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Native American Tribes Helping To Restore Bison Population

After being nearly hunted to extinction over 100 years ago, bison numbers are growing. Inside of the United State, the figure is climbing to nearly 20,000 bison. There are 65 herds that are growing as Native American tribes have reclaimed stewardship over the animal.

The accepted figures — as far back as 1889 — saw the animals numbers dip as low as barely 1,000. Reports cite that there were just 10 bison were in central Montana, 20 bison in each of central Colorado and southern Wyoming. The numbers were as ‘high’ as 200 in Yellowstone National Park and at best guess, about 250 existed in zoos or private property. Experts guess that there were also only 550 bison in northern Alberta, Canada.

According to the Associated Press, the InterTribal Buffalo Council has relocated more than that many animals just this fall. The report cited 2,041 bison being moved to 22 tribes in 10 states over the last few months.

Troy Heinert is South Dakota state senator as well as the director for the InterTribal Buffalo Council. He told the AP that the tribes are returning to a more ancestral relationship with the animal.

“All of these tribes relied on them at some point, whether that was for food or shelter or ceremonies. The stories that come from those tribes are unique to those tribes,” he said. “Those tribes are trying to go back to that, reestablishing that connection that was once there and was once very strong.”

There is a concerted effort being made to continue this re-population of the animal.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland also spoke with the AP, saying that there is cautious optimism for the bison. Haaland is the first-ever Native American cabinet member. She added that the interest in this program is only increasing and that more bison could be transferred to more tribes.

“It’s wonderful tribes are working together on something as important as bison, that were almost lost,” she said, citing that 1,000s of bison are being relocated this year. Many of which hare coming from Badlands, Grand Canyon National Park we well as multiple other wildlife refuges.

There are 82 tribes in the country that are actively working to save the bison. The National Parks Service, in conjunction with the Department of the Interior also has an additional 11,000 bison being stewarded across 12 states.

For more on bison conservation, visit AmericanPrairie and the Yellowstone Conservation projects. Both, alongside the IBC are leading the way.

Photo by Yannick Menard on Unsplash

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