Fort Peck Tribes Ban Bird Hunting For Non-Members
During the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board’s regular meeting Monday, Oct. 23, in Poplar, the board voted to close non-tribal bird hunting on the reservation effective immediately.
Board member Marva Chapman was the sole dissenting voice in opposition to the move. According to a press release, the vote follows “several altercations and threats of violence against tribal hunters and landowners.” The statement adds that the tribes “will not be issuing refunds for licenses and permits that already been purchased.”
Board members expressed frustration at disrespectful and confrontational behavior experienced across the reservation by tribal members.
“It’s not just about one incident,” said board member Bryce Kirk. “There are racist people all over this reservation.”
Kirk and others argued that visiting hunters often disregard rules and regulations regarding guides, access, outfitting and limits. Enforcement was also raised as an issue, with few hands available to patrol a vast area consisting of more than two million acres.
Board members argued that non-tribal landowners in the area have a history of controlling access to lands which should be open to tribal members.
Chapman said the motion was unfair on several counts.
“I’m all about fair,” she said. “What about family members of en- rolled members? If it was us, we’d want our money back.”
Chapman said that visiting hunters are often among the better informed and well-behaved hunters in the community and added that many would likely pay increased fees for access to the area.
Chairman Floyd Azure was clear in his support for a ban: “This reservation is ours,” he said. “It makes me mad that they can come here.” He cited treaty rights granting tribal members access to hunting throughout the reservation, including private land and shared stories of being interfered with by landowners.
“These guys are rich,” said vice-chair Charlie Headdress. “They can trample all over the reservation.”
Board member Patt Iron Cloud said, “I think it’s time we have a strong voice.” She went on to say that action was needed in the form of a ban: “We’re easy,” she said. “We can’t be easy anymore.”
The issue of reopening the reservation to non-tribal hunters was addressed: “Bird hunting will tentatively return for the 2024 season,” said the statement. The Fort Peck Fish & Game Department will be reviewing and updating related policies with an eye to addressing gray areas around outfitting, access and administration of the bird hunting program, as well as enforcement.
For more information, contact Fort Peck Fish & Game Department at 406-768-2309.