation tribes and their allies of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. These tribes and organizations have been steadfast in the defense of treaty rights, religious and spiritual freedoms, and sovereignty of all Tribal Nations that the removal of ESA protections from the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem threatened.

The grizzly bear holds immense significance in the spiritualities of many First Nations people in British Columbia, reflecting the reverence and importance of this sacred being to our relatives south of us, from the states of Montana to Arizona.

The UBCIC represents over half of the 203 First Nations in British Columbia, Canada. Our mandate is to work towards the implementation, exercise and recognition of our inherent Title, Rights and Treaty Rights and to protect our Lands and Waters, through the exercise and implementation of our own laws and jurisdiction. The UBCIC works collectively amongst Indigenous Nations in BC and acts as an advocacy body to provide a cohesive voice (regionally, nationally and internally) in support of Indigenous Nations and communities, and to promote and protect each Nation’s exercise of Sovereignty within their traditional territories.

The UBCIC is mandated to advocate for the protection of grizzly bears from trophy hunting and to protect the territories on which they live by Resolution 2011-55, “Support for Qat’muk Declaration and Opposition to the Proposed Jumbo Glacier Report” and Resolution 2013-37, “Support for Bears Forever Campaign.”

It is evident from the maneuvers of Senator John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming), Chairman of the EPW Committee, and the evidence presented in the testimony of Tribal Nations, that relationships between elected representatives in the Republican Party and extractive industry moguls are driving this assault on the ESA, on tribal peoples’ lands and rights. All of which represents a significant attempt to subvert the Court’s ruling in Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke that returned protections to the sacred grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone. Attempting to overturn a court ruling with a legislative provision that will deny due process to tribes and citizens alike is not reflective of the tenets of a democracy. Clearly, it is time for Tribal First Nations to again take the lead in the defense of the sacred, of our relatives and Mother Earth. The UBCIC supports the creation of a First Nations/Native American Endangered Species Act.

The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, initiated by the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and signed by the UBCIC Executive and numerous First Nations chiefs in BC, promises innovative and sound conservation strategy. It will also nurture cultural revitalization and offer economic opportunity to Native Americans and participating tribal nations.

Both Canada and the United States have clear duties in upholding their international human rights commitments, including under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration affirms:

Article 25: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, and waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard;

Article 26:

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired;
  2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or their traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired;
  3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the Indigenous peoples concerned.

The UBCIC joins our allies in calling for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to meet with tribal leaders to hold open discussions on implementing this treaty.

Media inquiries:

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, Union of BC Indian Chiefs

Phone: 1 250 320 7738

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