American Prairie Reserve Donates Bison to South Dakota Native American Tribes

by Quentin Blount

A group of bison was donated to tribal entities in South Dakota last week thanks to the efforts of the American Prairie Reserve.

Despite frigid temperatures most of the last week, 35 bison stepped foot at their new home last Wednesday. That home is the Rosebud Indiana Reservation in South Dakota. The bison made the trip from north-central Montana and were a gift from the American Prairie Reserve (APR).

Wizipan Little Elk is CEO of Rosebud Economic Development Corporation. That entity oversees the Wolakota Buffalo Range near Mission, South Dakota.

“When the buffalo are strong, we will be strong,” said Little Elk.

The Native American tribe has put together a plan. That plan includes an ambitious goal of growing the 35 head heard of bison to over 1,500. The herd will eventually be spread out across 28,000 acres, making it the largest tribal-managed bison herd in all of the United States.

“We are doing our part to ensure the genetic health and longevity of our buffalo relatives,” Little Elk said in a post on the tribe’s website.

American Prairie Reserve Partnering With Native Tribes

Many people tend to refer to the bison as a buffalo. But the bison has always been an iconic symbol of the free and open spirit of the North American prairie.

And although tens of millions of bison were once roaming the Great Plains, there are only around 360,000 bison remaining in North America today. Of these, less than one percent (roughly 31,000 bison) live in conservation herds. Most of the bison that are here today grow up strictly for commercial purposes.

However, the American Prairie Reserve is working on establishing partnerships with various native tribes. As a result, they are allowing natives to meet the needs of their people all while making a positive contribution to bison restoration efforts across the country.

In fact, four more bison went from APR’s herd to the non-profit organization, One Spirit. They serve the Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota.

“We prioritize partnerships with native tribes who are working to restore a deeper cultural, spiritual, and economic connection to the animal,” said Alison Fox, CEO of American Prairie Reserve.

According to their website, One Spirit is a collective of Oglala Lakota and volunteers. Their main goal is to “support the Lakota community by providing resources that allow them to meet the needs of their people according to their own culture, traditions, and values.”

The American Prairie Reserve has donated more than 400 bison to conservation and tribal herds. And they’ve done so in several states including Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona, South Dakota and Oklahoma. We’re sure there will be more to come in the future. Be sure to stay with us here on Outsider for future wildlife and outdoors news.