The Badger-Two Medicine is sacred and culturally fundamental to the Blackfeet Nation.
For the Blackfeet, it is the site of their creation stories, a part of the Backbone of the World, a link to the past, and the home of one of their more powerful spirits - Thunder - as well as other spirits. The Blackfeet fast, pray, conduct spiritual ceremonies, hunt, seek visions, and gather medicinal herbs and ceremonial plants.
After the federal government created the reservation with the Lame Bull Treaty of 1855, the federal government and missionaries sought to prohibit the Blackfeet from conducting traditional spiritual practices and ceremonies and speaking their language. The Badger-Two Medicine was the last place where they were free to conduct ceremony because the missionaries and government agents didn't bother to follow them into the mountains. The Badger was the Blackfeet's last refuge.
The 1896 treaty that ceded the Badger to the federal government granted the Blackfeet Reserved Treaty Rights.
The agreement states:
"Provided, That said Indians shall have, and do hereby reserve to themselves, the right to go upon any portion of the lands hereby conveyed so long as the same shall remain public lands of the United States, and to cut and remove therefrom wood and timber for agency and school purposes, and for their personal uses for houses, fences, and all other domestic purposes: And provided further, That the said Indians hereby reserve and retain the right to hunt and fish in the streams thereof so long as the lands shall remain public lands of the United States under in accordance with the provisions of the game and fish laws of the state of Montana."
Any permanent protection plan developed must respect and protect those reserved treaty rights.
The Forest Service, Blackfeet Tribe and anthropologists undertook an extensive ethnographic study of the cultural importance of the Badger-Two Medicine to the Blackfeet starting in 1996. These studies resulted in the establishment of the 130,000 acres of the Badger as a Traditional Cultural District, under the National Historic Preservation Act, and listed in the National Register. Traditional Cultural Districts are culturally significant sites or landscapes, where a community has historical roots to the area, and significant traditionally cultural events, activities or observances have occurred. When an area is classified as a Traditional Cultural District, federal decisions that may impact the historical and cultural aspects of the area must take TCDs into consideration. The designation of a TCD doesn't automatically prohibit development, but rather the federal government must consult with Tribes on decisions that may affect the integrity of the TCD and create mitigation measures if development proceeds.