Kerri Clement

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History and Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder

2020 to 2021
Research Fellow

Wonderland’s Festering Wound: Indigenous Peoples, Animals, and Brucellosis in Twentieth-Century Yellowstone and Montana Borderlands

During the twentieth century, zoonotic diseases have proven a significant obstacle in Native people’s efforts to assert sovereignty over their reservations and animals, especially the bacterial infection brucellosis. Introduced to wild bison and elk by domestic cattle, brucellosis causes spontaneous abortion in mammals and threatens the stability of the cattle industry. The fight over brucellosis has overtaken the lives of bison, elk, cattle, and humans in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Yet, historians have completely overlooked this disease, how Indigenous people have reacted to it, and how it has affected Indigenous sovereignty. I examine how twentieth-century state and federal officials used border control policies to try to control the movement of animals, as well as Indigenous peoples, across Yellowstone and reservation borders to limit brucellosis transmission, even as Indigenous people and animals ignored or challenged these policies, thus creating a borderlands within Montana and around Yellowstone during the twentieth century.