Sixteen tribal nations in nine U.S. states will receive buffalo from the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes’ quarantine program. Forty graduates of the program were rounded up in Wolf Point, MT this week and loaded onto livestock trailers in the largest ever tribe-to-tribe transfer of buffalo.
The transfer was facilitated by the InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), which advocates for buffalo restoration in Indian Country. The 40 bulls originally came from the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem and would otherwise have been sent to slaughter with other “surplus” buffalo as a population control measure.
“Today is real gratifying, just to be able to get some animals out of there, and get them here [the Fort Peck quarantine facility] and to get them out to tribes,” said Ervin Carlson, president of the ITBC and tribal buffalo director for the Blackfeet Nation.
Carlson said the ITBC has fought against the slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo for decades, and the Fort Peck quarantine facility has been their most successful tool in getting the animals out of the park alive.
“We’ve worked diligently for a lot of years to get this far. There’s always been a lot of hoops that we’ve had to jump through,” Carlson said. “It’s a real big deal to have this here facility at Fort Peck, and for these animals to be here and finish their assurance testing.”
The Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes currently have more than 200 genetically-pure buffalo in their cultural herd. The receiving tribes will use the animals to increase the genetic diversity and health of their own herds.
Jonny BearCub Stiffarm, who heads up the Fort Peck Buffalo Program, said the transfer represents the fulfillment of the ITBC’s 2014 Internationational Buffalo Treaty, in which more than 30 tribes pledged to help one another restore buffalo to Indian land.
“We are finally at the point where we can begin to take that step. Knowing that we as tribes, as sovereign nations, can enter into treaties with one another and actually fulfill them, that brings those treaties alive once more,” BearCub Stiffarm said. “To our people and our community and our tribe, this is a very historic moment.”
This week marked the second tribe-to-tribe transfer of buffalo from the Fort Peck Tribes’ program. The first transfer was to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe’s herd on the Wind River Reservation last summer.
The tribes receiving the buffalo are the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SD), Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (SD), Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (KS), Modoc Nation (OK), Quapaw Nation (OK), Cherokee Nation (OK), Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (OK), Blackfeet Nation (MT), Kalispel Tribe (WA), Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (ID), Oglala Sioux Tribe (SD), Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (SD), Forest County Potawatomi Community (WI), Oneida Nation (WI), and the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor (AK).
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