GREAT FALLS, MONT. (AP) - Three Blackfeet tribal leaders were indicted Tuesday on charges they held illegal big-game hunts for a film crew and country music stars including Josh Thompson and Justin Moore, but supporters say the accusations stem from an internal tribal power struggle.
The men organized the hunts on the northwestern Montana reservation in 2010 and 2011. Federal prosecutors allege the hunts were unlicensed and the men illegally sold the tribe’s wildlife, but supporters say the hunts were organized to boost the poverty-stricken reservation’s economy and raise its profile.
Jay St. Goddard, Jay Wells and Gayle Skunkcap Jr. pleaded not guilty to six felony counts that include conspiracy, the illegal sale of tribal wildlife, theft from a tribal government receiving federal funds and making false statements. They made a brief appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls.
St. Goddard is a former member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the tribe’s governing body, who was kicked off the council last year over the moose hunts. Wells is a suspended councilman, and Skunkcap was the tribe’s fish and game director.
Federal prosecutors say in the indictment the three men made a deal to exchange big game hunts for exposure on a television show about hunting called The Sovereign Sportsman and for concerts by the country artists.
Thompson shot a bull elk in an October 2010 hunt that is featured on the Sovereign Sportsman Network’s website. The video shows Thompson dancing with Blackfeet tribal members in traditional dress around a bonfire.
The show climaxed with Thompson taking a large elk with one rifle shot from about 50 yards.
“We celebrated, screamed probably like a bunch of freaks up there,” Thompson said in the video.
Richey shot a black bear, Parker and another man a mule deer, according to the indictment.
There are between five and 10 big-game hunting licenses available for non-tribal members each year, and they cost from $1,500 for a black bear to $17,000 for a bull elk.
The tribal leaders directed employees of the tribe to provide tags for the hunts and to help with logistics, and they used tribal money to by outfitting supplies and pay for a guide, according to the indictment.View Entire Story
By Andrew P. Napolitano
The president's men trash the Constitution to pursue antagonists
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention