Homeward bound: Historical society returns ownership of mounted buffalo to CSKT tribe

Phil Drake

After more than 60 years, Big Medicine is going home.

The Montana Historical Society board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday to return ownership to the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe of the large mounted white buffalo that has been part of the museum in Helena since 1961.

The tribe asked for the buffalo to be returned, saying it was taken from their land at the National Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Several tribal members attended Thursday’s meeting of the board. 

Tom McDonald, CSKT tribal chair, told the board after the vote the tribe was deeply appreciative and paused during his comments.

“You can see this is emotional,” he said. “We will treat this animal with the respect it deserves.”

Others spoke to the board prior to the vote.

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“Make us happy today, make us happy,” said Steven Small Salmon, a Pend d’Oreille tribal elder who said as a child he saw Big Medicine on the reservation. “We want it back.”

CSKT tribal council member Martin Charlo said he wanted to make sure the board knew how spiritual these things are, adding he remembers elders talking about going to bison

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