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Wes Martel

Wes Martel, Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative Board Chair

Indigenous People recognized the power of the Buffalo to take care of them in more ways than one. The Buffalo not only provided powerful spiritual support and healing, but provided the food, clothing, tools, toys, shelter and other necessities of life.
Wes Martel
Wes Martel has spent a lifetime of involvement in activities that support sovereignty and community. He grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation and returned shortly after serving in the military. He then served on the Eastern Shoshone Business Council for 20 years, where he oversaw programs and legislation related to water, taxation, energy and the environment.

During his time as Chairman of the Fish and Game Committee the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes adopted a Hunting Code and he also served on the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission when the General Council of each Tribe approved and adopted the Wind River Tribal Water Code.

“We have a chance — no, an obligation — to restore that way of life through the proliferation of Buffalo herds and returning them to our present-day lands.”

– Wes Martel

Wes began working with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in 2021. The mission to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem “fits into how we need to take action to restore our culture and return to our respect for nature,” says Wes.

Shortly after, in early 2022, Wes joined the Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative as Board Chair. He plays a critical role in bolstering the initiative’s administrative strengths and getting young people involved. He takes part in developing local school curriculum that blends state standards with Shoshone and Arapaho teachings. This means teaching about Buffalo — how they’re used in lodges and ceremonies, and modern-day challenges around policies and herd management.

Wes Martel
Wes Martel

Wes is passionate about getting elders involved, too. As the youngest members of the community learn about conservation from a scientific perspective — from hydrologists and ecologists — Wes wants to be sure elders are also part of the conversation. Indigenous teachings, from governance to mapping, are an integral part of supporting the Wind River Indian Reservation’s cultural and ecological well-being (an area the same size as Yellowstone with 2.5 million acres).

“We have 255 lakes, 1,108 miles of rivers and streams. We have wetlands and geothermal springs. We have everything Yellowstone has except Old Faithful. It’s an important role to play.”

Wes believes in the importance of holding governance classes in schools and communities about the responsibilities of being on a Tribal Council — understanding treaties, advocating for water and land rights, and keeping elders and youth connected. He champions grassroots-to-governance efforts for the two Tribes, in order to “plan for the future and protect what we have.”

Wes Martel

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