HELENA — Big Medicine, a white bison that was born and raised on the National Bison Range at Moise is going home. The bison bull was born in 1933. Following his death in 1959, his hide was mounted, and has been on display since then, in a climate-controlled display at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.

Last year, the U.S. Interior Department turned over ownership of the National Bison Range, which is located on the Flathead Reservation, to the Confederated Salish & Kootanai Tribes, and earlier this year, the tribes sent a request to MHS asking that Big Medicine be returned, as well.

“Big Medicine represents the past that has carried forward to the present and the work yet to be done to protect our identity, culture, and well-being into the future,” CSKT Tribal Chairman Tom McDonald wrote in his repatriation request.

On Thursday (Oct 20, 2022) , the MHS Board of Trustees voted unanimously to return Big Medicine to his homeland based on his cultural and spiritual significance to the Confederated Salish and Kootanai Tribes.

In a statement announcing the decision, MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg said the historical society is pleased to see Big Medicine’s ownership transferred to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

“It isn’t just about the history,” said Rick Eneas, CSKT executive officer. “As a people, the Salish and Kootenai are reclaiming our language and culture. One aspect of what Big Medicine symbolizes is what it looks like to hold on to the past and look to the future.

“… We as a people are at a crossroads and have gone through some significant challenges and lost a lot, but are creating a lot in the valley for the young tribal members who don’t have a connection. A symbol like this allows us to feel proud of who we are and will help us understand who we can be in the future.”

The MTHS will retain physical possession of Big Medicine while the Tribes build a suitable facility in which he can be safely displayed, which is expected to take about two years.

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