As Bison Return to Prairie, Some Rejoice, Others Worry By Nate Schweber, The New York times
“America’s Great Plains in the early 1800s,…the rumbling of thunder could be heard in the distance, though no storm clouds could be seen. Then the ground would begin to tremble, and suddenly the astonished newcomers would be surrounded by a thundering herd of hulking animals that stretched further than the eye could see…the buffalo nation — a land where tens of million of American Bison held sway.”-American Buffalo: Spirit of a Nation
O’siyo. These words conjure up a beautiful, almost surreal image of a world long ago forgotten, and one that unfortunately, will probably never really exist again. This is due to the fact that although the buffalo are returning to the plains, not everyone is pleased about their coming. For many American Indians the return of the Buffalo signal joy and hope, but for others, their return triggers trepidation and anger.
“WOLF POINT, Mont. — Sioux and Assiniboine tribe members wailed a welcome song last month as around 60 bison from Yellowstone National Park stormed onto a prairie pasture that had not felt a bison’s hoof for almost 140 years. That historic homecoming came just 11 days after 71 pureblood bison, descended from one of Montana’s last wild herds, were released nearby onto untilled grassland owned by a charity with a vision of building a haven for prairie wildlife. Some hunters and conservationists are now calling for bison to be reintroduced to a million-acre wildlife refuge spanning this remote region.
“Populations of all native Montana wildlife have been allowed to rebound except bison; it’s time to take care of them like they once took care of us,” said Robert Magnan, 58, director of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation’s Fish and Game Department, who will oversee the transplanted Yellowstone bison program. Many farmers and ranchers fear that bison, particularly those from Yellowstone, might be mismanaged and damage private property, and worry that they would compete for grass with their own herds. “Bison are a romantic notion, but they don’t belong today,” said Curt McCann, 46, a Chinook rancher… Scientists estimate that tens of millions of bison once roamed America, but by 1902 there were only 23 known survivors in the wild, all hiding from poachers in a remote Yellowstone valley. For decades, attempts to transplant bison from the rebounding Yellowstone herd were thwarted, despite requests from tribes to steward some of the animals.
“I call them my brothers and sisters because they are a genetic link to the same ones my ancestors hunted,” said Tote Gray Hawk, 54, a Sioux who has brought the Fort Peck bison hay and water each day since their arrival. Their meat, lower in cholesterol than beef, will feed elderly tribe members and their skulls will be used in traditional sun dance ceremonies, he said.
The last hunt for indigenous bison on the Fort Peck reservation happened in 1873… The arrival of Yellowstone bison was welcome news around the troubled Fort Peck reservation…“These bison represent healing,” said Iris Greybull, 62, of Poplar. The bison debate has dredged up old tensions between tribes and their neighbors…“I took a lot of arrows for this, but it was the right thing to do,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “If you want to get into a fistfight in Montana, go into a bar and share your opinion about bison or wolves.”
Read the article in its entirety and share your thoughts with us. Also, view the video below Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison to see some beautiful footage of Bison, and to find out where they are today in 2012.
The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged….” ~Luther Standing Bear~ Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937