A trailer truck delivered 47 bison last month. Originally 50 was supposed to be delivered, but three were injured while charging. 27 animals went to the eastern Shoshone tribe and 20 to the northern Arapaho.
Tribal Buffalo Program Manager and Eastern Shoshone member Jason Baldes helped facilitate delivery to his tribe’s land. After a tribal elder offered a prayer, Jason spoke to those present. Around 50 people stood in suspense against the cool morning air.
“I want to thank the National Wildlife Federation for partnering with this work to continue,” Jason tells the crowd. These animals came from a long journey, 14 hours away, so I don’t want to waste any more time. The buffalo speak for themselves. “
Immediately after he finished speaking, Jason and the truck driver opened the truck door, but it took some time for the animals to get out of the truck.
“They do what they want,” Jason said as we waited near the saddle.
After the bison were released, they ran into the pasture and members of the tribe stood in awe of the new herd.
“It goes straight to my heart. As soon as I got closer, I blessed myself because it is a blessing that they have returned to the reservation and our people have to bring our culture back,” said Caroline Mills, a member of the Eastern Shoshone.
She was not alone in realizing the importance of the day. Former Shoshone Eastern Councilor Wes Martel was in attendance and said he had established a connection with the bison.
“It’s a really strong feeling. While they were still in the truck, I had to go up and grab one. I put my hand on him. And my heart was in him and his heart was in me.”
After the bison ran to meet the rest of their new herd, I found Jason Baldes and asked him about the importance of the bison on the Wind River Reservation
He said: “Shoshone people, we are buffalo people. Gweechoon Deka, the buffalo eaters. But we haven’t been able to eat them for 130 years. They are also very important as a key species, they are very important ecologically on the landscape. And so. And so.” the federal government, settlers and colonizers have removed the buffalo to subdue us as indigenous people to reservations. “
Bison used to be a large part of Eastern Shoshone culture and traditions. After they were almost eradicated, we lost some of those traditions.
“It’s about revitalization. It’s about healing, to bring this animal back into our communities because this was the commissioner for our grandmas and grandpas, food, clothing, shelter. But it is also central to our cultural, ceremonial and spiritual belief systems the future of our people, our boys. We need to have a foundation in Buffalo again, “said Jason.
The bison help the earth by aerating the ground with their hooves. They are helping bring plants back by planting native seeds. Now the bison will bring back so much more.
“It’s about healing land, changing our land use policy, focusing on cultural revitalization, language preservation, ensuring that our young people are anchored in this buffalo so that we can exercise sovereignty and self-determination in the future. And that is also with regard to food sovereignty, it is very important for our health to include this animal back in our diet. Hence, there is hope that we can continue to grow our buffalo herds and manage them as wildlife as the Creator intended. “
The bison are unique in that they are not crossed with cattle, as there are many bison in the American West today. These are the offspring of wild bison near us.
“These are considered natural buffalos. They have serious genetics. These animals come from the wind cave that descended from Yellowstone.”
We watched the new bison join forces with the herd we’ve built over the past five years.
“The Shoshone tribe, we have over 60 animals now, the Arapaho will have over thirty,” said Jason.
As a registered member of the Eastern Shoshone, I am blessed to be around so many beautiful animals. I wish my grandmother could see this. I agree with Wes Martel when he said to me, “It’s really good to see buffalo. Welcome home.”