Badger Two Medicine film

A hunter scans the Badger-Two Medicine landscape next to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in the documentary film "Our Last Refuge."

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MISSOULA — A documentary movie chronicling the struggle to end energy exploration in the Badger-Two Medicine area is starting a tour of Montana.

The 24-minute film “Our Last Refuge” had its premiere on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation on Thursday. It has additional showings in Missoula and Whitefish, Great Falls, Bozeman, Helena, and Billings during a road show in October. Final dates have yet to be determined.

The Badger-Two Medicine area lies bounded by the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. While not part of the reservation, the Blackfeet people consider it a sacred part of their heritage and source of many traditional creation stories. It also supports habitat for grizzly bears, wolverine, wolves, elk, and cutthroat trout, linking the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountain Front.

The film traces the Blackfeet tribal influence on the land from when they encountered Lewis and Clark 200 years ago, through the reservation creation and the oil-lease years of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s. In March, the Department of the Interior canceled one of the last remaining exploration leases where a Louisiana company sought to drill for oil and natural gas.

It features commentary from traditional Chief Earl Old Person, who recalled how the Blackfeet Tribe’s claims to traditional territory were progressively reduced from Fort Benton to Choteau to the boundaries of the present reservation.

“If it wasn’t for these mountains, they’d push us into the Pacific Ocean,” Old Person says in the film. “This is where we said it stopped. And this is what we’re going to keep. We’re going to fight for this area that we call our home.”

Tribal authorities and several conservation groups maintained the energy leases were granted illegally in the 1980s without proper tribal consultation or review, and a large number of other leases were voluntarily released or retired. There are 17 energy leases remaining in the Badger-Two Medicine.

“The film is testament to the power of faith and determination and perseverance,” said Bozeman filmmaker Daniel Glick. “The title – ‘Our Last Refuge’ – speaks volumes. This is the last bastion of Blackfeet traditional culture. This is where they make their stand.”

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