WWF's collaboration with three tribes has resulted in enhancing the population of bison after the species suffered exploitation for years.
Native Americans for the longest time have been fighting a war to save their culture. Their traditions and values have remained under threat from foreign agents for decades. One of the biggest symbols of their culture, the bison, has been exploited to no limits. As per the National Museum of American Indian, the bison holds so much value for Native Americans as the animals provided them with food, shelter and tools in the past. It was around this animal that they built their life and so they revered it. The animal reflects their spirit and a memory of the grandeur and peace the tribes once enjoyed. The westward expansion, market demand and colonialism threatened the species, leaving only 512 of them by 1889, according to WWF. But the indomitable spirit of Native Americans persevered and they brought the numbers back up to 20,500 through their own efforts.
Do you know about bison?— WWF (@WWF) August 1, 2023
They're not just the biggest grazers in the Northern Great Plains. They're also at the heart of the way of life for many Native American people.
We must protect these majestic animals – for people and nature. 👇 #OurPlanet pic.twitter.com/CUSAD5MawA
Since 2014, WWF has been supporting Native American tribes in their effort to bring bison back to their lands for the species' protection and preservation. The objective is to provide tribes with ecological, economic and community benefits through their reunion with the animals. Moreover, the presence of bison will also have a positive effect on the environment as it will bolster damaged grassland ecosystems. The three tribes with which WWF has garnered success in the restoration efforts are Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Community and the Sicangu Lakota Nation at Rosebud.
Through collaboration and their individual efforts, the Sicangu Lakota Nation at the Rosebud Reservation has been able to become the site of the largest Native-owned Bison herd. This achievement means a lot to the tribe as their foundational values reflect a deep connection with the animal. The tribe in 2020 arranged 28,000 acres of grassland in order to create the Wolakota Buffalo Range. The range and its facilities can support almost 1,500 bison. The project is still in development with aid from WWF, Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise, the Rosebud Sioux Tribes Land Management Corporation and the US Department of the Interior. The plan in place is that till 2025, the Department of Interior will transfer bison from federally managed herds to the range. This will increase the population of Native American-owned bison by 7%.
Fort Peck community invited WWF to help them manage their bison herd and brainstorm ways in which these animals can enhance the health and well-being of the community. WWF on their part has helped by providing funds and creating new programs focusing on improving the Yellowstone bison quarantine facility, setting up an online fish sales system and making meat sales affordable. WWF has also helped the community by creating a four-mile Buffalo Connections Trail for visitors and community members. The aim of this trail is to increase the interactions between the community and the bison, mirroring their history. The trail will have installations and interpretive signs that will honor the legacy and relationship of the tribe with the bison.
WWF is in collaboration with the Fort Belknap Indian Community to ensure the safety and smooth management of their existing bison population. They have invested in Fort Belknap’s Buffalo Program to monitor the carrying capacity of the range, facilitate its expansion and arrange friendly bison-fencing for business opportunities. The organization has also arranged for a fund from Aaniiih Nakoda College to help with the engagement of the program.