Sam Lewin 12/7/2004
Two unrelated tragic hunting accidents over the weekend involving members
of two separate tribes have rocked communities in New Mexico and Montana.
In the first case, officials say a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed
Saturday on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana when a member
of his hunting party apparently mistook him for a deer and opened fire.
Francis Plante Jr. was struck once in the chest and died. Lake County
Undersheriff and Coroner Mike Sargeant said Plante was hunting with a friend
and a family member when the trio cited a buck and decided to split up,
eventually leading to the accidental shooting. Plante and the others were
members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Plante lived in the town of Arlee and was a student at Two Eagle River
School in Pablo. Sargeant refused to say which member of the hunting party
fired the accidental shot, but Plante’s great-aunt, Betty Plante, confirmed
to the Native American Times that it was an older brother.
“[The brother] is in such terrible grief -- he keeps saying that he lost
his best friend. He is going to need a lot of help to get through this,” she
Everyone who knew Francis, Betty Plante said, admired him.
“At his school-all the teachers and kids thought he was the best. They
believed he was polite and everyone liked him. They thought he was going
go a long way.”
The second tragic mishap took place the following day on the San Carlos
Apache Reservation in Arizona. In that incident, a 24-year-old member of the
tribe mistook his father for an elk and fatally shot him. According to the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, William Delma, 44, and his son Brian were part of
a four-man hunting party who decided to split up when they spotted a herd of
The shooting, like the one in Montana, has been ruled an accident.
"My understanding is the father and son obviously had split, and the son
mistook his father as an elk moving in the brush," Warren Youngman, a
Phoenix-based assistant special agent for the BIA told the Arizona Daily
Star.. "He reported it right away. The victim had to be airlifted out, but
he had already expired.”
In response to the shooting, the San Carlos Recreation and Wildlife
Department almost immediately passed a resolution requiring hunters to wear
an orange cap and an orange vest or jacket during hunting season.
This is the second time this hunting season that the San Carlos
Reservation has seen a fatal accident. The last incident occurred in October
and involved one tribal member mistaking another for an elk and shooting
According to the International Hunter Education Association, in 1998,
the last year such statistics are available and only based on 48 states
Canadian provinces, there were 93 hunting-related fatalities. The numbers
do not include Alaska, which the previous year led the nation in such