Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Oregon Tribes Pursue First Bison Hunt In Century

February 25, 2011, 1:08 pm

Knee deep in snow, Francis Marsh crouched behind a boulder and peered through the rifle scope at his target 40 yards away. He breathed in deeply to calm his racing heart.

Picturesque mountain peaks rose behind him. The sunlight glittered off the snow, and all was quiet and still.

Ever so slowly, he exhaled, waited, then pulled the trigger.

The bison dropped to its big belly. Francis gasped for air — and with that shot became one of the first members of an Oregon Indian tribe to hunt buffalo in more than a century.

or years, Jim Marsh — Francis' father — had heard stories about his great-grandmother's buffalo-hide teepee, the last of its kind in their family. He'd seen photos of it, but buffalo were a thing of the past.

The Cayuse Indians once traveled hundreds of miles on horseback to hunt bison, a lean meat rich in protein and high in cultural significance. Those hunts ended in the late 1800s, as federal agents restricted travel from their reservation on the Columbia River plateau and the decimated bison herds were largely confined to Yellowstone National Park.

Jim Marsh's great-grandfather was the last family member to travel across the Rocky Mountains to hunt bison.

But in 2006, the state of Montana gave permission to the Nez Perce of Idaho and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of northwest Montana to hunt bison on federal lands outside Yellowstone.

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