Category Archives: American Buffalo

Bison Restoration: Wind River Herd Is Growing

I’m a huge fan of Bison restoration, and I’ve been pleased to see the careful reintroduction of wild bison to Banff, Montana, and Wind River, among other places. It is particularly gratifying that Native Americans are stewards of this process, which bolsters and renew ancient cultures and guarantees thoughtful human protectors for the Bison.

Last year we celebrated the introduction of 10 Bison to a free range on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and a calf was born in May, to great acclamation. The project is led by the Eastern Shoshone Tribe’s Boy-zshan Bi-den (Buffalo Return) program.

This fall, an additional ten animals will be added to the herd.  The latest batch is another group of “genetically pure” animals, unmixed with domestic cattle, which will further broaden the gene pool of the Wind River herd.

At 21 animals (I assume), the tiny herd can’t be considered self sustaining (the program aims for 1000 head), but it’s a start. Presumably, happy Buffalo will make more Buffalo themselves, so things should take off.

I probably will never see these Bison in person, but it makes me happy to know they are there, living as they should.


  1. Melodie Edwards, Eastern Shoshone Tribe To Add Ten More Wild Bison To Herd in Wyoming Pubic Media. 2017. http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/eastern-shoshone-tribe-add-ten-more-wild-bison-herd
  2. Garrit Voggesser, Buffalo Break New Trails on Wind River, in National Wildlife Federation – Blog. 2017. https://blog.nwf.org/2017/10/buffalo-break-new-trails-on-wind-river/

 

Baby Bison Born!

I’m a long time Bisonophile and enthusiastic supporter of restoring wild Buffalo herds to North America. I’m particularly happy with the strong role of various Native America tribes, working through the political and technical barriers, and finding land to host the new herds. It almost goes without saying that this restoration has immense symbolic and cultural significance for the peoples who once lived with the Buffalo.

There has been a steady stream of reintroductions, notably to Banff earlier this year and  Blackfeet Reservation and Ft. Peck Reservation in earlier years This month was marked by another milestone, the birth of a calf on the Eastern Shoshone Wind River Reservation.

The birth of the bison calf catalyzes important conversations to be had about tribal protection of this spiritually important ungulate on tribal lands. CREDIT COURTESY OF JASON BALDES

You go little guy!

As part of a twenty year project to restore buffalo to tribal lands, the Eastern Shoshone received ten buffalo last fall. The new baby is a welcome sign that the Bison are settling in, and a promise of a permanent presence in the future.

Jason Baldes considers this to be more than wildlife management, for him it is a form of restorative justice. He commented on Yellowstone Public Radio,

What happened to Native people similarly happened to buffalo and we’re now isolated on former pockets of our once vast territories, you know, Indians on reservations and buffalo on national parks and refuges. And we’re kinda in a time now where we can handle that different.

At a time when knuckle draggers and latter day Medicis in Washington are plunging down a deeply destructive path, we can only hope that this little guy and his small tribe of buffalos can survive and thrive.

I’ll end with a culturally mixed welcome to the young one in Lakota, Taŋyáŋ yahí.

(I know very well that Lakota is not the same as Shoshone. But I have an online translator for Lakota, and this was an opportunity to learn a new word. I’m sure Lakota people are happy at the birth as well.)


  1. Brie Ripley, Eastern Shoshone Tribe Celebrate First Baby Buffalo Born On Reservation In Over A Century Yellowstone Public Radio.May 8 2017, http://ypradio.org/post/eastern-shoshone-tribe-celebrate-first-baby-buffalo-born-reservation-over-century

 

Bison Return to Banff!

I’m a big fan of Bison and Bison return.

So I am very happy to read about the return of Bison to Banff National Part in Alberta. (If you have never visited the Canadian Rockies, you should do so—it is a stunningly beautiful place.)

After being hunted to extinction over 100 years ago, a small herd is being reintroduced this year. This is a very careful operation. Sixteen Bison, many of them pregnant, were airlifted from their quarantine at Elk Island National Park to an enclosure. After adjusting to the new environment, they will be let out into a larger area, before being released into the wild. (This is characterized as a “soft release”.)

 

This represents the culmination of many years work by environmentalists and an alliance of native tribes who wish to see bison rewilded in many areas of North America. The bison is a “keystone” species, with an important role in the health of natural prairie and plains ecologies.

It is also, of course, a vital part of traditional culture for the peoples who lived here before the European mass migration.

The Buffalo was part of us, his flesh and blood being absorbed by us until it became our own flesh and blood. Our clothing, our tipis, everything we needed for life came from the buffalo’s body. It was hard to say where the animals ended and the human began. – John (Fire) Lame Deer, Oglala-Lame Deer Seeker of Visions, With Richard Erdoes, 1972


  1. BBC News, Bison return to Banff national park in Canada. BBC News.February 6 2017,
  2. Bison Belong. Bison Belong. 2017, http://www.bisonbelong.ca/en/.
  3. Inter Tribal Buffalo Council. Inter Tribal Buffalo Council. 2017, http://itbcbuffalo.com/.
  4. Merrit Kennedy, After More Than A Century, Bison Return To Canada’s Oldest National Park, in The Two Way. 2017: National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/07/513935921/after-more-than-a-century-bison-return-to-canadas-oldest-national-park
  5. Lisa Monforton, Wild bison roam Banff National Park for 1st time in more than century. CBC News.February 6 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/bison-buffalo-banff-national-park-1.3969106

 

Bison Return In Montana

While I’m not a gigantic fan of “rewilding”, per se, I remain a fan of the American Bison, and especially of the slow campaign by native tribes to reintroduce semi-wild Buffalo herds to large spaces. Beautiful animals, wild land, deep cultural significance  So many things I appreciate.

Last month saw another step in this process, with the transfer of 80 some buffalo from long “exile” in Canada to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near Browning, Montana. These animals are ancestors of a herd in that area that were moved to a park in Alberta 140 years ago. They are genetically “pure”, having never interbred with cattle. These an other relocated buffalo are replenishing the gene pool herds on reservations in Montana, and enlarging the population of this keystone species. Ideally, this will improve the entire ecosystem.

For the tribes involved, this is obviously far more significant that population genetics or even ecosystem restoration. Many native Americans feel a deep attachment to the Buffalo, which has always been entwined with their culture and identity as a people. Buffalo are sacred and represent the lost independence of the tribes. “Reintroduction of the buffalo to tribal lands will help heal the spirit of both the Indian people and the buffalo.”

Welcome home.

 

Wild Bison Safe At New Home

My continuing fascination with Bison: it’s great to see the wild herds growing and spreading out, and escaping the killer cattle ranchers.  And its great to see Indian tribes succeeding in this effort, which means so much more than just preserving animals.

Wish I had been there for the arrival.

Wild bison transferred from Yellowstone National Park arrived at the Fort Peck Reservation Thursday, Nov 13. Credit Public Domain

Interesting New Museum in Rapid City

I’ve always been a fan of the Bison, though they are long gone from where I live.

I heard a report on National Native News this week about a new museum in Rapid City, SD:  The Museum of the American Bison.  Hey, they’ve got a stuffed Bison, Bruno!

I don’t get to Rapid City often, so I have not visited the museum yet.

I note that the museum is collaborating with the InterTribal Buffalo Cooperative, which is an interesting organization as well.  (I did briefly visit the ITBC a few years ago.)

One thing I noticed from the web materials is that the “cultural heritage” represented here is broad and inclusive, spanning many centuries and both original and immigrant peoples.

This museum is definitely on my list when I next visit the area. (I don’t know when that may happen.)