BILLINGS, Mont. (CN) – Bureau of Indian Affairs agents rounded up 175 bison belonging to a Crow rancher and impounded them until she paid more than $16,000 to get them back, the rancher claims in Federal Court. She says the government had awarded her tribal leases to another member of the tribe without telling her.
Nelvette Siemion says she’s owned and operated the White Buffalo Ranch with her husband, George Siemion, for more than 39 years. The Siemions say they leased more than 25 parcels of tribal land to raise American bison and other livestock.
In mid-May 2008, the BIA allegedly notified ranchers that it planned to impound about 200 buffalo of “undetermined ownership/no brands” in the Fort Smith area.
Siemion says she protested that her bison weren’t trespassing, because the BIA had failed to take action on a number of her leases. But as a precaution, she says she and her husband moved their herd from the leased parcels to property fully owned by the ranch.
Several bison escaped through an opening in the fence, Siemion says. On May 28, BIA agents on four-wheelers rounded up about 175 of the escaped bison, “chased them over seven miles” to the corrals at a cattle company, loaded them onto trucks and hauled them to the fairgrounds in Crow Agency, where they were kept until the Siemions posted bond.
Nelvette Siemion says three calves died during the melee, and the stress caused others to lose weight and “suffer other health problems,” reducing the value of her herd.
After the bison were seized, Siemion says she found out that the BIA had awarded some of her leases to William He Does It without telling her. Siemion says she should have been given the opportunity to match his bid.
She wants the BIA to reimburse her for the costs of retrieving the bison, and more than $133,000 for damage and injury to the herd.
Her attorney is Thomas Towe with Towe, Ball & Enright.