Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), vice chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, along with Caucus co-chairs Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) introduced the Indian Buffalo Management Act of 2019 on Tuesday, Nov. 18.
The American buffalo, a North American species of bison, once roamed freely across the United States, and served an important role for Native communities throughout North America. Historically, bison were a reliable source of food, shelter, clothing, and economic mobility for Indigenous peoples across the American west. The decimation of the American buffalo that began in the mid-19th century significantly impacted the Native communities that depended on these majestic creatures.
The Indian Buffalo Management Act establishes a program within the Department of the Interior to assist tribes and tribal organizations with the protection, conservation, and fostering of buffalo herds.
This legislation is supported by the 68 tribes in 18 states that are the members of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council (ITBC), the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the American Bison Society, the National Bison Association, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund.
“When it becomes law, the Indian Buffalo Management Act will strengthen the federal-tribal partnership in growing buffalo herds across the country and in the process restore this majestic animal to a central place in the lives of Indian people,” said John L. Berrey, the chairman of the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma, which maintains a world-class cattle and bison operation on its land in northeast Oklahoma. “I want to thank Congressmen Don Young, Deb Haaland and Tom Cole for their vision and enduring support for Indian Country in sponsoring this legislation.”
“For hundreds of years, the American buffalo was central to the culture, spiritual wellbeing, and livelihoods of our nation’s Indigenous peoples,” Young said. “The tragic decimation of these iconic animals remains one of the darkest chapters in America’s history, and we must be doing all that we can to reverse the damage done not only to the American buffalo, but to the way of life of Native peoples across our country. “I am proud to be joined by Congresswoman Deb Haaland and Congressman Tom Cole, in addition to Alaska Native and American Indian organizations and countless tribes, as we introduce this critical legislation to protect a resource vital to Native cultural, spiritual, and subsistence traditions. I would like to thank the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, in particular, for their advocacy and hard work on the development of this legislation. This bill is an important step to restoring once-vibrant buffalo herds, and I will keep working with friends on both sides of the aisle to see this legislation across the finish line.”
“Self-governance is key to protecting tribal sovereignty, but since the near extinction of buffalo due to mindless slaughter, tribes have often been left out of reestablishing and managing their own buffalo herds,” Haaland said. “We’re making sure the federal government honors its role in a government-to-government relationship to Native Nations, by creating a program that promotes and develops tribes’ capacity to conserve their buffalo herds and buffalo habitat.”
“For centuries, buffalo have sustained the livelihood of tribes by providing necessary food, clothing, tools and so much more,” said Cole. “Before their systematic devastation, millions of these species roamed freely across the Midwest. It is important that we create this permanent buffalo restoration and management program so that tribes can continue to preserve their cultural, spiritual and survival purposes. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this vital legislation.”
“We are very excited that Congressman Don Young is introducing the Indian Buffalo Management Act to help return buffalo to tribal lands,” said Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor chairman Conrad Peterson. “This legislation will provide the Tribe with access to a traditional, healthy, and self-sustaining food source.”
“We are very excited that Tom Cole is cosponsoring the Indian Buffalo Management Act to help return buffalo to tribal lands,” said Iowa Tribe of the Oklahoma chairman Kent. “This legislation will restore the cultural, historical, spiritual, and traditional connection between buffalo and tribal people.”
“The Pueblo of Taos greatly appreciates Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s support of reintroduction of Buffalo to Indian lands through her co-sponsorship of the Indian Buffalo Management Act,” said Pueblo of Taos leadership. “This Act will allow the Pueblos of New Mexico to enhance exiting herds, start new herds, reintroduce buffalo into Native population diets and generate critical tribal revenue through marketing.”