Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

The Return of a Relative: Tribal Communities in the Northern Great Plains Rally Around Bison Restoration

Animals
American bison roaming Badlands National park, South Dakota. Prisma / Dukas / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Clay Bolt

On Oct. 11 people around the world celebrated the release of four plains bison onto a snow-covered butte in Badlands National Park, South Dakota.


Their large, chocolate brown bodies were in beautiful contrast against the park's snow-covered sagebrush, hills, and canyons. This was the first time that the species had set hoof in this area since 1877. For wildlife fans and the U.S. national mammal it was a homecoming long overdue. For tribal community members who were there to witness this important moment, the significance was immense for much deeper reasons.

"As a tribe, we and the buffalo are one and the same," said Monica Terkildsen, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Tribal Community Liaison for World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Northern Great Plains Program. "The buffalo represent our own healthy return. The buffalo once provided our home, our life ways, our food, and created a diverse, flourishing ecosystem. Today, as our herds are growing, we are beginning to re-center as a people. So bison have a deep, profound meaning to us. They mean economics, they mean health, they mean our spiritual well-being. They are our elders that guide us. They are our relatives."

Prior to European settlement plains bison numbered between 30 million and 60 million and were the widest-ranging large mammal in North America. Bison played an incalculable role in the lives and traditions of Native Americans and many species that live in the plains. By 1889, only 512 plains bison remained after westward expansion and a concerted effort by the US government to eliminate the bison and subdue the tribes that relied so heavily upon them.

Today, WWF is working with tribal partners to restore bison to their rightful place at the heart of their people's culture, economy, and ecology. Our work includes efforts at the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Reservations in Montana to foster a renewed sense of connection to bison, and increased community support for bison programs and restoration efforts. After the absence of bison for over a century on tribal lands, restoring this relationship is not a simple endeavor. However, with support from tribal leaders, we have begun to identify the values, needs, and aspirations of community members for their tribal bison programs. As the recognized value of bison to the people increases, the constituency that supports bison restoration grows as well.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Ministry of Trade issued a regulation revoking its decision from February to no longer require Indonesian timber companies to obtain export licenses that certify the wood comes from legal sources. BAY ISMOYO / AFP / Getty Images

By Hans Nicholas Jong

The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.

Read More Show Less

Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Harmful algal blooms, seen here at Ferril Lake in Denver, Colorado on June 30, 2016, are increasing in lakes and rivers across the U.S. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.

But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.

Read More Show Less
A group of doctors prepared to treat coronavirus patients in Brazil. SILVIO AVILA / AFP via Getty Images

More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during an event to launch the United Nations' Climate Change conference, COP26, in central London on February 4, 2020. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / POOL / AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that "use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment." Minerva Studio / Getty Images

By Jared Kaufman

Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A couple has a lunch under plexiglass protection designed by Christophe Gernigon at the H.A.N.D restaurant, on May 27, 2020 in Paris, as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP via Getty Images

By Thomas A. Russo

As restaurants and bars reopen to the public, it's important to realize that eating out will increase your risk of exposure to the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less