Owners of allotted land on the Crow Indian Reservation say they plan to block a main road leading into the Pryor Mountains beginning next week.
Elias Goes Ahead, a member of the group, said allottees planned to meet Wednesday, Sept. 2, to prepare a list of demands. He said that he did not anticipate a response from federal or tribal officials that would prevent blocking Sage Creek Road, which leads into the Custer National Forest and the Pryor Mountains.
Allottees, defined by federal law as Indians for whom land is held in trust by the federal government, plan to block the road on Tuesday, Sept. 8, he said.
The road has been used by the public for decades, but there is no legal public easement there. The Beartooth Ranger District has been examining alternative routes, but work has been delayed by high costs and fractionated ownership in the area.
Landowners closed the Pryor Gap Road in 2002, blocking one route into the Pryors. They cited right-of-way concerns and unauthorized use of the land near the road by timber, cattle and utility interests.
Federal and tribal officials have failed to work with the allottees to resolve their concerns, said Terry Plain Bull, whose family put up a gate across Pryor Gap Road in 2002, limiting access to tribal members.
That road remains closed, and the problems remain unresolved, Plain Bull said this week. “I’m getting old waiting for them,” she said.
Goes Ahead said the goal of closing Sage Creek Road is to bring federal and tribal officials to the table to resolve longstanding problems. Like Plain Bull, he said that allottees’ concerns have been ignored.
Attempts to reach tribal and federal officials this week were unsuccessful. Calls to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Crow Agency and to Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote had not been returned by press time. A call to the BIA regional office in Billings was referred to a public affairs specialist in Washington, D.C., who also did not return a call.
The lack of official response continues a problem that goes back into the last century, Goes Ahead said.
“Nothing has changed since Plenty Coups’ time,” he said. “We’re still being battered.”