Blackfeet honor Tester, Ament for support of cultural lands

Rob Cheney

by Missoulian

BROWNING – Blackfeet tribal leaders honored U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Pearl Jam bass player Jeff Ament on Friday for their support of protecting the Badger-Two Medicine area from energy development.

The two men were participating in a three-day celebration of Blackfeet cultural lands in Browning. Ament also was honored for leading efforts to build a new skateboard park there.

“Jeff Ament and Senator Tester have always been friends to the Blackfeet, and we’re grateful for their support of efforts to protect our people and culture,” said Tyson Running Wolf, secretary of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

In addition to giving both men flags of the Blackfeet Nation, tribal elder Chief Earl Old Person gave Ament the honorary Blackfeet name “Holds Water.”

The Badger-Two Medicine area covers 165,588 acres between the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

Solenex LLC obtained leases from the federal government in 1982 to drill for oil and gas on 6,247 acres in the northern corner of the region. Although other leases granted under the same policy have been found to be illegal, the Blackfeet leases were never canceled.

In 2013, Solenex owner Sydney Longwell sued for permission to begin developing exploratory wells on the leases.

“In this world, there’s places where we should probably drill for oil and gas,” Tester, D-Mont., said during Friday’s ceremony. “It is not the Badger-Two Medicine.

The Badger-Two Medicine has historical and cultural and religious values – it’s not just a marvelously beautiful place – that we have to make sure that this land is protected, not only for the Blackfeet, but for everybody.”

The skatepark was estimated to cost about $250,000, funded in large part through a foundation set up by Pearl Jam members. The 10,000-square-foot park is the eighth Ament has helped build in Montana, including one in Missoula.

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