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New Calves Inspire A Promising Future For Wind River Buffalo Herds

Jason Baldes

Buffalo on the Wind River Indian Reservation have given birth, setting plans into motion to build a better environment for their future.

In the Eastern Shoshone tribe's herd, six wild buffalo calves were born in 2020 and an anticipated seven or eight more will be born by summer.

The herd already includes 32 adult buffalo. The Northern Arapaho Tribe is also developing a herd currently with 11 young buffalo. With the growing population, tribal leaders are looking at both expanding the land the herds are on and looking to future enterprises.

Jason Baldes runs the Buffalo Restoration Program with the tribes and is looking towards creating a center to educate the public about the buffalo. He wants to raise awareness about the animal's importance to the tribes but also to the surrounding ecosystem.

He said, "You know recent meetings that I've had with both councils they recognize the importance of buffalo. They recognize the importance of decolonizing our land use and increasing the value we have in our wildlife."

Baldes also teaches environmental science at Central Wyoming College and takes students to see the buffalo as a way to cultivate a relationship between higher education and Indigenous biodiversity practices.

Baldes is interested in the future of the land that was colonized for agricultural purposes.

"These lands are now prioritized for agriculture," he said. "Well if we were to convert those back into tribal trust lands. We could make those again critical wildlife habitats. For buffalo and other species."

The buffalo are also selectively butchered to provide for food programs and elders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.
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