Posted: Oct 10, 2013 5:45 PM by MTN News
Updated: Oct 10, 2013 5:54 PM
A group led by a Blackfeet tribal member was allowed entry into Yellowstone National Park on Monday, despite the government shutdown.
According to James St. Goddard, spiritual leader of the Blackfeet Confederacy, 16 people, including three children went approximately 40 miles into the park to gather and pray for the well-being and recovery of the herd within park boundaries.
St. Goddard told us the gathering had been planned since this summer and is an old Blackfoot ceremony to regenerate the buffalo.
"The ceremony must be held before the coming winter for the Central Interior buffalo that have not recovered since Yellowstone National Park and the state of Montana slaughtered over half the herd during the winter of 2007-2008," St. Goddard told park rangers.
"It tells them (the buffalo) we love and care for them," St. Goddard said. The group offered tobacco, herbs and other sacred items to the buffalo.
The group was held up at the park's west entrance, which was gated due to the shutdown. After some discussion, park rangers told the St. Goddard and the group that their request would have to be "run up the chain of command."
"I think they went all the way to the Interior (Department)" he said.
St. Goddard said after approximately 25 minutes, the group was allowed into the park, escorted by a ranger to Fountain Flats for the ceremony.
St. Goddard approached the rangers to request access to the park in order to exercise his 1st Amendment rights through a traditional prayer for the buffalo.
According to a press release, National Park Service management policies state: "The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (42 USC 1996) reaffirms the First Amendment rights of Native Americans to access National Park System lands for the exercise of their traditional religious practices."