Montana’s Off-the-Grid Bison Scavengers
When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, hunting was strictly banned within it—even for the the Native Americans who had lived and hunted there for generations. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Nez Perce, Confederated Salish, and Kootenai tribes successfully petitioned the government to be able to hunt bison when they left the park and within the annually regulated cull—a federal initiative started to manage and combat bison from spreading diseases to other livestock outside the park. Every winter, groups of Native American hunters wait near Gardiner, Montana, near the park’s northwest corner, for the herd to leave the park in search of food, so the hunt can begin. Accompanying them are a group of scavengers who collectively call themselves Buffalo Bridge that live off the remains of bison from the hunt. Working with the Native American hunters, Buffalo Bridge members offer their skills and help in field dressing the animal after the kill. They are often given parts of the animal for their work. Photographer Matt Hamon spent a few days with them this winter.